“This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar was forced to apologize Monday for tweeting over the weekend that supporters of the Jewish state are “paying American politicians to be pro-Israel.”
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The freshman Democrat from Minnesota said she was “unequivocally” sorry and expressed gratitude to her “Jewish allies and colleagues” for teaching her about “the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”
However, she 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 over the weekend.
Listening and learning, but standing strong ?? pic.twitter.com/7TSroSf8h1
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
In the offending tweets on Sunday, Omar had suggested that US leaders are friendly to Israel, a major US ally, because: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” Asked by a Jewish journalist to clarify who she thought was paying off the politicians, Omar said, “AIPAC!”
Journalists, politicians, Middle East experts, and other commenters – Democrat and Republican alike – lined up to call out Omar for allegedly invoking an anti-Semitic canard about the nefarious influence of Jewish money, though some liberals defended her.
AIPAC responded to the controversy on Sunday night, saying: ‘‘We are proud that we are engaged in the democratic process to strengthen the US-Israel relationship. Our bipartisan efforts are reflective of American values and interests. We will not be deterred in any way by ill-informed and illegitimate attacks on this important work.’’
Omar – who had previously told CNN that it was “exciting” for her to be creating a debate about the US-Israel relationship – changed her tune after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, on Monday demanded that she immediately apologize for her tweets, which she too called anti-Semitic.
‘‘Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive,’’ Pelosi said in a statement issued by her office and signed by other Democratic leaders over the tweets. ‘‘We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.’’
Even before Pelosi weighed in, two powerful House chairman had rebuked Omar. Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said he would not tolerate them and found it ‘‘shocking to hear a Member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of ‘Jewish money.’’’ He said he will emphasize to members of the panel of both parties the importance of the US-Israel relationship.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Omar had failed a test of leadership.
Omar is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and one of two of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, the other being Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. She has a record of statements and actions that put her far outside the US mainstream when it comes to Israel and the threat of Islamic extremism.
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- Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Missouri Democrat.: Screen grab from YouTube