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Amid Democratic pressure, Ilhan Omar apologizes for tweets on Israel

Illhad Omar
Rep. Ilhan Omar. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) "unequivocally" apologized Monday for her tweets on Israel, which used stereotypes often perceived as anti-Semitic, saying that she is "grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating [her] on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes."

The backdrop: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic leadership condemned Omar's comments earlier in the day and requested an apology, saying her "use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive."

  • In a Sunday night tweet, Omar insinuated political support for Israel is based on campaign donations from pro-Israel lobbying groups — specifically AIPAC. In her apology, Omar said that she reaffirmed "the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics," adding that the U.S. "must be willing to address it."
  • Throughout the day on Monday, a growing number of House Democrats called on Pelosi to respond to Omar's tweets.
  • The response to Omar's comments highlights a flashpoint in today's Democratic Party between more traditional members, who often vocally support Israel, and the party's progressive wing, which is much more likely to criticize Israeli policies and occupation of the Palestinian territories.

What they're saying:

  • Reps. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.) and Elaine Luria (Va.) are gathering signatures asking Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and other senior Democrats to confront Omar and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib by "reiterating our rejection of anti-Semitism and our continued support for the State of Israel."
  • House Judiciary chair Jerry Nadler (N.Y.) called Omar's AIPAC comments "disappointing and disturbing."
  • House Foreign Affairs chair Eliot Engel (N.Y.) called "Anti-Semitism in any form ... unacceptable, and it's shocking to hear a Member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of 'Jewish money.' ... I will make the case to Members on both side of the aisle that our alliance and friendship with Israel are important to our countries' shared interests, security, and values."
  • Rep. Donna Shalala (Fla.) tweeted,"There is no place in our country for anti-Semitic comments. I condemn them whatever the source. To suggest members of Congress are 'bought off' to support Israel is offensive and wrong."
  • Rep. Vern Buchanan (Fla.): "Anti-Semitism has no place in this country, let alone in the halls of Congress. Michigan congresswoman Ilhan Omar should apologize for her hateful and offensive remarks about Jewish money influencing public policy."
  • Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel from 2011 to 2017, tweeted that Omar's "outrageous comments equating politicians' support for Israel with being bought off by American Jewish money are a vile anti-Semitic trope. They need to be condemned by all in our party."
  • 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."

Other Democrats defended Omar's comments:

  • Rep. Jim Himes (Conn.) defended Omar, saying: "It's perfectly legitimate to criticize Israel or to criticize the pro-Israeli lobby. Just please be careful to do it in a way that can't be interpreted as being anti-Semitic," according to CNN.
  • Rep. Dan Kildee (Mich.): "I wouldn't take it as anti-Semitism. We ought to be careful not to construe that in anything other than a concern about the fact that money has undue influence on political decision making."

Flashback: In October, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) accused rich Jewish donors, including George Soros, of "buying" the midterm election in a since-deleted tweet.

  • McCarthy is now on the forefront of urging Democratic leaders to condemn Omar and Tlaib and suggested the situation was worse than the racially charged comments of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), the Washington Post reports.

Yes, but: This isn't the first time Omar has been in the line of fire for her opinions on America's position on Israel, per CNN. Omar has been criticized for past anti-Israel tweets, which she apologized for in February on "The Daily Show."

Go deeper: Accusations of anti-Semitism divide Women's March organizers

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