Congresswomen Ilhan Omar has been under intense scrutiny for her outspoken views regarding the United States’ relationship with Israel.
In early February, she suggested on twitter that money from pro-Israel lobbying firms was the reason for American political support for Israel, tweeting, that it was “all about the Benjamins” in reference to $100 bills. She apologised for the tweet after being criticised by Republicans and by some Democrat colleagues, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who releasing a statement suggesting Omar was using “anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters.”
Omar stated she did not intend to offend “my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole”. In the same statement, Omar also clarified and did not back down from the initial purpose of her tweet continuing to say: “At the same, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry”. In late February, she said in an event “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”. In response to further accusations that she “continues to mischaracterize support for Israel” by fellow democrat Nita Lowey, Omar argued that “Our democracy is built on debate” and suggested she would not allow attacks on her to stifle real and legitimate concerns. Omar and fellow congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, have also come out in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).
Plans by the House Democratic leadership to introduce a resolution to address the controversy by condemning the rise of anti-Semitism in the U.S. has been seen as an “unprecedented” public rebuking of Omar. This has lead to campaigns in support of Omar, including a statement by “Jews with Ilhan”, signed by prolific names including Naomi Klein and Ilan Pappé, which states that while anti-Semitism has increased, none of Omar’s statements has been so. The letter also suggests that the two congress women ‘are being smeared by a racist and Islamophobic chorus’
MPowerChange, which describes itself as a grassroots movement of Muslim Americans, has also led a campaign in support of Omar, coordinating, with coalition partners “a flood of phone calls, emails, held a press conference and delivered a letter calling on the Democratic leadership to condemn real bigotry and drop the politically-motivated and bad-faith attacks on Rep. Omar.” Rasha Mubarak, Vice President of the Muslim Women’s Organization, said “We, as progressives, Muslims, Palestinians, will not be silent while racism and Islamophobia is exhibited on both sides of the aisle.” On March 7, The House of Representatives passed a revised version of its planned resolution, that is more general and included anti-Muslim bigotry—a success for campaigners supporting Omar.