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Culture > News

Ilhan Omar Apologizes For AIPAC Tweet After It Led To Accusations Of Anti-Semitism

Rep. Ilhan Omar, whose tweets about a pro-Israel lobby led to accusations of anti-Semitism, apologized on Monday after being called out by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats. 

The Minnesota congresswoman was accused of reiterating anti-Semitic stereotypes in a series of tweets suggesting that money fuels support for Israel. On Monday, Pelosi called for a public apology from Omar. 

“Anti-Semitism must be called out, confronted and condemned whenever it is encountered, without exception,” Pelosi said in a statement, which was also signed by five others on her team. “Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive. We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.” 

In the tweeted-out statement, Pelosi said she had spoken to Omar and both “agreed that we must use this moment to move forward as we reject anti-Semitism in all forms.” 

Omar apologized Monday afternoon, saying she was “listening and learning, but standing strong.” Omar tweeted along with a statement: 

“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize,” Omar wrote. 

But she still supported her statement on lobbying money in politics: “At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”

This all started on Sunday night, when Omar retweeted Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald. The journalist shared an article about GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who threatened  actions against Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib for previous comments criticizing Israel.

Omar then replied to Greenwald, saying, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” 

The comment quickly erupted an outpour of criticism from conservatives and fellow Democrats, including Rep. Jerrold Nadler who felt the tweet to be “deeply hurtful and offensive,” The Hill reported. Many believed the tweet fed into anti-Semitic tropes that Jewish people have a lot of money and or some sort of political influence. 

Batya Ungar-Sargon, an opinions editor at the Jewish news outlet The Forward, asked who Omar “thinks is playing American politicians to be pro-Israel.” Omar responded with “AIPAC!” 

According to Politico, AIPAC, or The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is an influential, bipartisan organization that lobbies for pro-Israel policy on Capital Hill. 

Sludge investigative reporter Alex Kotch came to Omar’s defense in a tweet, saying, “I’m Jewish & a full-time money-in-politics reporter. Everyone knows AIPAC is a very influential pro-Israel lobby that spends money to influence members of Congress. Not every sentence involving Jewish people & money is anti-Semitic.” 

J Street, which is a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” nonprofit, finds that Omar’s tweet misses the bigger picture. It doesn’t dispute Omar’s comments on the role of money in politics. 

“There is no doubt that money often plays a major role in our political system,” the organization said in a statement. “At the same time, elected officials must be extremely aware that tropes about Jewish money and political influence have been used for centuries to target and stigmatize our community.” 

Carissa Dunlap is a Her Campus News X Social Intern for Summer 2018. She is a current Publishing major and Journalism minor at Emerson College (Class of 2020). When she isn't perusing the YA bookshelf at the bookstore, she can be found watching dog videos on Facebook, at her favorite coffee shops, or relaxing on the beach. Follow her on Instagram @dunlapcarissa or Twitter @Caridunlap.