After pressure from House Democrats, six Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives have put out a statement condemning anti-Semitic comments by fellow Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.).
Wait, what comments?
In a tweet from 2012, Omar said “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
On Sunday, Omar responded to a tweet in which the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald criticized House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for his warning that he might take “action” against previous anti-Semitic comments by Omar. “It’s stunning” Greenwald tweeted, “how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.”
Omar responded to that tweet by saying “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” an apparent reference to the common anti-Semitic trope that Jews somehow manipulate world events through vast wealth.
She also accused AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, of paying off U.S. politicians to make them publicly take a pro-Israel stance. Despite having “PAC” in its initials, AIPAC is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization and does not donate to political candidates.
What did House Democratic leaders say?
On Monday, Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) and Elaine Luria (Va.) called on leaders of their party to speak out against Omar’s comments.
“We must speak out when any Member — Democrat or Republican — uses harmful tropes and stereotypes, levels accusations of dual loyalty, or makes reckless statements like those yesterday,” they said, NPR reported.
After this letter, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark released a statement calling out Omar’s “anti-Semitic tropes” and “prejudicial accusations” as “deeply offensive.”
“Anti-Semitism must be called out, confronted and condemned whenever it is encountered, without exception,” the statement said, the Washington Post’s Seung Min Kim tweeted. It continued:
We are and will always be strong supporters of Israel in Congress because we understand that our support is based on shared values and strategic interests. Legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate that the United States and Israel share. But Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive. We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.
In a tweeted statement following her reprimand from House leaders, Omar tweeted that she was “listening and learning, but standing strong.”
She acknowledged that anti-Semitism “is real,” and thanked “Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.” She also said, “I unequivocally apologize.”
Then she pivoted and said, “At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”