Ilhan Omar suggests US support for Israel is fuelled by money from the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, sparking uproar with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking her to apologise for using "anti-Semitic tropes" in her tweet.
Freshman Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar "unequivocally" apologised on Monday for tweets about the influence in Congress of an American organisation that supports Israel, which drew bipartisan criticism and a rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The Minnesota Democrat said she had no intention offending anyone, including Jewish Americans, by suggesting that members of Congress are paid by Israel's powerful allies to support the Jewish state.
"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 apologise."
Listening and learning, but standing strong 💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/7TSroSf8h1— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
In a pair of tweets over the weekend, Omar criticised the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday insisted Omar immediately apologise.
Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women in the US Congress, drew stern rebukes from Republicans and fellow Democrats on Monday after suggesting US support for Israel is fuelled by money from the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.
The Minnesota freshman 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.
"It's all about the Benjamins baby," Omar replied, referring to American $100 bills featuring the likeness of Benjamin Franklin.
When a user asked who Omar believes is paying US politicians to support Israel, the former Somali refugee tweeted a one-word response: "AIPAC!"
AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has formidable financial clout, and it prides itself on its influence in US politics.
"Involvement in the political process is a tangible way of showing friends of Israel that you care about who serves in Congress," the group says on its website.
It's all about the Benjamins baby 🎶 https://t.co/KatcXJnZLV— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 10, 2019
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 apologise for these hurtful comments," they said in a statement.
Pelosi also tweeted that she spoke with Omar on Monday, and that they "agreed that we must use this moment to move forward as we reject anti-Semitism in all forms."
Several Democrats and Republicans spoke out to say Omar's prejudicial accusations were wrong about why lawmakers support Israel, arguing that the support is based on shared values and strategic interests.
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.
criticism of Israel is not inherently anti-semetic. And I can say that cuz my last name is Goldman. I don't make the rules.— Alex Goldman (@AGoldmund) February 11, 2019
Omar has been critical of Israel's government over its treatment of Palestinians. She and fellow Muslim congressional freshman Rashida Tlaib's have supported the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to put economic and political pressure on Israel.
Two Democratic lawmakers circulated a letter addressed to Pelosi and other leaders urging them to take "swift action" against what they called anti-Semitic language by members.
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.
As a Jew, I want to welcome anyone who wants to criticize a lobbying coalition funded by arms manufacturers, evangelical Christians, and allies of the right wing edge of Israeli politics. Criticizing AIPAC is not anti-Semitic and it’s absurd that this even needs to be said.— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) February 11, 2019