Rep. Ilhan Omar tones down Israel rhetoric at CAP


A week after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) said she ‘chuckles‘ at the idea of Israel being described as a democracy, the freshman Minnesota representative offered a more humble opinion of her views on Israel and anti-Semitism.

During an appearance at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC on Tuesday, Omar was asked by Winnie Stachelberg, CAP’s Executive Vice President for External Affairs, what she has learned in the past few weeks about equating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

Measuring her words carefully and appearing to avoid mentioning the words “Jews” or “Israel,” Rep. Omar replied, “I think we are at a breaking point where we’re starting to have a conversation about what it means to be of people that harbor hate and the kind of journey we could all be on in fighting against discrimination, collectively, while still having the freedom to debate foreign policy and not only think about how we engage our allies, but also how we criticize and hold them accountable.”

Omar and her Democratic colleague Rashida Tlaib from Michigan have come under fire from Republicans and Democrats alike over their recent comments regarding Israel. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) said some of the lawmakers’ comments “fall into long-standing anti-Semitic tropes.” And Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who serves with Omar on the House Foreign Relations Committee, has repeatedly condemned what he’s referred to as Omar’s “anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate.”

Read the full Q & A below:

Winnie Stachelberg: You’ve spoken publicly about your own learning process when it comes to engaging in discussions and debates about Israel. I wanted to ask you about anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel. You’ve explained recently past remarks about Israel that you came to understand that had inadvertently echoed stereotypes against Jews, and I want to ask you, in terms of conversation and dialogue, what have you learned about anti-Semitism from engaging in these debates? What have you learned as you’ve spent some time thinking about this?

Rep. Omar: “So a lot of the conversation oftentimes it’s one that refuses really to separate, I think, discussions around the country and its policies, and one that is, you know, hatred for the people and their faith. And I think we are at a breaking point where we’re starting to have a conversation about what it means to be of people that harbor hate and the kind of journey we could all be on in fighting against discrimination, collectively, while still having the freedom to debate foreign policy and not only think about how we engage our allies, but also how we criticize and hold them accountable.”

 


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