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Rep. Ilhan Omar Says Her Jewish Colleagues “Haven’t Been Equally Engaging in Seeking Justice”

She added that she “knows what it feels like to experience injustice in ways many of my colleagues don’t.”
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June 30, 2021
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) on April 9, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) said in a June 29 appearance on CNN that some of her Jewish colleagues in the House of Representatives “haven’t been equally engaging in seeking justice.”

Host Jake Tapper began the interview by pointing to Omar’s past comments about how “it’s all about the Benjamins” when it comes to supporting Israel and that “Israel is hypnotizing the world.” “Do you understand why some of your fellow House Democrats, especially Jews, find that language antisemitic?”

Omar said she has “welcomed” conversations with her colleagues, but that “it’s important for these members to realize that they haven’t been partners in justice, they haven’t been equally engaging in seeking justice around the world… and I will continue to do that.” She added that she “knows what it feels like to experience injustice in ways many of my colleagues don’t.”

Tapper then asked Omar how she would respond to those who say that she’s using antisemitic terminology in her fight for justice, prompting Omar to reply that she has “clarified and apologized when I have felt that my words have offended” but accused her colleagues of using “Islamophobic tropes” against her. “I have always been someone who is humbled, someone who understands how words can be harmful and hurtful to people and I’ve always listened and learned and behaved accordingly and shown up with passion and care.”

Omar also said during the interview that she doesn’t regret her comments accusing the United States, Israel, Hamas and the Taliban of committing “unspeakable atrocities.” “I tend to think that people around the world who have experienced injustice need to be able to have a place where they can go,” Omar told Tapper. “And as a country that helped found the ICC and supported it, I think that it is really important for us to continue to find ways in which people can find justice around the world.”

Jewish groups condemned Omar’s latest comments.

“To accuse Jewish members of not being involved in ‘justice’ is ignorant of their records, and especially offensive when it’s an effort to distract from your own #antisemitic statements,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted. “Rep. Omar needs to lead with accountability, not denial — definitely not blaming the victim.”

 

American Jewish Committee Managing Director of Global Communications Avi Mayer similarly tweeted, “Omar’s comments draw on classic antisemitic themes about Jewish clannishness, the notion that Jews only look out for themselves. They’re also plainly false. Jewish lawmakers have been on the front lines, fighting for human rights in America and globally.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center also tweeted, “Democratic Party’s leadership giving cover to [Omar’s] #Antisemitism by refusing to condemn her and remove her from powerful committees, only emboldens anti-Semitism on all levels of American society.”

 

Stop Antisemitism also tweeted, “Shocking – Ilhan Omar refusing to take ANY accountability for her obscene antisemitism.  Instead she has the audacity to blame Jewish members of Congress.  When will this vile bigot finally be censured and properly reprimanded by her party?”

Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein tweeted, “Ignorant antisemite Ilhan Omar supports [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions], says Israel hypnotizes world, compares US and Israel to terrorist Taliban & Hamas, yet [Speaker of the House] Pelosi calls Omar a ‘valued member’ of her party & refuses to criticize her. It’s high time for her party to condemn her & remove her from every committee.”

 

Siamak Kordestani, West Coast Director of the European Leadership Network, noted that “Omar voted ‘Present’ on the historic Armenian Genocide Resolution vote, while her Jewish colleagues voted ‘Yes.’ Hypocrisy.”

IfNotNow, on the other hand, tweeted: “It’s much easier to twist the words of a Muslim woman of color than acknowledge that America and Israel commit war crimes or confront the sad reality that very few Jewish members of Congress work for justice for all people around the world.”

Omar appeared to defend her remarks to Tapper in a lengthy thread. “I am someone who has survived war and experienced injustice firsthand, who is alive today because I was welcomed into this country as a refugee. I know that many of my colleagues—both Jewish and non-Jewish—deeply share that commitment to fighting injustice.” She also tweeted that “the Black community and the Jewish community have historically stood side-by-side in the fight against injustice and throughout our history we have faced efforts to divide us based on our differences.”

J Street Director of Government Affairs Debra Shushan tweeted in defense of Omar’s thread. “As a granddaughter of refugees who survived the Holocaust, I see it as vital to have as a member of [the House Foreign Affairs Committee] someone who has lived a similar experience & will ask [questions] no one else will — like where can Palestinians go for justice in the midst of a brutal, 54-year occupation.”

Others didn’t buy it.

“THIS is Ilhan!” former New York Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind tweeted. “Makes antisemitic comment. Refuses to apologize. Goes further by attacking Jewish colleagues. Seeks insulation from criticism on basis of race, religion, gender. Still doesn’t apologize. Then she pontificates in a way that undermines all her previous claims.”

Pro-Israel activist Hen Mazzig also tweeted, “Ilhan, Jewish refugees exist. Most of us live in Israel. Nearly all the Jews from the Middle East and Africa were forced to flee and the Jewish state is why we are alive.”

 

Scottish journalist and pro-Israel activist Eve Barlow tweeted, “[P]eople who are sorry apologize. [P]eople who are not sorry write long, avoidant threads.”

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