The House Democrat Leadership issued a statement Monday afternoon condemning Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN), calling her anti-Semitic comments “deeply offensive” and urging the freshman lawmaker to immediately apologize for her “hurtful comments.”
“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,” the top House Democrats said in a joint 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.”
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) February 11, 2019
Omar serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The statement from Pelosi et. al. does not make any mention of potential actions regarding her committee assignments. Omar, one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, drew stern rebukes from Republicans and fellow Democrats Monday after suggesting U.S. support for Israel is fueled by money from the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.
The Minnesota freshman has faced criticism for weeks over her positions on the Jewish state, but it boiled over late Sunday after she reacted to statements by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in a tweet.
“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar replied, referring to American $100 bills featuring the likeness of Benjamin Franklin.
When a user asked who Omar believes is paying US politicians to support Israel, the former Somali refugee tweeted a one-word response: “AIPAC!”
The exchanges triggered an uproar. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee of which Omar is a member, said: “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.’”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) urged Democrat leaders to “condemn this anti-Semitism” and remove Omar from the committee.
Two Democrat lawmakers circulated a letter addressed to Democrat leaders, including Pelosi, urging them to take “swift action” against anti-Semitic language by members. The letter’s authors, Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Elaine Luria (D-VA), who are both Jewish, did not mention Omar by name, but the target of their anger was clear.
“We must speak out when any Member — Democrat or Republican –- uses harmful tropes and stereotypes, levels accusations of dual loyalty, or makes reckless statements like those yesterday,” they wrote.
Omar has been critical of Israel’s government over its treatment of Palestinians. She has supported the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to put economic and political pressure on Israel.
Omar and fellow Muslim congressional freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) support for the boycott has opened a breach in the Democratic Party and threatens to create a fissure in the ironclad U.S.-Israeli alliance.
At least a dozen lawmakers have openly criticized Omar, including Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), the first Jewish congresswoman elected from Florida.
Omar’s “tweets implying that American support for Israel is driven by money, rather than shared interests and values, are alarming, offensive and disturbing,” Wasserman Schultz said.
The Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.