Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar is facing scrutiny after her latest comments arguing that she should not have to “pledge allegiance” or support to Israel in order to serve in the United States Congress.
Omar, a freshman Democrat, got into a heated social media spat with fellow Democratic lawmaker Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) last week over her recent remarks about the influence of pro-Israel groups on politicians in Washington. Her views have drawn criticism from folks on both sides of the aisle who’ve accused Omar of being anti-Semitic.
“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 stated during a discussion at a Washington bookstore on Wednesday.
As reported by The New York Times, the congresswoman also “questioned why it was acceptable for her to speak critically about the political influence of the National Rifle Association, fossil fuel industries and ‘big pharma,’ but not the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,” which she has criticized in the past.
It wasn’t long before critics nailed Omar to the wall for criticizing Israel support and allegedly spewing offensive tropes about the Jewish community.
“Lawmakers must be able to debate w/o prejudice or bigotry,” Lowey wrote 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.”
Omar, who was also recently the target of an Islamaphobic display likening her to a Muslim terrorist, defended herself in a string of tweets on Sunday night.
“I have not mischaracterized our relationship with Israel. I have questioned it and that has been clear from my end,” she wrote.
In a follow-up tweet, she added, “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!”
Omar went on to argue that “being opposed to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the occupation is not the same as being anti-Semitic,” and said she was thankful for the many Jewish allies who shared her views on the issue.
The clarification did little to quell the accusations of anti-Semitism, however.
“No member of Congress is asked to swear allegiance to another country,” Lowey wrote in response to Omar’s comments. “Throughout history, Jews have been accused of dual loyalty, leading to discrimination and violence, which is why these accusations are so hurtful.”
Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz agreed, describing Omar’s criticisms as “repeated misunderstandings” that were “hurtful.”
The war of words comes weeks after Omar came under fire for her comments about Washington support for Israel, which she said was “all about the benjamins,” naming AIPAC as the driving force behind politicians being paid to back the Jewish state. She later apologized amid pressure from fellow Dems, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who accused her of using “anti-Semitic tropes” and making “prejudicial accusations” about those who support Israel.
Minister Louis Farrakhan, who heads the Nation of Islam, chided Omar for bowing to public pressure and argued the congresswoman has nothing to be sorry about.
“Ms. Omar from Somalia — she started talking about ‘the Benjamins’ and they are trying to make her apologize. Sweetheart, don’t do that,” Farrakhan said during his annual Saviour’s Day address last month. “Pardon me for calling you sweetheart, but you do have a sweet heart. You sure are using it to shake the government up, but you have nothing to apologize for.”