Foreign Affairs Committee chair denounces new Omar statements on Israel

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, slammed Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Friday for comments she made this week that he said are anti-Semitic.

“I welcome debate in Congress based on the merits of policy, but it’s unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Engel said in a statement.

{mosads}“Her comments were outrageous and deeply hurtful, and I ask that she retract them, apologize, and commit to making her case on policy issues without resorting to attacks that have no place in the Foreign Affairs Committee or the House of Representatives.”

Omar, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has been criticized recently over a slew of comments regarding Israel that many deemed offensive. She was speaking about the influence of special interest groups who advocate for a strong relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is O.K. for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” she said during an event at a Washington bookstore this week, according to The New York Times

She went on to question why it was acceptable for her to criticize the influence of the NRA, fossil fuel industries and other special interest groups but not the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 

The concept of dual loyalty has been a historical aspect of anti-Semitism, with nations accusing its Jewish populations of secretly valuing their loyalty to Israel over their home country.

“The charge of dual loyalty not only raises the ominous specter of classic anti-Semitism, but it is also deeply insulting to the millions upon millions of patriotic Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, who stand by our democratic ally, Israel,” Marshall Wittmann, a spokesman for AIPAC, said in a statement to The Times.

Omar’s office responded to The Times that she had apologized for past comments and that it was important to differentiate between criticism of a religion and criticism of lobbying groups.

Omar’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

The Minnesota Democrat drew bipartisan criticism this month over messages she posted to social media.

In two now-deleted tweets, Omar wrote that U.S. politicians’ defense of Israel’s was “all about the Benjamins baby,” while adding that AIPAC was funding lawmakers who criticized her stance. Critics said the comments touched on anti-Semitic tropes of Jews discretely influencing politics. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other top Democrats issued a joint statement condemning the remarks and calling for Omar to apologize.

“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.

Omar acceded to the letter, saying she meant no harm by the remarks and would seek out education on the history of anti-Semitism.

“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,” Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, apologized in a statement. “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing 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.”

Tags Eliot Engel Ilhan Omar Nancy Pelosi

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