A freshman Democratic lawmaker from Minnesota is being condemned for her recent comments on social media implying that American lawmakers are being bribed into support Israel.
Over the weekend, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) retweeted a criticism of GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy's criticism of Omar and her colleague Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Michigan Democrat. "It's all about the Benjamins baby," Ms. Omar tweeted. (See related article) Omar and Tlaib are the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, and both have spoken critically of the state of Israel.
Sincere apology? You decide ...
Within minutes after this story was posted, Rep. Omar issue an apology on Twitter, stating:
"Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack my for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.
"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."
Many understood the tweet as suggesting that Republicans are influenced and financed by pro-Israel groups. They saw it promoting an "anti-Semitic trope" that Jewish people try to control politics with money. In a second tweet, she suggested that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was responsible for influencing politicians.
Democratic leadership is calling on Omar to immediately apologize for her remarks – "[Her] use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel's supporters is deeply offensive," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement.
Omar isn't backing down from her anti-Israel views, and in fact she told CNN that "it's not surprising" her positions are generating attention and that she finds it "exciting" to be sparking debate. (See sidebar for update)
Pro-Israel activist Gary Bauer is disturbed by the raw anti-Semitism that is being brought into the American political arena.
"Congresswoman Omar is showing a clear pattern of classic anti-Semitism – and it's disgusting," he tells OneNewsNow. "... I would hope that every House Republican and Democrat would condemn her remarks. She is bringing a kind of raw anti-Semitism into the American political arena that is deeply disturbing."
Prior to Pelosi's statement, Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs – of which Omar is a member – criticized the freshman Democrat for her controversial comments accusing pro-Israel groups of bribing American lawmakers. "Anti-Semitism in any form is unacceptable, and it's shocking to hear a Member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of 'Jewish money,'" he wrote in a statement.
Bauer, who serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, says this is clearly something that both sides of the aisle should speak out against.
"I was heartened today to see some leading Democrats do that," he says. "But wherever anti-Semitism raises its ugly head, hopefully people of good will in both political parties will confront it."
There has been no report of Omar's continued status as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Engel, however, states he will "ensure support for Israel remains strong and bipartisan" and will sure all the committee members know "our alliance and friendship with Israel are important to our countries' shared interests, security, and values."
Associated Press contributed to this story.