Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., only multiplied bipartisan concerns about her by accusing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, of purchasing the support of American politicians for Israel.
Omar’s allegation of illegality perpetuates a nasty caricature of Jewish people dating back to the first century: that of Jewish citizens subversively using their wealth to commandeer the governments of their home country.
In reality, more than 100,000 U.S. citizens of multiple religions and political affiliations donate time and money to AIPAC to further its mission, which is “to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel.”
Omar’s repulsive remarks sought to place the patriotism of Jewish Americans in doubt.
The latest controversy erupted over the weekend when journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept expressed incredulity at “how much time U.S. political leaders spend defending a foreign nation,” referring to Israel.
Sunday night, Omar tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby”—a reference to the 1997 smash hit by Puff Daddy and slang for $100 bills.
Batya Ungar-Sargon, opinion editor of The Forward, which is aimed at a Jewish-American audience, questioned who exactly allegedly “is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel.” The freshman congresswoman curtly named AIPAC.
Organizations and politicians from across the political spectrum swiftly criticized Omar. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other House Democrat leaders issued a strong statement:
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.
Another freshman Democrat, Rep. Max Rose of New York, called Omar’s statements “deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself.”
The American Jewish Committee informed Omar that “suggesting that a Jewish organization is buying off American politicians is both demonstrably false and stunningly anti-Semitic.”
“American politicians are pro-Israel because Americans are,” the group said. “Apologize.”
Meanwhile, the Republican Jewish Coalition said, “This language and this hatred have no place in the halls of the U.S. Congress.”
Omar’s quasi-apology late Monday proved bizarre. She thanked others for “educating” her on the “painful history of anti-Semitic tropes” (likely the “Benjamins” line). But she proceeded to “reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry.”
This deceptively suggests that Omar’s remarks centered on the influence of the lobbying industry broadly, rather than on the support of American politicians for Israel. And this faux apology continues to suggest that the exercise of the First Amendment right “to petition the government” is “problematic.”
Perhaps Omar could explain her opposition to AIPAC’s educating of the public and Congress on important matters.
Omar, 37, was elected to represent her Minneapolis-based district in Congress after two years in the Minnesota House of Representatives. She has been celebrated as the first naturalized citizen from Africa and the first Somali-American elected to Congress. She is also one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and the first nonwhite woman to represent Minnesota in the House.
This is far from the first time Omar has attacked Israel. During Israel’s 2012 war against Hamas (an entity designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization), Omar tweeted: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
In May, she referred to the Jewish state on Twitter as the “apartheid Israeli regime.”
Following her election victory in November, Omar’s campaign clearly identified her as a supporter of the so-called BDS movement against Israel; the acronym stands for boycott, divestment, and sanctions.
Her support of economic isolation of the only democracy in the Middle East is on the fringe. The overwhelming support of Israel from America’s elected officials reflects the values of their constituents. In fact, the public’s favorable views of Israel recently reached a 17-year high of 74 percent.
The public recognizes our connection with Israel—both philosophical and strategic. We share democratic values, recognition of fundamental human rights, and devotion to the rule of law. In these respects, both the U.S. and Israel are a light unto the nations.
Israel’s neighborhood is one fraught with ideologies intent on subverting human freedom and exporting terror. Our ally counters Hamas terrorism launched from Gaza, defending against Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon, guarding against incursions by Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and actively countering Iran’s threat to global stability.
In addition, Israel must work closely with the Palestinian Authority, an entity that poisons residents with an endless diet of anti-Semitism and bestows millions of dollars annually as compensation to families of these same terrorists.
Our nation continues to benefit from Israel’s vigilance in countering Iran’s threat to global security and its work with Egypt to defeat ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula.
What a shame that a sitting U.S. congresswoman rejects this reality.
Pelosi appointed Omar last month to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. This appointment shocked many Democrats as well as Republicans, given Omar’s history of twisted analysis and extreme anti-Israel bias.
Concerns regarding her seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee only compounded with her apparent support of Nicolas Maduro’s socialist regime in Venezuela.
The weekend’s anti-Semitic outburst adds to the concern. Omar’s removal from the committee would send a strong message that the men and women serving in Congress reject her hateful rhetoric and views.