Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., sparked backlash Sunday evening — from prominent Republicans and former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, among others — after she accused a prominent lobbying group of paying members of Congress to support Israel.
Omar, the first Somali-American woman elected to Congress, responded to a post by journalist Glenn Greenwald criticizing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for threatening to take action against Omar and another freshman lawmaker, Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., over allegedly anti-Semitic remarks.
“There’s situations in our conference where a member does something that is wrong — I think you’ve seen from my own actions that I take action about it,” McCarthy told reporters Friday, making an apparent reference to Republican congressman Steve King of Iowa. “I think when they stay silent, they are just as guilty … I think this will not be the end of this, and if they do not take action then I think you will see action from myself. It’s unacceptable in this country, especially when you sit back and think about and listen to what this country went through in World War II.”
Greenwald accused McCarthy of targeting Omar and Tlaib for their numerous criticisms of Israel, to which Omar chimed in “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” quoting a 1997 rap song by Puff Daddy. She then doubled down when challenged by Batya Ungar-Sargon, the opinion editor of The Forward newspaper.
“Would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess,” Ungar-Sargon tweeted. “Bad form, Congresswoman. That’s the second anti-Semitic trope you’ve tweeted.”
In response, Omar tweeted “AIPAC!” referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which regularly has been accused by progressives of agitating for a conflict with Iran. AIPAC did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Fox News.
Omar’s comments drew a strong response from across the political spectrum. The Republican Jewish Coalition called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to take action and asked rhetorically if House Democrats would “care to comment on the outrageous anti-Semitism being spewed by one of your fêted members?”
“[House Majority] Leader [Steny] Hoyer [D-Md.] – you’ve led many AIPAC trips to Israel,” RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks tweeted. “Will you speak out against this??”
Chelsea Clinton tweeted: “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.”
Left-wing historian and Politico Magazine contributing editor Joshua Zeitz tweeted: “I’m one of those American Jews who opposes the occupation [of the West Bank and Gaza Strip], laments Israel’s anti-democratic drift, and doesn’t regard the country as especially central to my Jewish identity. And I knew exactly what the congresswoman meant. She might as well call us hook-nosed.”
Sunday marked the latest in a long line of statements by Omar that critics have slammed as anti-Semitic. In 2012, she tweeted that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine#Israel.” She did not apologize for posting the tweet until last month.
In January, Omar argued in a Yahoo! News interview that Israel could not be considered a democracy and compared it to the Islamic theocracy in Iran.
“When I see Israel institute laws that recognize it as a Jewish state and does not recognize the other religions that are living in it, and we still uphold it as a democracy in the Middle East I almost chuckle because I know that if we see that any other society we would criticize it, call it out,” she said. “We do that to Iran, we do that to any other place that sort of upholds its religion. And I see that now happening with Saudi Arabia and so I am aggravated, truly, in those contradictions.”