Rep. Ilhan Omar says many people don’t understand antisemitism

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The Minnesota congresswoman said that as an ally, it is 'our job to learn and to be supportive'

Gage Skidmore

U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar speaking with supporters of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders at a canvass launch at the Bernie Sanders for President southwest campaign office in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In an in-depth interview with The New York Times Magazine following her win in last month’s Democratic primary in Minnesota, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) addressed the “preconceived notion” about her views on antisemitism that came in the wake of 2019 tweets in which the freshman lawmaker accused AIPAC of paying lawmakers to be pro-Israel.

“I mean, there are a lot of preconceived notions about what thoughts and ideologies I have that have no basis in reality,” Omar told the Times in an interview published over the weekend. “It’s the same way in which people filter everything through, like, ‘anti-American,’ which couldn’t be further from the truth. I wouldn’t run for Congress to be part of the American government if I was anti-American. It’s all dependent on whom you’re talking to… Anything that I say or do will be filtered to create an excuse of why they now are trying to call me a bigot.” 

Omar suggested that “a lot of people have gaps in their understanding” of what antisemitism is:

“It’s been important to understand the ways in which people experience it. In the process of writing a few of the op-eds I’ve written on the rise of antisemitism in comparison to the rise of Islamophobia, it has been interesting to see the ways in which so many people create a lens through which they see it. It is important, when you are not of that community, to understand the different ways that bigotry shows up. It has always been a disappointment as a minority when I communicate with people and they’re like: ‘That’s not Islamophobia. That’s not anti-Blackness.’ But I am telling you: ‘This is my experience! This is how these things impact me!’ So I have brought that lens of frustration to this conversation. I’m not going to say, ‘That’s not that’ because I know what it feels like for me when somebody is dismissive of what I’m expressing. If you’re an ally, it’s your job to learn and to be supportive. That’s what I expect of allies, and that’s how I behave as an ally.”

Read the full interview here.

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