Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar attempted to calm the flames on Wednesday after her statement that Jewish Democratic congressional colleagues who have criticized her haven't been "partners in justice” sparked backlash from across the political spectrum.
"I am someone who has survived war and experienced injustice firsthand, who is alive today because I was welcomed into this country as a refugee," Omar said, adding: "I know that many of my colleagues – both Jewish and non-Jewish – deeply share that commitment to fighting injustice."
Omar was responding to the backlash that followed her interview with Jake Tapper on CNN earlier on Wednesday. In the interview, the Minnesota congresswoman was asked about statements she had made which had been labeled antisemitic. “In 2019, you said lawmakers support Israel because it’s “all about the Benjamins,” which implies that politicians only support Israel because of money,” Tapper said. “There was a tweet from 2012 when you said Israel had hypnotized the world. Do you understand why some of your fellow House Democrats, especially Jews, find that language anti-Semitic?”
Omar replied that she had “welcomed any time my colleagues have asked to have a conversation to learn from them, for them to learn from me.”
She added: "I think it's really important for these [House] members to realize that they haven't been partners in justice. They haven't been equally engaging in seeking justice around the world and I think I will continue to do that. It is important for me as someone who knows what it feels like to experience injustice in ways that many of my colleagues don't – to be a voice in finding accountability."
Responses to the interview were swift as politicians and organizations on both the left and the right spotlighted Omar’s remarks. Among Omar’s critics was Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who tweeted that “accusing Jewish members of not being involved in “justice” is ignorant of their records, and especially offensive when it’s an effort to distract from your own antisemitic statements.”
In an extended, conciliatory Twitter thread, Omar went on to say that she was aware “that the Black community and the Jewish community have historically stood side-by-side in the fight against injustice and throughout our history we have faced efforts to divide us based on our differences.”
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Omar described how the civil rights movement in the 1960s consisted of a “multiracial, multi-religious coalition of freedom fighters, including Jewish leaders like Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Kivie Kaplan, and Arnie Aronson, organizing in solidarity.” She noted that Heschel, in particular, was “a deep inspiration” to Martin Luther King, Jr. and that a Jew co-founded the NAACP.
Omar included a link to the Union of Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center’s website, which reviewed that history.
Omar wrote that Jews and Muslims in America shared the refugee experience, and that was “why it is so important for us to build solidarity in the here and now, to make clear that the threats we face can only be solved if we see racism, anti-Muslim hate, and xenophobia as inextricably linked to antisemitism.”
Omar praised a select group of small far-left Jewish organizations – Jews For Racial and Economic Justice, Bend the Arc, and Minnesota’s Jewish Community Action – for “reminding us that the Jewish community has always been on the frontlines of social change, even amidst threats to their safety.”