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Trump blasts Rep. Omar's 'terrible' statement, 'inadequate' apology

US House Democrat Ilhan Omar faced intensifying criticism after she tweeted on February 10, 2019 insinuating that US congressional support for Israel is fuled by funding from pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC
SAUL LOEB (AFP/File)

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women in the US legislature, inspired a rare condemnation from Democratic House leadership on Monday after suggesting US support for Israel is fueled by money from the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.

Omar "unequivocally apologized" for the remarks in a statement released shortly after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and top House Democrats condemned the tweets.

"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. My intention was never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole."

The freshman congresswoman, however, continued to insist that the role of lobbies in American politics must be addressed. "At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA, or the fossil fuel industry."

Speaking before a crowd of supporters in El Paso, Texas, President Donald Trump said that the congresswoman's statement was "terrible" and her apology "inadequate."

"She should be ashamed of herself," the leader further added.  

The Minnesota congresswoman has faced criticism for weeks over her positions on the Jewish state, but it boiled over late Sunday after she reacted to a Republican critic in a tweet.

Referring to Benjamin Franklin who appears on $100 bills, the Muslim Congresswoman from Minnesota tweeted that "it's all about the Benjamins baby," quote-tweeting journalist Glenn Greenwald, who wrote that "GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy threatens punishment for @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib over their criticisms of Israel. It's stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans."

Replying to a tweet by Forward journalist Batya Ungar-Sargon, who wrote: “Would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel," Omar specified "AIPAC," the powerful pro-Israeli lobby.

The exchanges triggered an uproar, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi castigating Omar and demanding an apology for using "anti-Semitic tropes" in her tweet.

"Congresswoman Omar's use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel's supporters is deeply offensive," said Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders.

"We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments," they said in a statement.

Pelosi also tweeted that she spoke with Omar Monday, and that they "agreed that we must use this moment to move forward as we reject anti-Semitism in all forms."

Democrat Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee of which Omar is a member, called it "shocking to hear a Member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of 'Jewish money.'"

Liz Cheney, a top Republican leader in the House of Representatives, urged Democratic leaders to remove Omar from the committee.

Two Democratic lawmakers circulated a letter addressed to Pelosi and other leaders urging them to take "swift action" against anti-Semitic language by members.

Nicholas Kamm (AFP)

The letter's authors, representatives Josh Gottheimer and Elaine Luria, who are both Jewish, did not mention Omar by name, but their intent was clear.

"We must speak out when any Member -- Democrat or Republican –- uses harmful tropes and stereotypes, levels accusations of dual loyalty, or makes reckless statements like those yesterday," they wrote.

AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has formidable financial clout, and it prides itself on its influence in US politics.

The lobby issued the following statement in response to Omar's remarks: “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.”

Omar also came under fire from prominent public figures including Chelsea Clinton.

"Co-signed as an American. We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism," Clinton wrote.

Omar has been critical of Israel's government over its treatment of Palestinians. She has supported the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to put economic and political pressure on Israel.

Omar and fellow Muslim congressional freshman Rashida Tlaib's support for the boycott has opened a breach in the Democratic Party and threatens to create a fissure in the ironclad US-Israeli alliance.

Omar has previously expressed regret over a 2012 tweet in which she claimed Israel was “hypnotizing” the world.

The tweet came during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip that erupted when Israel killed chief Hamas’ military wing Ahmed Jabari in an airstrike following escalation on the border that saw over 100 rockets launched into Israel within a 24-hour period.

Comments

(2)

she should not be there in the 1st place. Her mentality does not understand democracy

This person should b thrown out of Congress. Shameful n boooo

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