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Rep. Ilhan Omar Condemns Increased Attacks on Jews While Defending Her Negative Views of the Israeli Government

Posted by 
Natalie Frank, Ph.D.
Natalie Frank, Ph.D.
 15 days ago

Representative Ilhan Omar criticized the rise in antisemitism in the U.S. and abroad while at the same time stating that "legitimate criticism" of the Israeli Government shouldn’t be automatically called antisemitism.

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Rep. Omar (D - Minnesota)Wikipedia

Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota denounced the recent upsurge of attacks on Jewish individuals both in the US and abroad. She also stated that it is wrong to act as if "legitimate criticism" of the Israeli government is automatically synonymous with antisemitism.

In a tweet sent on Wednesday, Omar said," The rise in antisemitic attacks at home and abroad is appalling. We must be clear and unequivocal: antisemitism is unacceptable and has no place in any movement. Fighting bigotry of any kind means fighting bigotry of every kind."

The Democrat from Minnesota added, "And it also means we cannot equate 'legitimate criticism' of the Israeli government, its policy, and its military occupation with antisemitism. Connecting the actions of a foreign country's government and military with an entire faith does nothing to keep the Jewish people safer."

Omar’s tweets were sent out following a letter written to President Biden onTuesday by a group of Jewish Democrats in the House on Tuesday which denouncing House lawmakers for labeling Israel an apartheid state and accusing the government for committing acts of terrorism. The letter didn't specifically name any lawmakers, however, Omar was among a number of progressive Democrats who used such rhetoric when referring to the Israeli government over the past several weeks.

In the letter, three members of Congress, Josh Gottheimer (D - New Jersey. 5th District), Elaine G. Luria (D – Virginia, 2nd District), and Kathy Manning (D – North Carolina 6th District), wrote of the need for “a united, all-of-government effort to combat rising antisemitism in this country.” They cited recent incidents of antisemitism across the country. These included New York. where a group yelling antisemitic slurs viciously beat, kicked, and pepper-sprayed an Jewish man and Los Angeles where a caravan of pro-Palestinian protestors who first asked who was Jewish, carried out a violent attack on diners in a restaurant while yelling antisemitic slurs.

The letter went on to state that they rejected, ““comments from Members of Congress accusing Israel of being an “apartheid state and committing act[s] of terrorism.” These statements are antisemitic at their core and contribute to a climate that is hostile to many Jews. We must never forget that less than eighty years ago, within the lifetime of our parents and grandparents, six million people were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust because they were Jews. Israel has long provided the Jewish people with a homeland in which they can be safe after facing centuries of persecution. Sadly, we have learned from our history that when this type of violence and inflammatory rhetoric goes unaddressed, it can fuel increasing hatred and violence, and lead to unspeakable acts against Jews.”

The Representatives urged the President to swiftly nominate a United States Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

A resolution introduced the same day by Senator Josh Hawley (R – Missouri) and co-sponsored by 12 other Republicans went a step further, quoting comments made on the floor of the House of Representatives and a number of tweets, including those written by Omar that represent anti-Israel sentiments expressed by media outlets as well as by members of congress. The resolution states:

“Acts of violence against Jewish people in the United States and around the world and the poisonous rhetoric from politicians and others promoted by the media that has helped inspire such violence is condemnable and has no place in society.”

Omar has been widely criticized by members of both parties for her rhetoric and inaccuracies about what is going on in the middle east, with some claiming that her position in Government makes it so her statements have more power and are contributing to the antisemitism in the U.S. Many are calling her a hypocrite in light of what is seen as a long line of controversial and antisemitic comments made by her, including the claim that pro-Israel members of Congress are motivated by funding from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

This statement resulted in an uproar on Capitol Hill, and Nancy Pelosi and other leaders demanded that Omar apologize. The statement read:

“Anti-Semitism must be called out, confronted and condemned whenever it is encountered, without exception," the statement said. "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."

Omar eventually "unequivocally" apologized but at the same time reiterated “the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics.”

Twice the House has voted to condemn anti-[NF1] Semitism as a direct rebuke of Omar, although she was not named in either resolution. The first time, in February, was in response to tweets that played on tropes about Jewish money and influence on American politics. The second time, in March, was a reaction to comments Omar made at a Washington, D.C., coffee shop in which she again questioned the pro-Israel lobby's influence in American politics.

As opposed to accepting these resolutions for what they intended, she instead twisted their purpose, essentially saying they were in support of her and other Muslim lawmakers by claiming these “historic” votes condemned anti-Muslim bigotry.

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