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rep. ilhan omar apologizes for anti-semitic remarks

February 12, 2019
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Freshman Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar shook up the Hill as a part of a new, diverse class of progressive Democrats. But this weekend, the Minnesota politician caused a different kind of stir, when she was called out about tweets that propagate anti-semitic tropes, according to CNN. Omar received backlash from both sides of the aisle for tweets alluding that Republican supporters of Israel lean that way because they are being funded by a pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The invasion of special interests groups and their political donations has resulted in a light being shone on how agendas can sway politics, and has spurred a growing distrust of groups such as AIPAC.

The Democrats leadership, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, released statements condemning Congresswoman Omar and all forms of anti-semitism. “Legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate that the United States and Israel share,” the statement read. “But Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive. We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.”

Omar has since apologized for her comments with her own statement posted onto Twitter. “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,” read her statement. Omar is right. Even as we endure our own battles, we cannot allow ourselves to think we are exempt from showing the decency we request from other communities. That being said, Omar’s comments speak to widespread confusion over the custodial relationship the U.S. has with Israel, especially with regards to its occupation of Palestine.

Symbols and tropes matter. We know this as Black people who have continued to watch a “critique” of the community that is really, upon closer inspections, unveiled racism. The most hateful of us do not need much to justify hurting marginalized groups; but that reality does not mean that all critiques of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is anti-semitic. Israel is an apartheid state. Saying that is not anti-semitic — it’s just a fact. As a Black woman born in the year that South Africa (a former apartheid state) held its first democratic election, I’ve been put to bed with stories of my parents and grandparents having to deal with their movements being restricted while resources were taken away from them. The same way that Palestinians in Bethlehem have to sit behind a wall while the majority of their water supply is funneled into Tel Aviv.

That Israel is an apartheid state does not justify the mistreatment of the Jewish community. The amount of military aid Israel receives from the U.S. government flies in the face of any lasting solution that may come of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and all Americans are allowed to ask why. If anything, the skirmish around Congresswoman Omar’s tweets should start the conversation on how not to have these discussions. Because we are going to be having them, regardless.