“Israel has hypnotized the world.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar was forced to apologize on Monday for tweeting over the weekend that Israel buys the loyalty of American policymakers – saying that her comments had been unintentionally anti-Semitic.
However, the comments were nothing new for Omar, who has long battled accusations of anti-Semitism.
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The freshman congresswoman from Minnesota has a history of statements and actions that put her far outside the US mainstream when it comes to Israel and the threat of Islamist extremism. Omar has advocated a hardline against the Jewish state and a forgiving attitude toward terrorists.
Since she was sworn into Congress last month, major media outlets and left-leaning political commentators have generally given Omar a pass on these issues. Instead, the focus has been on her historic role as one of the first two Muslim women to serve as a US lawmaker, the other being Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
Those who have criticized Omar, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have in many cases been branded as Islamophobes – even as they have been joined by prominent Muslims.
1. In her anti-Israel tweets Sunday, Omar said that supporters of the Jewish state are “paying American politicians to be pro-Israel.”
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
A who’s-who of journalists, politicians, diplomats, and others – both Democrat and Republican – quickly lined up to call out Omar for allegedly invoking an anti-Semitic trope about the nefarious influence of Jewish money.
On Monday, under pressure from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and other leading Democrats, Omar tweeted a statement saying she was “unequivocally” sorry for her tweets. She also expressed gratitude to her “Jewish allies and colleagues” for teaching her about “the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”
But Omar maintained that she opposed the “problematic role” of lobbyists in American politics, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which she had singled for scorn on Sunday.
In recent months, she has said that the United States has to be tougher on Israel, suggested the country is not a democracy, and compared it to Iran. Soon after winning election to Congress in November, she reversed her prior position, and said she supports boycotting Israel.
2. In another tweet on Sunday, Omar urged fellow Democrats not to give a single dollar of funding to the Department of Homeland Security – apparently in an effort to block President Donald Trump’s proposed border, which she deemed “hateful.”
When Democrats stood our ground last month, we proved that Individual 1 does not have the public support to ram his hateful wall through Congress.
Let’s stand firm: #Not1Dollar for DHS.
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) February 8, 2019
After Fox News interpreted Omar to be demanding a complete shutdown of DHS, she clarified that she had only been opposing an increase in the agency’s budget.
But Omar, herself an immigrant from Somalia, has in the past been harshly critical of DHS, which was created after the Sept. 11 attacks in large part to prevent a repeat performance. Earlier this month, she cosigned a letter with other freshmen Democrats calling for lawmakers to cut funding to the agency, which they said “promulgated an agenda driven by hate — not strategy.” If fulfilled, the Feb, 1 demand would almost certainly scuttle ongoing bipartisan negotiations toward a border-security deal and lead to another federal government shutdown.
Omar, like a number of her Democratic colleagues, has also specifically endorsed abolishing DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm.
3. Last May, Omar called Israel an “apartheid regime” in a tweet denying that she was anti-Semitic.
Drawing attention to the apartheid Israeli regime is far from hating Jews. You are a hateful sad man, I pray to Allah you get the help you need and find happiness. https://t.co/SvEXjlxlEN
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) May 31, 2018
Israel has long guaranteed full civil, though not national rights, to its Arab citizens. The state has maintained a largely indirect form of military rule in the West Bank since 1967, when it defeated its Arab neighbors in a war and conquered the territory from Jordan, which has since relinquished its claims.
Although Israel has claimed a right to the West Bank, citing ancient ties and security needs, its leaders have for decades formally supported to the formation of Palestinian state on the land as part of a peace deal, which has yet to materialize.
4. In 2017, Omar was one of just two members of the Minnesota House of Representatives to vote against a bipartisan bill to allow insurance companies to limit payouts of terrorists’ life insurance policies. The legislation was a response to the deadly 2015 San Bernardino mass shooting by a local couple whom the FBI found to be “homegrown violent extremists” inspired by foreign Islamist terrorist groups. Syed Farook, took out $275,000 in life insurance as he planned the attack.
A version of the House bill, HF 1397, was later passed by the Minnesota Senate and signed into law by the governor. The law went into affect in August 2017.
5. In 2016, Omar used her position as a state lawmaker to lobby a federal judge for leniency on behalf of nine Minnesota men who had been convicted of attempting to travel to Syria to fight for the Islamic State.
She wrote to Judge Michael Davis to ask that the men be given light sentences because of their young ages and her belief that “inclusion and rehabilitation” were the best response to extremism.
“Incarcerating 20 year old men for 30 or 40 years is essentially a life sentence. Society will have no expectations of the to be 50 or 60 year old released prisoners,” she said.
“The best deterrent to fanaticism is a system of compassion. We must alter our attitude and approach; if we truly want to effect change, we should refocus our efforts on inclusion and rehabilitation.”
Most of the men were handed lengthy prison sentences of up to 35 years.
6. During Operation Pillar of Defense, a 2012 Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, Omar tweeted that the country had “hypnotized the world.” She also expressed her desire that “Allah awaken the people” to Israel’s “evil doings.”
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 16, 2012
Omar last month called the comments “unfortunate” in an interview on CNN.
They came at a time when many Muslims and other critics of Israel were expressing outrage at the Israeli campaign, which inflicted a heavy toll on Gaza’s civilian population, behind which militants made a practice of hiding. Israel completed Pillar of Defense in eight days, though it was forced to invade the coastal enclave again in 2004 following continued rocket fire, tunneling under its border, and terrorist attacks by Hamas.
Relative quiet has since prevailed.
Given Omar’s record, some conservatives have expressed concerns about her role in shaping US foreign policy. After all, Israel is a major US ally, which provides valuable intelligence and leverage in the Middle East; and the threat of Islamist terrorism persists. However, the larger fear seems to be domestic: Namely, that Omar – along with other far-left Democrats, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York – could one day hold sway over American government and life.
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