Pelosi, Dem leaders urge Omar to apologize for ‘anti-Semitic’ tweet
House Democratic leaders, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), on Monday accused Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) of using “anti-Semitic tropes” and called on her to apologize after she sent tweets suggesting that lawmakers defending Israel were motivated by money.
“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,” the top officials of the House Democratic leadership said in a rare joint statement. “Legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate that the United States and Israel share.”
Along with Pelosi, the statement was co-signed by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.), Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) and Caucus Vice Chairwoman Katherine Clark (Mass.) said in the statement.
“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,” they wrote.
“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar wrote, referring to money.
Omar then tweeted that AIPAC was paying American politicians to support Israel. She was referring to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, a powerful nonprofit advocacy organization that doesn’t directly donate to political candidates. AIPAC does, however, sponsor regular congressional delegations to Israel.
Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, faced widespread condemnation from fellow Democrats for her comments.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who is Jewish, issued a lengthy statement saying that Omar’s comments were “deeply hurtful and offensive.”
“While of course our nation’s leaders are free to debate the relative influence of a particular organization on our country’s policy-making process, or the factors that make our system of governance imperfect, there is an expectation of leaders — particularly those with a demonstrated commitment to the cause of justice and equality — that they would be extremely careful not to tread into the waters of anti-Semitism or any other form of prejudice or hate. Rep. Omar failed that test of leadership with these comments,” Nadler said.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who is also Jewish, similarly accused Omar of invoking an “anti-Semitic trope.” Omar is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
“I fully expect that when we disagree on the Foreign Affairs Committee, we will debate policy on the merits and never question members’ motives or resort to personal attacks,” Engel said in a statement.
McCarthy pledged on Monday that House Republicans would take action this week “to ensure the House speaks out against this hatred and stands with Israel and the Jewish people.” McCarthy’s office didn’t immediately clarify what exactly that action would entail.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who is Jewish, introduced a resolution last month condemning anti-Semitism that specifically cites previous comments from Omar and Tlaib about Israel.
Omar had previously come under fire over a 2012 tweet amid the Gaza War in which she wrote: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine #Israel.”
Omar backtracked last month, writing in a tweet, “It’s now apparent to me that I spent lots of energy putting my 2012 tweet in context and little energy is disavowing the anti-semitic trope I unknowingly used, which is unfortunate and offensive.”
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