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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, February 12, 2019 1:00 am

Democrat offers apology for tweets

Comments seen as being anti-Semitic

Washington Post

WASHINGTON – Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., apologized Monday afternoon for what many saw as anti-Semitic comments perpetuating the stereotype that Jews control politics with money.

“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” Omar said on 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. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”

Omar's mea culpa came as members of both parties denounced the first-term congresswoman's statements and urged her to apologize.

Earlier Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democratic leaders said in a statement that Omar's use of “anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel's supporters is deeply offensive,” but added that her critiques of Israel's policies and its treatment of Palestinians are protected by free speech.

Leaders issued the intra-party reprimand after three rancorous weeks of emoji-laced Twitter spats where Omar faced multiple accusations of anti-Semitism – the final straw apparently coming Sunday night, after Omar suggested House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., supported Israel only for campaign donations.

In Omar's apology, which she prefaced by saying she's “listening and learning, but standing strong,” she said her criticism of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, an influential pro-Israel lobbying group.

“I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry,” she wrote. “It's gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”

Two Jewish House Democrats, alarmed by what they consider anti-Semitic comments from new Muslim colleagues, had urged Pelosi and her top lieutenants to denounce the divisive rhetoric and take action to stop it.

Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Elaine Luria of Virginia are gathering signatures on a letter that asked senior Democrats to confront Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a freshman congresswoman from Michigan, by “reiterating our rejection of anti-Semitism and our continued support for the State of Israel.”

“As Jewish Members of Congress, we are deeply alarmed by recent rhetoric from certain members within our Caucus, including just last night, that has disparaged us and called into question our loyalty to our nation,” the letter reads.

The letter didn't name Omar or Tlaib, but its intention is clear. In recent weeks, Jewish lawmakers have huddled privately to discuss what they should do about their new colleagues, who openly criticize Israel and have made insensitive comments about Jews and Jewish Americans.

In 2018, AIPAC spent more than $3.5 million lobbying for pro-Israel measures, according to lobbying disclosure filings maintained by the Senate's Office of Public Records.