Ilhan Omar: Influential Americans 'Push for Allegiance to Foreign Country'

Minnesota Democrat says 'everything' she and fellow Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib say about Israel is labeled anti-Semitic 'because we are Muslim'

The Forward
Aiden Pink
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Ilhan Omar listens as lawmakers speak about the Voting Rights Enhancement Act on Capitol Hill, Washington, February 26, 2019.
Ilhan Omar listens as lawmakers speak about the Voting Rights Enhancement Act on Capitol Hill, Washington, February 26, 2019.Credit: AFP
The Forward
Aiden Pink

Days after she deleted tweets widely criticized for anti-Semitism, Rep. Ilhan Omar made comments that some saw as accusing Jews of possessing dual loyalties.

According to Jewish Insider, Omar said during a panel discussion at a Washington, D.C. bookstore that because she and fellow first-term Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who was also there, are Muslim, “a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel to be anti-Semitic because we are Muslim.”

She said that she felt “pained” when people accuse her of intolerance.

>> Read more: Ilhan Omar just doesn't get why Americans support Israel ■ Ilhan Omar has sparked panic in AIPAC

“But it’s almost as if, every single time we say something regardless of what it is we say…we get to be labeled something,” she said. “And that ends the discussion. Because we end up defending that and nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine. So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

Accusing Jews of having loyalties to countries other than their home is a longtime anti-Semitic trope. Some accused Tlaib of deploying this rhetoric when she tweeted in January that legislators who wanted to vote for an anti-BDS bill during the government shutdown “forgot what country they represent.”

Both liberal and conservative Jewish commentators expressed their disapproval of Omar’s comments: At one point, according to Jewish Insider, an audience member shouted out “It is about the Benjamins,” quoting Omar’s tweet from earlier this month that accused politicians of supporting Israel because of donations from the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.

Omar “unequivocally apologize[d]” after several fellow Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said the remark reflected anti-Semitic tropes about Jews using their money to nefariously control political leaders.

Earlier this week, Omar deleted those tweets, as well as a tweet from 2012 accusing Israel of having “hypnotized the world."

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