Ilhan Omar, Who Said Israel 'Hypnotized' the World, Appointed to House Foreign Affairs Committee

One of only two Congress members to support BDS, Omar’s appointment will bring a new level of criticism toward Israel to the pivotal committee ■ J Street defends lawmaker: 'Smearing Omar as an anti-Semite is wrong'

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar walks through statuary hall with her Legislative Director Kelly Misselwitz on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 16, 2019.
Yuri Gripas/Reuters

WASHINGTON – Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of only two members of Congress to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, was appointed on Thursday a member of the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Comittee.

Omar, who was first elected to Congress in November’s mid-term elections, is also one of two first-ever Muslim women to be elected to Congress, along with Democrat Rashida Tlaib, the second BDS supporter in Congress.

Omar's appointment will bring a new level of criticism towards Israel to one of the Congress's most important committees.

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Omar has been criticized for a 2012 tweet in which she wrote that Israel has “hypnotized” the world, and Jewish groups in the United States have accused her of anti-Semitism. "Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel," her tweet read.

On Wednesday, before her appointment to the Foreign Affairs Committee was anounced, she said that her choice of words in that tweet was “unfortunate.” 

“What is important to me is that people recognize that there's a difference between criticizing a military action by a government that has exercised really oppressive policies and being offensive or attacky to particular people of faith," she added.

Following her appointment, the left-wing Jewish group J Street put out a statement expressing support for it. “At a time when the global population of displaced people is near historic highs and the Trump administration has turned its back on the problem, it's a positive development that Rep. Ilhan Omar, who herself emigrated to this country as a refugee, will have a seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee,” the group’s president Jeremy Ben Ami said. 

“While it's fair to disagree with and criticize her views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the BDS movement or any other issue, smearing Rep. Omar as an anti-Semite – or suggesting that she is somehow not fit to serve on an important committee like Foreign Affairs – is bigoted and deeply wrong,” Ben Ami added. 

Matt Brooks, head of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said in reply that “no organization that promotes itself as being 'pro-Israel' can reasonably be considered as such if they support Ilhan Omar's appointment to House Foreign Affairs Committee. She has been outspoken in her hostility to both Israel and the pro-Israel community.”

He added that “J street should once and for all end the charade and drop ‘pro-Israel’ from how they describe themselves and just call themselves a pro-peace organization.”