Widespread condemnation and demands for punitive action are following the latest anti-Jewish tweets by Michigan Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar. Sunday’s tweets employed hateful anti-Jewish tropes and stereotypes.
The tweets by Omar — whose public statements about Jews have riled before, but not to this extent — accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest pro-Israel lobbying organization, of paying members of Congress to back Israel.
She made her accusation during a Twitter exchange with left-wing journalist Glenn Greenwald about threats by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to punish Omar and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) “over their criticisms of Israel.”
“It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans,” Greenwald tweeted.
“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar tweeted, a reference to $100 bills in a 1997 Puff Daddy hit.
Forward opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon responded: “Would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess. Bad form, Congresswoman.”
Without specifying her guess, Ungar-Sargon added, “That’s the second anti-Semitic trope you’ve tweeted.”
Replying to Ungar-Sargon, Omar tweeted: “AIPAC!”
“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’,” said Bronx Democratic Rep. Elliot Engel. Engel is Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which Omar sits on.
While Democratic House leaders condemned Omar’s remarks, many congressional and Jewish communal voices that span the political spectrum demanded that House Democrats take punitive against Omar similar to that taken by House Republicans against Iowa Rep. Steve King over King’s defense of white nationalism. King was stripped of his committee assignments.
Under mounting pressure, Omar issued an apology of sorts on Monday.
“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,” she wrote.
“We have to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
Then she linked the ADL to two notorious bogeymen of the left: “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.”
Here’s a sampling of reaction, starting with members of Congress from Long Island and Queens and continuing with Jewish communal leaders:
Rep. Kathleen Rice (Five Towns)
At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the country and around the world, we need to take extra care to engage one another in a respectful and inclusive manner. Anti-Semitic tropes have hurt Jewish communities for thousands of years, including last year’s horrific shooting in Pittsburgh.
We must speak out against anti-Semitism whenever we hear or see it, no matter what side of the aisle it comes from. This is an important conversation to have, and I hope my colleagues will keep an open mind on how to achieve justice for ALL persecuted and marginalized communities.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (Patchogue)
Glad the Speaker broke her silence, but that apology won’t do. Rep. Omar should be stripped of her committee assignments, including @HouseForeign, & HRes72 should be voted on. Rep. S King apologized as well. Was still stripped of assignments & HRes41 passed nearly unanimously. [on Twitter]
Rep. Tom Suozzi (Huntington)
For weeks, several constituents have asked me to call out my colleagues Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib for what [they] described as anti-Israel comments, their support of BDS and, in some instances, anti-Semitic tropes.
In the past I had declined because, it seemed, Rep. Omar was distancing herself from some previous comments and I felt that these colleagues should be approached privately and given an opportunity to hear why things they were saying were hurtful and wrong…
Rep. Omar’s tweet yesterday went too far. To suggest that pro-Israel support “is all about the Benjamins” and her follow up that she is referring to AIPAC is not only inaccurate, but conjures up the worst anti-Semitic stereotypes. …
My support for Israel is based upon our shared values, our national security interests, and the history of the region.
Rep. Grace Meng (Forest Hills)
I was very disappointed to see the comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar on Twitter last night, in which she perpetuated offensive and tired tropes about the role of Jewish influence in American politics.
These comments are particularly troubling at a moment in which Jewish Americans, alongside other religious and ethnic communities, face rising incidents of hate crimes and assaults. In the past year, I have seen firsthand the devastating impact and the rise of hate crimes motivated by anti-Semitism.
I hope Rep. Omar will be open to hearing the perspectives of her colleagues, particularly around the ways that coded language asserting undue influence of Jews in American life has historically been wielded to discriminate and delegitimize the Jewish people.
I will continue to remain an ardent supporter of the U.S.–Israel relationship, not because of lobbyists or special interests, but because of our strong partnership based on shared ideals, a commitment to democracy, and a desire for peace.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (Far Rockaway)
Rep. Omar’s tweet, whether intentionally or incidentally, evoked an offensive stereotype insensitive to the history of Jewish people and anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Rep. Max Rose (Brooklyn-Staten Island)
When someone uses hateful and offensive tropes and words against people of my faith, I will not be silent. … At a time when anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise, our leaders should not be invoking hurtful stereotypes and caricatures of Jewish people to dismiss those who support Israel.
The leadership of the Orthodox Union had previously stated that we were deeply offended by past statements made by Rep. Ilhan Omar — particularly her 2012 assertion that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
Two weeks ago, Rep. Omar said about that prior statement: “It’s now apparent to me that I spent lots of energy putting my 2012 tweet in context and little energy in disavowing the anti-Semitic trope I unknowingly used, which is unfortunate and offensive.”
In response, we said: “We remain concerned that Rep. Omar has publicly stated support for the anti-Israel BDS movement which seeks to delegitimize Israel and we reject Rep. Omar’s view that Israel’s actions against the Hamas terror group in Gaza in 2012 were ‘evil.’ Given the threats Israel faces, the Jewish State and her leaders have the right and duty to act against Israel’s enemies.” We further stated: “We hope that Rep. Omar’s acknowledgement is the beginning of a process of engagement and dialogue that will lead to greater understanding.”
Today, in light of her most recent tweets and other public statements she has made over the past few weeks, we see that Rep. Omar is clearly not interested in such a process. She is more interested in continuing to maliciously traffic in anti-Semitic tropes and can no longer feign ignorance or be given the benefit of the doubt.
We appreciate the statements made so far by several Democratic Members of Congress repudiating Rep. Omar on this front. But in the face of an unprecedented rise in anti-Semitism in this country and around the world, we call upon all Members to speak up and be counted among those who explicitly reject anti-Semitism. And we call upon Speaker Pelosi and the Congressional leadership to immediately take concrete action to censure Rep. Omar for her offensive statements.
ZOA President Morton A. Klein
These tweets from Rep. Ilhan Omar, along with several comments that she has made over the years, are pure, unadulterated, evil, frighteningly dangerous anti-Semitism.
The Zionist Organization of America calls on House Democrat leadership to (i) immediately remove Rep. Omar from her committee assignments; and (ii) call an immediate vote on Rep. Lee Zeldin’s H.Res 72, rejecting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred in the United States and around the world.
ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt
As Americans and Jews, we expect our politicians to condemn bigotry, not to fuel it. Words matter. At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise in the U.S. and abroad, Rep. Omar is promoting the ugly, anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews have an outsized influence over politics. The notion that wealthy Jews are controlling the government is a longstanding anti-Semitic trope and one of the pillars of modern anti-Semitism, a retread of ideas spread by bigots from David Duke to Louis Farrakhan. As the people’s House, the House of Representatives must not tolerate any bigotry against any community in our nation. We call on the House leadership to take immediate action, so that the message is clear: anti-Semitism will not be tolerated.
Unfortunately, making insensitive statements toward the Jewish community is not new for Rep. Omar. These tweets are part of a disturbing pattern of behavior that must end. The Congresswoman needs to understand that these comments promote dangerous stereotypes and are hurtful to her Jewish constituents and Jewish-Americans throughout the country.
Strong bipartisan support for Israel is not a result of money or lobbying. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and a strong American ally in a strategically important region. AIPAC is an established, bipartisan organization comprised of countless Americans both Jewish and non-Jewish, who proudly support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. Grassroots advocacy is a critical part of our robust democracy — and AIPAC has every right to work effectively with members of Congress to support the U.S.-Israel relationship.
National Council of Young Israel
The so-called “unequivocal” apology proffered by Rep. Omar is wholly inadequate and incredibly insincere. … By accepting Rep. Omar’s halfhearted “apology,” which was devoid of any true remorse, and taking no further action against the Congresswoman, the House Democratic leaders’ reprimand for her remarks falls far short. While we appreciate their condemnation, we wholeheartedly believe that additional steps must be taken [and we] call upon them to strip Rep. Omar of her committee assignments and convey very strongly that there are serious consequences for encouraging, espousing, and endorsing anti-Semitism and bigotry of any kind. If no further action is taken is taken by the House Democratic leaders after Rep. Omar knowingly and willingly perpetuated anti-Semitic tropes, it would be tantamount to their condonation of her reprehensible racist remarks.
In light of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s latest anti-Semitic comments, the NCYI also reiterated its call for the House Democratic leaders to immediately bring to a floor vote H.Res.72, a congressional resolution introduced by Rep. Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican, that rejects anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred in the United States and around the world.
[Omar’s apology] contains an inherently problematic comparison. There is no reasonable comparison between lobbying entities like the NRA and the fossil fuel industry — organizations focused on leveraging influence to generate profit — and a nonprofit organization advocating for the security of a marginalized community. There are approximately 14.5 million Jews on the face of the earth — about 6.5 million of which live in Israel — representing roughly .02 percent of the entire global population. Jews who engage on this issue are doing so to protect ourselves from legitimate threats of extermination.
We recognize that historical manifestations of anti-Semitism are not widely understood by those who have not suffered under this pernicious form of bigotry — one of the oldest, most consistent and most deadly forms of hatred on earth. We commit ourselves to serving as a resource for those who sincerely want to engage to eradicate anti-Semitism, which, like all forms of bigotry, divides us and weakens our movements.
Her statement claiming that support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins” is not only untrue, it normalizes anti-Semitic rhetoric.
The United States supports the State of Israel because it is the only thriving democracy in the Middle East; the State of Israel shares our values, our interests, and is our closest ally in the world. At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise, we expect to look to our leaders for moral clarity.
Hadassah’s two hospitals in Jerusalem that treat and employ people of all backgrounds in a country characterized by conflict earned us a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2005. We invite Rep. Omar to visit our hospitals and see one of the many reasons that the United States supports the State of Israel.
Conference of Presidents
By Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Chairman Arthur Stark and Executive Vice Chairman/CEO Malcolm Hoenlein.
We welcome Speaker Pelosi’s statement in response to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic and bigoted Twitter comments. In the latest of a series of offensive tweets, she said, when referring to members of Congress who support Israel, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” and then attacked pro-Israel efforts in derogatory terms, including accusing pro-Israel organizations of buying the support of members of Congress. As much as this is offensive to the Jewish community and pro-Israel Americans, it is an offense to all members of Congress, suggesting that their positions on issues are available for purchase. …
Both parties must have a policy of zero tolerance for intolerance. We hope there will be added vigilance to call out, isolate, and sanction those who appeal to the base instincts of anti-Semitism, as with racism and bigotry of all kinds.
We also hope that the Democratic members of Congress will join their Republican counterparts in passing anti-BDS legislation. BDS is part of a vile campaign to delegitimize Israel, deny its right to exist, and deny Jews the rights accorded to all other people. The sharp rise in anti-Semitic assaults in the United States on campus and in communities — whether from extremists on the left or right- or other sources requires clear and unambiguous determination by America’s leaders on the federal, state and local level, law enforcement, judiciary, educational authorities, and influential members of every sector.
House Democratic Leadership
Anti-Semitism must be called out, confronted and condemned whenever it is encountered, without exception. We are and will always be strong supporters of Israel in Congress because we understand that our support is based on shared values and strategic interests.
Legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate that the United States and Israel share. But Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive. We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.
As Democrats and as Americans, the entire Congress must be fully engaged in denouncing and rejecting all forms of hatred, racism, prejudice and discrimination wherever they are encountered.
Democratic Majority for Israel
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.
Jewish Democratic Council of America
[Progressive] We have repeatedly condemned Donald Trump and other Republicans for condoning and encouraging anti-Semitism, as well as other forms of discrimination, and we hold all public officials to the same standard.