Americas

US politician Ilhan Omar apologises over Israel tweet

Muslim-American Ilhan Omar says she ‘unequivocally’ apologises after critics claimed she tweeted anti-Semitic trope.

    Muslim-American congresswoman Ilhan Omar “unequivocally” apologised on Monday for a tweet criticising a pro-Israel lobbyist group, after the post prompted reams of criticism from Republicans and many Democrats.

    “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, said in a statement posted on Twitter. 

    “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,” she continued. 

    “This is why I unequivocally apologise,” Omar said, adding that she “reaffirm[s]” the “problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the [National Rifle Association] or the fossil fuel industry”. 

    Omar’s statement came after a wave of criticism from Republicans and many Democrats, in which they called on her to apologise for using “anti-Semitic tropes”. 

    The debacle erupted after Omar retweeted a post by Glenn Greenwald, a blogger at The Intercept, media pundit and frequent guest on Fox News programmes such as Tucker Carlson Tonight. 

    In that tweet, Greenwald criticised a leading Republican, Kevin McCarthy, for threatening “punishment” of Omar and fellow Muslim-American politicians Rashida Tlaib “over their criticisms of Israel”.

    While quoting Greenwald’s post in a tweet, Omar wrote: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” followed by music note emojis. 

    ‘Anti-Semitic trope’  

    In response, Batya Ungar-Sargon, an opinions editor at The Forward, criticised Omar, “Would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess. Bad form, Congresswoman. That’s the second anti-Semitic trope you’ve tweeted.” 

    Omar then responded to Ungar-Sargon in a tweet, saying only: “AIPAC!” 

    AIPAC, or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is a pro-Israel lobbying group. While it is barred from directly donating to candidates, it encourages its more than 100,000 members to do so and to be politically active.

    One way the organisation has made a mark on Congress is through expense-paid trips to Israel, which are paid for by an affiliated nonprofit that does not have to disclose its donors. The popular weeklong excursions for members of Congress, their families and some senior staff can cost upward of $12,000 per person and are intended to “educate political leaders and influencers about the importance of the US – Israel relationship through firsthand experiences”.

    Omar’s supporters dismissed accusations calling the new politicians anti-Semitic, while critics said her comments perpetuated an age-old anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that claims Jews use money to control politics from behind the scenes.

    Others pointed out that many of the Republicans lashing out at Omar had promulgated anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in the past. 

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