Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., faced new accusations of making anti-Semitic remarks Friday, this time rebuked by a senior member from her own party who says the House freshman’s words conjured a “vile anti-Semitic slur.”
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, demanded an apology over comments Omar made on Wednesday, less than a month after she was condemned by bipartisan leadership for suggesting pro-Israel lobbying groups and Jewish politicians influence American politics.
Her comments came during a town hall in Washington, while speaking about progressive issues. “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Omar said.
In a statement Friday, Eliot said he welcomed debate in Congress but that it was “unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the US-Israel relationship.”
“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,” he said.
Omar’s spokesman, Jerermy Slevin, told The Associated Press on Friday the congresswoman expressed remorse about her comments in February but that “we must distinguish between criticism of a particular faith and fair critiques of lobbying groups.”
Just as earlier this month the congresswoman “only meant to target the pro-Israel lobby,” he said.
Engel’s call for Omar to apologize follows two other incidents from earlier this year.
Omar’s Jan. 22 apology came after a 2012 tweet recirculated, in which she said, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
Then, she said the post was merely referring to Israel’s conduct in war.
In February, more than 20 House Democrats demanded a second apology from Omar after she suggested (again, on Twitter) that Israel’s allies in Congress were wealthy Jews driven by money. Trump called for Omar to either resign from Congress or give up her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and bipartisan leadership issued a joint statement insisting on an apology for her “use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters.”
For Omar, who is Muslim and represents a district with a fairly large Muslim population, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians has long been an issue of note.
As The Post previously reported: “The firestorm exposed deep divisions within the Democratic Party over the unquestioned U.S. support of Israel, pitting long-standing Democratic backers of the Jewish state against the party’s newest lawmakers and several 2020 presidential candidates who have spoken out in favor of Palestinian rights.”
Omar apologized on the social media platform, writing: “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.”
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Deanna Paul