By PoliZette Staff | February 11, 2019
“In an extraordinary rebuke,” wrote ABC News on Monday afternoon, “Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other House Democratic leaders call[ed] on Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar to apologize for ‘anti-Semitic’ comments she made on Twitter.”
And now, the Minnesota Democrat finally has done so.
“I unequivocally apologize,” Omar wrote on Twitter on Monday after she drew widespread criticism from a range of political leaders on both sides of the aisle for comments of hers that many deemed anti-Semitic.
The Somali-American, a Muslim, was elected in November 2018 during the midterms.
She also said, “Listening and learning, but also standing strong.”
“Anti-Semitism must be called out, confronted and condemned whenever it is encountered, without exception,” Pelosi said in a statement about the issue on Monday.
Pelosi was joined in that statement by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark (D-Mass.).
“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 statement continued.
It also went on: “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. As Democrats and as Americans, the entire Congress must be fully engaged in denouncing and rejecting all forms of hatred, racism, prejudice and discrimination wherever they are encountered.”
Pelosi tweeted on Monday that she had spoken with Omar about the issue, adding, “Congresswoman Omar and I agreed that we must use this moment to move forward as we reject anti-Semitism in all forms.”
This earned praise from some Republicans almost right away, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas):
Ted Cruz tweets "Bravo Nancy" after Pelosi called on Omar to apologize for "use of anti-Semitic tropeshttps://thehill.com/homenews/senate/429457-ted-cruz-tweets-bravo-nancy-after-dem-leadership-criticizes-omar pic.twitter.com/wVEVj3DK9D
— The Hill (@thehill) February 11, 2019
The initial tweet from Omar that sparked the avalanche of condemnation suggested that the GOP’s support of Israel was driven by money.
“It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” Omar wrote on Sunday, appending a musical note symbol.
“Benjamins,” as she used it, appeared (among other things) to be a reference to lyrics from a 1997 Puff Daddy rap song.
Omar’s tweet was in response to a note from journalist Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept.
Greenwald’s own tweet seemed to accuse House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) of sacrificing Omar’s and her colleague Rashida Tlaib’s (D-Mich.) First Amendment rights for the sake of defending Israel.
“GOP leader Kevin McCarthy threatens punishment for @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib over their criticisms of Israel. It’s stunning how much time U.S. political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking [the] free speech rights of Americans,” Greenwald tweeted over the weekend.
He then attached a link to an article in Haaretz that described McCarthy’s intentions to hold Omar and Tlaib to account if their Democrat colleagues failed to do so.
Omar is one of two newly elected Muslim women serving in the House; Tlaib is the other.
Both have faced criticism for their alleged anti-Semitism.
Here is Omar’s full note containing her apology:
Listening and learning, but standing strong 💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/7TSroSf8h1
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
“If they [meaning Democrats] do not take action I think you’ll see action from myself,” McCarthy reporters on Friday, as multiple outlets reported, before Omar’s apology on Monday.
“This cannot sustain itself. It’s unacceptable in this country,” he also said.
“When they stay silent they’re just as guilty,” McCarthy he added about Pelosi and other Democratic leaders who had failed, up to that point, to condemn Omar and Tlaib, as Roll Call noted.
But Omar had doubled down on her Israel-related remarks in a one-word tweet afterward that spoke volumes: “AIPAC,” she wrote. AIPAC stands for American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group.
AIPAC’s mission is to “strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel,” according to its website.
“We are proud that we are engaged in the democratic process to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship. Our bipartisan efforts are reflective of American values and interests. We will not be deterred in any way by ill-informed and illegitimate attacks on this important work,” AIPAC tweeted on Sunday.
Batya Ungar-Sargon of the Forward had chastised Omar for her repeated anti-Semitic tropes — and asked whom Omar thought was paying off American politicians’ support of Israel. That was the congresswoman’s reply.
So did she go far enough in her apology on Monday? Is there more work to be done here?
Share your thoughts — and check out the video below:
This piece originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.
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