Congress responds as Rep. Omar invokes anti-Semitic stereotypes
Representative-elect Ilhan Omar. (Lorie Shaull/Wikimedia Commons)
DRIVING THE CONVO — Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) ignited a fresh political firestorm Sunday evening, accusing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) of paying members of Congress to support Israel.
In response to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s call on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to admonish Omar and her colleague Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Omar tweeted: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” The Minnesota Congresswoman doubled down when asked whom she thinks “is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel?” “AIPAC!” Omar replied. She also retweeted a criticism from a Jewish Twitter user, “She might as well call us hook-nosed.” She later unretweeted it.
— LAST WEEK — In an interview with CNN last Tuesday, Omar said it’s “actually exciting” that her controversial views on Israel are sparking debate. And Tlaib explained her support for the BDS movement in an interview with NowThis News, claiming that she wants to “be able to humanize this issue.”
AIPAC responded on Twitter: “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.”
REACTION — Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) said in a statement: “Congresswoman Omar’s statements are deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself… When someone uses hateful and offensive tropes and words against people of my faith, I will not be silent.”
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) tweets: “My support for Israel is based on shared values and US national security, not money. I’m disappointed that Ilhan Omar is again tweeting dangerous and hurtful tropes.”
Mark Mellman, head of the newly-created Democratic Majority for Israel said in a statement: “By suggesting pro-Israel views are paid for, Congresswoman Omar has driven headlong into the gutter, slandering America’s pro-Israel community and the vast majority of her colleagues of both parties, in the House and the Senate, who back a strong U.S.-Israel relationship… Congresswoman Omar’s hateful, hurtful and harmful slander is an embarrassment to her, to the Democratic party and to the United States Congress. She owes her colleagues, our party and our country an apology, and even more important, sincere repentance.”
The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) also denounced Omar’s tweet, saying “enough is enough” with the anti-Semitic tropes. “At a time when anti-Semitism is increasing at home and abroad, it is vital that members of Congress speak out against bigotry in all its forms, and not repeat hateful conspiracy theories and tropes targeting any one religious or ethnic group,” JDCA’s Executive Director Halie Soifer.
Chelsea Clinton tweeted: “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.”
— In response to criticism, Clinton added: “I will reach out to her tomorrow. I also think we have to call out anti-Semitic language and tropes on all sides, particularly in our elected officials and particularly now.” Omar appeared to accept the offer.
Amb. David Friedman: “Congresswoman from Minnesota falsely claims U.S. officials are paid to support Israel. I find that painful but amusing. This U.S. official gladly took a massive pay cut for the privilege to serve & the honor of advancing U.S.’ best interests by supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship… Impugning the motives of U.S. officials who support Israel with false allegations of payoffs is disgusting.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): “Why is a Member of Congress launching anti-Semitic slurs on Twitter? Caricaturing support for Israel as purchased by Jewish $$— ‘about the Benjamins’— is an old slander. Do other Dems agree? Will the media ask them? As more Dems support BDS, anti-Semitism becoming far too common.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR): “AIPAC promotes a better understanding of the Middle East, combats the ancient hatred of anti-semitism, & strengthens the US alliance with Israel. I’m grateful for their work & I always look forward to seeing them. Thank you!”
IPF’s Michael Koplow: “Stunning that Ilhan Omar is spending her first few weeks as a Congresswoman spreading anti-Semitic tropes about moneyed Jews buying off elected officials… Supporters of Israel have every right to participate in politics and have their voices heard, and Israel is one of the U.S.’s most valuable allies on the globe, making it worthy of support irrespective of anything else. What Omar is doing is shameful bigoted hate mongering.”