ALL NEWS

Rep. Omar apologizes for tweets about support for Israel

Feb 12, 2019, 7:36 AM
In this Jan. 16, 2019 file photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., center, walks through the halls of the ...
In this Jan. 16, 2019 file photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., center, walks through the halls of the Capitol Building in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar has “unequivocally” apologized for tweets suggesting that members of Congress support Israel because they are being paid to do so, which drew bipartisan criticism and a rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The Minnesota Democrat said she had no intention of offending anyone, including Jewish Americans.

“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 tweeted. “This is why I unequivocally apologize.”

The statement on Monday was the latest reckoning among Democrats of intense differences in their ranks over the U.S.-Israeli relationship, highlighted by criticism from Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. They are the first Muslim women to serve in Congress. Pelosi and other Democrats, including leaders and chairmen, laid down a marker making clear that Omar had overstepped.

In a pair of tweets over the weekend, Omar criticized the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she wrote, invoking slang about $100 bills.

 

Asked on Twitter who she thought was paying members of Congress to support Israel, Omar responded, “AIPAC!”

 

That sparked Pelosi’s first public rebuke of a freshman lawmaker who had helped flip the House from Republican control and is part of a record number of women in Congress.

“Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive,” Pelosi said in a statement issued by her office and signed by other Democratic leaders after a bipartisan backlash against the Minnesota Democrat. “We condemn these remarks, and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.”

It also was a stark exposure of an increasingly tense split among Democrats over U.S.-Israeli policy ahead of the 2020 elections. None of the Democratic presidential hopefuls weighed in publicly as their party’s House leaders chastised Omar.

Omar’s fellow freshmen felt the strain. Some, such as Jewish Reps. Elaine Luria of Virginia and Max Rose of New York, explicitly denounced her remarks. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., said: “Anti-Semitism or xenophobia is never acceptable. I’m glad Rep. Omar has apologized.”

Senior Democrats dealt the new lawmaker a swift schooling.

“There is an expectation of leaders — particularly those with a demonstrated commitment to the cause of justice and equality — that they would be extremely careful not to tread into the waters of anti-Semitism or any other form of prejudice or hate,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York said in a statement. “Rep. Omar failed that test of leadership with these comments.”

Republicans called on Democrats to strip Omar of her seat on the House Foreign Relations Committee, but Chairman Eliot Engel stopped just short of that. He said in a statement that he expects his committee members to discuss policies on merits. And though he did not name Omar, he left little doubt that his statement was a response to her tweets.

“It’s shocking to hear a Member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of ‘Jewish money,'” Engel said.

Asked on Air Force One en route to El Paso, Texas, about the controversy, President Donald Trump said the freshman congresswoman “should be ashamed of herself” for the tweets.

“I think it was a terrible statement, and I don’t think her apology was adequate,” he said. Asked what she should have said, Trump replied: “She knows what to say.”

AIPAC is a nonprofit organization that works to influence U.S. policy toward Israel. While it is barred from directly donating to candidates, it encourages its more than 100,000 members to do so and to be politically active.

One way the organization has made a mark on Congress is through expense-paid junkets to Israel, which are paid for by an affiliated nonprofit that does not have to disclose its donors. The popular weeklong excursions for members of Congress, their families and some senior staff can cost upward of $12,000 per person and are intended to “educate political leaders and influencers about the importance of the U.S. – Israel relationship through firsthand experiences.”

The nonprofit responded Sunday night: “We are proud that we are engaged in the democratic process to strengthen the US-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 supports a movement known as BDS, for “boycott, divestment and sanctions” aimed at Israel. And it’s not the first time she’s fought accusations of anti-Semitism. She insists her rejection of the Israeli government refers to its stance toward Palestinians and is not directed at Jewish people.

Omar has expressed regret for tweeting in 2012: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” She said the statement came in the context of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

“It’s now apparent to me that I spent lots of energy putting my 2012 tweet in context and little energy in disavowing the anti-Semitic trope I unknowingly used, which is unfortunate and offensive,” she tweeted last month.

The controversy over Omar’s remarks stretched beyond Capitol Hill to the crowded Democratic presidential race.

Less than a week earlier, all but one high-profile Democratic senator eyeing the White House in 2020 voted against a Middle East policy measure that included a provision cracking down on BDS activism against the Israeli government.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar supported the Middle East bill, while her potential presidential rivals — Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sherrod Brown of Ohio — all opposed it. Several of those Democrats had raised concerns that the bill’s bid to rein in anti-Israel boycott efforts risked violating the constitutional rights of activists, although all the senators are opposed to the Palestinian-led push itself.

Among the yellow notes of support posted on Omar’s office nameplate on Capitol Hill on Monday was one that read, “Mazel Tov.”
___
Associated Press writers Elana Schor and Brian Slodysko and photographer Andrew Harnik contributed to this report.
___
Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Attorney Sam Meziani from the law firm of Goebel Anderson speaks as he joins with the family of Zan...
Mark Jackson

Family of Zane James speaks out after settlement reached with Cottonwood Heights

The family of Zane James, who died after a police altercation in 2018, reached a settlement with the city of Cottonwood Heights over the death.
12 hours ago
The community built a small memorial in front of Macie Hill's family home. Hill passed away after a...
Amie Schaeffer

GoFundMe started to remember 8-year-old girl who died in Kaysville parade

The Kaysville City Fourth of July parade turned tragic when Macie Hill was hit by a vehicle. She reportedly died from her injuries.
1 day ago
Highland Drive Closed...
Heather Kelly

Highland Drive open after closing for hours due to fatal crash involving Coke truck

A crash left Highland Drive closed between 4500 and 4600 South on Tuesday morning. The crash left a 74-year-old woman dead.
1 day ago
A brush fire started in Saratoga Springs last night. Photo Credit: Saratoga Springs Fire Department...
Devin Oldroyd

Fire officials say aerial firework caused brush fire in Saratoga Springs

An aerial firework caused a brush fire in Saratoga Springs Sunday night.
2 days ago
FILE - Fireworks explode over Baltimore's Inner Harbor during the Ports America Chesapeake 4th of J...
BOBBY CAINA CALVAN ASSOCIATED PRESS

A turbulent US this July 4, but many see cause to celebrate

July 4 has arrived as many citizens struggle to find a reason to celebrate. Yet many also see cause for celebration, including President Joe Biden.
2 days ago
The Deuel Creek Fire started on the hillside above Centerville late Sunday night....
Devin Oldroyd

Deuel Creek Fire starts in Centerville overnight, evacuation order lifted

The Deuel Creek Fire began late Sunday night in Centerville.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Rep. Omar apologizes for tweets about support for Israel