Ilhan Omar Calls AIPAC ‘Problematic’ in Apology for Antisemitic Remarks

In this Feb. 5, 2019 photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., arrives for President Donald Trump's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
JOSHUA CAPLAN

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) on Monday apologized for antisemitic remarks in which she implied Republicans are being bribed into supporting Israel — but ended her statement by taking a shot at AIPAC, referring to its role in U.S. politics as “problematic.”

“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 said in a statement shared to Twitter. “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.”

“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,” the Minnesota Democrat continued.

Earlier Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) insisted that Omar immediately apologize for tweets saying that members of Congress are being paid by a powerful interest group to support Israel.

“Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive,” Pelosi said in a statement issued by her office and signed by other Democratic leaders after a bipartisan backlash against the Minnesota Democrat. “We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.”

The statement came after Omar tweeted over the weekend that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is paying members of Congress to support Israel.

The leaders’ remarks came hours after a pair of powerful House chairman rebuked Omar for her anti-Semitic tweets. Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) said he would not tolerate them and found it “shocking to hear a Member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of ‘Jewish money.’” He said he will emphasize to members of the panel of both parties that the American-Israeli relationship is important.

In a separate statement, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said Omar had failed a test of leadership. “It is deeply disappointing and disturbing to hear Representative Ilhan Omar’s (MN) choice of words in her exchange with a journalist yesterday, wherein she appears to traffic in old anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money,” said Nadler. “Her words are deeply hurtful and offensive, particular as they build on previous comments she made about Jews ‘hypnotizing’ the world in support of Israel — another old trope born of hate-filled texts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

AIPAC responded to Omar’s remarks on Sunday evening, stating: “We are proud that we are engaged in the democratic process to strengthen the US-Israel relationship. Our bipartisan efforts are reflective of American values and interests. We will not be deterred in any way by ill-informed and illegitimate attacks on this important work.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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