While several top Democrats have continued to criticize Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for her comments about Israel, her fellow freshman lawmaker Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) offered high praise for her Monday. She tweeted that Omar “is being targeted just like many civil rights icons before us who spoke out about oppressive policies” over the criticism she’s faced for comments that many view as anti-Semitic.
.@IlhanMN's strength inspires me and so many. She is being targeted just like many civil rights icons before us who spoke out about oppressive policies. As she uplifts my Sity and other Palestinians in the name of justice and peace, she shows us real courage. https://t.co/IItiZ8nkpt— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) March 4, 2019
Rep. Omar drew bipartisan criticism last month when she implied that some members of Congress were influenced by donations to defend Israel. While she partly apologized for those remarks, she maintained that she is concerned about the “role” that groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) play in U.S. politics.
Despite past apologies, Rep. Omar made similar remarks at a bookstore discussion in D.C. last week where she said she wanted “to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
Jewish leaders and fellow lawmakers condemned those comments as an anti-Semitic trope suggesting divided loyalties to the U.S. and Israel among Jewish-Americans. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, condemned her remarks in a statement Friday.
“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 U.S.-Israel relationship,” he wrote. “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.”
Far from retracting her remarks, Omar wrote a series of tweets Sunday defending her position after further criticism from Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY).
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! https://t.co/gglAS4FVJW— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 3, 2019
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.— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 3, 2019
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 peace and justice because only those who experience the pain of war, know the joy of peace. ???— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 3, 2019
We must be willing to combat hate of all kinds while also calling out oppression of all kinds. I will do my best to live up to that. I hope my colleagues will join me in doing the same.— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 3, 2019
Rep. Lowey responded by explaining why the dual loyalty claim was so harmful and clarifying that members of Congress are asked to swear allegiance to another country.
No member of Congress is asked to swear allegiance to another country. Throughout history, Jews have been accused of dual loyalty, leading to discrimination and violence, which is why these accusations are so hurtful.— Nita Lowey (@NitaLowey) March 3, 2019
In an earlier tweet, Lowey also condemned any Islamophobia directed at Omar.
Gross islamophobic stereotypes - like those about @IlhanMN recently featured on posters in WVA - are offensive and have no place in political discourse. Anti-Semitic tropes that accuse Jews of dual loyalty are equally painful and must also be roundly condemned.— Nita Lowey (@NitaLowey) March 2, 2019