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Muslim Congresswoman Facing New Anti-Semitism Charges

03-04-2019
Ilhan Omar (Photo: AP)

Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is once again at odds with fellow leaders for what many are calling another anti-Semitic slur. 

Omar has received bipartisan criticism for her comments at a town hall event with fellow pro-Palestinian advocate Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). Omar said she wanted to talk about the political influence in this country that says "it is ok for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country." Omar was speaking in particular about Israel, making it the second incident of derogatory speech toward the Jewish state and its supporters this month.

In an attempt to defend her comments, she said a lot of people think because she is Muslim, every comment she makes about Israel is anti-Semitic. NBC News reports she went on to state the criticism prevents a "broader debate" about Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

"I want to ask, 'Why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the National Rifle Association, or fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy?'" said Omar. 

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in which Omar serves, condemned her comments in which she suggested Israel demands allegiance from American lawmakers.

"I welcome debate in Congress based on the merits of policy, but it's unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the US-Israel relationship," said Engel according to the Washington Examiner. "We all take the same oath. Worse, Rep. Omar's comments leveled that charge by invoking a vile anti-Semitic slur."

"Her comments were outrageous and deeply hurtful, and I ask that she retract them, apologize, and commit to making her case on policy issues without resorting to attacks that have no place in the Foreign Affairs Committee or the House of Representatives," Engel continued. "This episode is especially disappointing following so closely on another instance of Ms. Omar seeming to invoke an anti-Semitic stereotype". 

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, went to Twitter to condemn Omar's comments. 

"Lawmakers must be able to debate without prejudice or bigotry," Lowey tweeted. "I am saddened that Rep. Omar continues to mischaracterize support for Israel. I urge her to retract this statement and engage in further dialogue with the Jewish community on why these comments are so hurtful."

But Omar fought back against her fellow congresswoman, defending her comments in series of tweets.

"Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman! I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee. The people of the 5th elected me to serve their interest. I am sure we agree on that!" she wrote. 

"I have not mischaracterized our relationship with Israel, I have questioned it and that has been clear from my end," she continued. "I am told everyday that I am anti-American if I am not pro-Israel. I find that to be problematic and I am not alone. I just happen to be willing to speak up on it and open myself to attacks."

Omar went on to criticize her Democratic counterparts in a tweet. "My Americanness is questioned by the President and the @GOP on a daily basis, yet my colleagues remain silent. I know what it means to be American and no one will ever tell me otherwise," she tweeted.

"I am in the Horn of Africa this weekend, proud to see peace prosper here and to be part of the first American delegation to Eritrea in decades is one I am grateful for. I fight for peace and justice because only those who experience the pain of war, know the joy of peace," she continued. "Being opposed to Netanyahu and the occupation is not the same as being anti-Semitic. I am grateful to the many Jewish allies who have spoken out and said the same."

Omar's previous comments about US lawmakers supporting Israel because of "the Benjamins" from pro-Israel groups such as AIPAC also received a great deal of criticism from top Democratic Leaders. 

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