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Ilhan Omar has attempted to set the record straight on her ‘anti-Israeli’ views, saying that her opposition to Israel’s right-wing government does not make her anti-Semitic, as she traded verbal blows with Rep. Nita Lowey.
Omar’s criticism of the Israeli influence on US politics has already made her the target of numerous attacks by both Republicans and her fellow party members, who accused her of invoking an anti-Semitic trope after she suggested that the rich Israeli lobby’s grip on American politicians is too tight.
While she was eventually forced to apologize, thanking the lawmakers for “educating her on [the] painful history” of anti-Semitism, she refused to back down from her initial argument that the overbearing influence of the lobbyists as a whole is problematic.
On Sunday, the controversy was reignited after Omar wound up in a heated argument with her fellow Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey (NY) on Twitter.
“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,” Lowey wrote.
She was apparently referring to a fresh remark criticizing Israel that Omar made at a debate at a Washington bookstore on Wednesday. Doubling down on her previous and partially retracted comments, Omar reportedly said: “I want 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 did not hold back, tweeting on Sunday that she “should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support for a foreign country” in order to sit in Congress. Rejecting the “mischaracterized” notion, Omar wrote that she had purposefully “questioned” the relationship between Israel and the US.
The newly minted Muslim representative tore into her critics on both sides of the aisle, accusing Democrats of “remaining silent,” while her “Americanness is questioned by the President [Donald Trump] and the GOP on daily basis.”
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.
Striking back, Lowey dismissed Omar’s argument that in order to have an office on Capitol Hill, one should pledge allegiance to the Israeli government, while insisting that Omar was rubbing salt in an open wound since Jews have been accused of dual loyalty “throughout history” and have faced persecution based on this allegation.
I believe we can debate important policy without using offensive, painful stereotypes.
The fiery exchange between the two lawmakers was prompted by a rowdy statehouse meeting in West Virginia, which led to an injury and a staffer’s resignation after a poster linking Omar to the 9/11 attack was placed in the rotunda during the GOP event there on Friday.
“Gross islamophobic stereotypes – like those about @IlhanMN recently featured on posters in WVA – are offensive and have no place in political discourse,” Lowey wrote, while equating the controversial poster with Omar’s statements on Israeli clout in Washington.