Muslim rights advocate says Omar helped 'broaden the conversation' about Israel

Civil rights attorney Zahra Billoo told Hill.TV's "Rising" on Tuesday that Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data House Democrats question DHS over using facial recognition tech on US citizens MORE (D-Minn.) has broadened the conversation about how people can speak critically about Israel.

"I think that the situation with Congresswoman Omar is an important one," said Billoo, who also serves as executive director of the San Francisco chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "What she has done is help broaden the conversation about how we can criticize the state of Israel, and that is not inherently anti-Semitic. And we need to be able to distinguish the two."

"We found a lot of solidarity from our friends at groups like Jewish Voices for Peace and If Not Now and others who have said that people are actually diluting real anti-Semitism by equating all criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism," Billoo added.

Omar sparked outrage with comments earlier this year that critics said relied on anti-Semitic tropes — first for suggesting that politicians who support Israel do so for financial reasons and then for suggesting support for Israel is akin to “allegiance to a foreign country."

The controversy led to a House-passed resolution broadly condemning hate speech.

— Julia Manchester