Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women in the US Congress, tendered an unequivocal apology Monday after suggesting US support for Israel is fueled by money from a pro-Israel lobby group. The Minnesota freshman has faced criticism for weeks over her positions on the Jewish state, but it boiled over late Sunday after she reacted to a Republican critic in a tweet.
“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar replied, referring to American $100 bills featuring the likeness of Benjamin Franklin. When a user asked who Omar believes is paying US politicians to support Israel, the former Somali refugee tweeted a one-word response — “AIPAC!” — referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The exchanges triggered an uproar, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi castigating Omar and demanding an “immediate” apology for using “anti-Semitic tropes” in her tweet, and several Democrats and Republicans assailing their colleague for her language. Omar obliged, issuing a statement acknowledging that anti-Semitism is “real” and expressing gratitude to colleagues “who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.” “We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity,” she said.
“This is why I unequivocally apologize.” Democrat Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee of which Omar is a member, called it “shocking to hear a Member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of ‘Jewish money.’” Liz Cheney, a top Republican in the House of Representatives, urged Democratic leaders to remove Omar from the committe Several lawmakers said Omar was wrong about why lawmakers support Israel, arguing that the support is based on shared values and strategic interests, but many quickly applauded Omar for her apology. “Thank you for the apology and for hearing the voices of Jewish Americans,” tweeted congressman Josh Gottheimer.