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Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley contended that Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s sentiments regarding Israel “cannot be tolerated.”
In a tweet on Sunday, Omar indicated that the reason Israel enjoys such support in Congress is because lawmakers are being paid off by Jewish interests.
“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” the freshman congresswoman from Minnesota tweeted in response to a post by columnist Glenn Greenwald in which he wrote, “It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.”
Omar was apparently referencing rapper Puff Daddy’s 1997 single “It’s All About the Benjamins.” Benjamin Franklin’s face appears on the front of $100 bills.
In his op-ed included in the tweet, Greenwald criticized House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s pledge to take action against both Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan for their anti-Semitic comments and support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.
In January, Tlaib accused senators of forgetting what “country they represent” by supporting federal legislation that protects state and local governments that choose not to purchase from companies that boycott Israel.
In response to Omar’s “Benjamins” tweet, columnist Batya Ungar-Sargon, with the American Jewish publication “Forward,” wrote: “Would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess. Bad form, Congresswoman. That’s the second anti-Semitic trope you’ve tweeted.”
Omar answered, “AIPAC!” referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most influential pro-Israel advocacy group in Washington, D.C.
Haley then replied to Omar, “To see this at the UN was a fight every day. This CANNOT be tolerated in our own Congress by anyone of either party. In a time of increased anti semitism, we all must be held to account. No excuses.”
The human rights group UN Watch reported that the United Nations General Assembly passed 21 resolutions targeting Israel in 2018, versus six regarding the rest of the world, which included one each relating to North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Myanmar. There was also a resolution singling out the U.S. for its economic sanctions against Cuba.
There were no resolutions regarding human rights abuses in China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, or Turkey, to name a few omitted.
Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas also condemned Omar for her anti-Semitic tweet, asking, “Why is a Member of Congress launching anti-Semitic slurs on Twitter? Caricaturing support for Israel as purchased by Jewish $$ — ‘about the Benjamins’ — is an old slander. Do other Dems agree? Will media ask them? As more Dems support BDS, anti-Semitism becoming far too common.”
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — a member of the GOP House leadership team — called for Omar to immediately be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in light of her clear anti-Semitic sentiments.
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) February 11, 2019
Democratic chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, who is Jewish American, joined with Republicans and some of his Democratic colleagues in finding Omar’s comments offensive.
“Anti-Semitism in any form is unacceptable, and it’s shocking to hear a member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of ‘Jewish money,’” Engel said in a statement on Monday.
“I fully expect that when we disagree on the Foreign Affairs Committee, we will debate policy on the merits and never question members’ motives or resort to personal attacks,” he added. “Criticism of American policy toward any country is fair game, but this must be done on policy grounds.”
Jewish Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Elaine Luria of Virginia implored House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to denounce and take action to stop the anti-Semitic rhetoric among their party members in a joint letter on Monday, The Washington Post reported.
“As Jewish Members of Congress, we are deeply alarmed by recent rhetoric from certain members within our Caucus, including just last night, that has disparaged us and called into question our loyalty to our nation,” the lawmakers wrote.
“We urge you to join us in calling on each member of our Caucus to unite against anti-Semitism and hateful tropes and stereotypes.”
Pelosi spoke with Omar on Monday and released a joint statement with House Democratic leaders afterward condemning her sentiments.
“Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders. “We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.”
Omar apologized on Monday afternoon in a statement, saying, “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.”
Listening and learning, but standing strong 💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/7TSroSf8h1
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
“My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole,” she continued. “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. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
“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,” Omar concluded. “It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”