After US Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota apologized statements she made on Twitter deemed by many to be anti-Semitic, President Donald Trump characterized her apology as “lame” and called on Omar – who is one of the only two Muslim women in Congress – to resign.On Monday, Omar posted a statement of apology on Twitter for previous tweets where she insinuated money is the reason US lawmakers support Israel.
“We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me about my identity,” Omar said. “This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
Omar has faced criticism since her election 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.Speaking at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Trump called Omar’s apology “lame” and said “she didn’t mean a word of it.”
“Anti-Semitism has no place in the United States Congress,” Trump said. “I think she should either resign from Congress or she should certainly resign from the foreign affairs committee.”Trump — despite his repeated references to the US embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as evidence that “no president has been better for Israel” — has been criticized for personally contributing to a spike in anti-Semitic and xenophobic attacks in the US since taking office.
In response to his call for Omar’s resignation, the Congressional Progressive Congress released a statement calling the president’s statement a “transparently cynical effort” to pressure “voices such as hers.”
CPC Co-Chairs @repmarkpocan & @RepJayapal urge Americans of all political stripes to reject @realDonaldTrump‘s cynical effort to stifle and intimidate diverse voices such as @Ilhan‘s. We look forward to her continued leadership in her committee and in the CPC. pic.twitter.com/hwsOw4XLNK
— Progressive Caucus (@USProgressives) February 13, 2019
Bipartisan support for Israel
Until these tweets, which Pelosi said “crossed a line,” her own party leadership remained neutral as weeks of US and Israeli media coverage revealed fears of a growing divide in partisan support for the Jewish state.While it is true that the current Congress is younger, more diverse, and more progressive than ever before, some have said that concerns of a deteriorating relationship between the US and Israel are exaggerated.
A few have argued that the media frenzy covering the subject has unfairly centered on Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who together became the first two Muslim women to serve in US Congress.Omar and her family came to the US as refugees from Somalia, while Tlaib is a first generation Palestinian-American with family members in the West Bank.Some US progressives called out news outlets for singling out the two representatives based on their backgrounds when there are other Democrats who have found a following among young progressive voters by taking a critical stance on Israel.
Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, has publicly come out in support of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel.Support for Israel in US politics has historically always been bipartisan, but after several Democrats (including some who have declared their intention to run for President in 2020) came out against anti-BDS legislation on the Senate floor.
Some Republican supporters of the bill, including its sponsor Senator Marco Rubio, specifically referenced Tlaib and Omar’s public criticism of Israel as evidence of dwindling support for Israel in the Democratic party long before the bill was passed.Progressive Jewish organizations like Jstreet criticized this Republican-sponsored bill as a political stunt intended to make Israel supporters believe voting Republican is the only option.The bill’s detractors, including current and former presidential hopefuls Senators Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, said they voted no out of concern for constitutionally-guaranteed protections to freedom of speech.