US congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a famed Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) supporter, pointed an accusatory finger at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), saying the organization is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel.
Omar made the comment in a tweet on Sunday evening American time sparking immediate backlash, with Twitter users accusing Omar of going down a slippery slope by linking AIPAC with the negative antisemitic stereotype of Jewish people's false obsession with money. She was posting in response to a tweet by follower Glenn Greenwald, who wrote that "it's stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans."
"It's all about the Benjamins [sic] baby," wrote Omar.
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel said that it is "shocking to hear a Member of Congress invoke the antisemitic trope of 'Jewish money.'"
"I will make the case to Members on both sides of the aisle that our alliance and friendship with Israel are important to our countries' shared interests, security, and values," Engel declared. "This has always been the basis of the US-Israel relationship and it's the reason why members on both sides have been strong supporters of that relationship."
Later, Twitter user Batya Ungar-Sargon, an opinion editor for The Forward
, wrote, "Would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess. Bad form, Congresswoman. That's the second antisemitic trope you've tweeted."
Instead of clearing the air about the previous antisemitic post, Omar continued with a response: "AIPAC!"
Omar received both mild and serious backlash for her posts.
Comedian Sarah Silverman responded, "I truly don't think she meant it that way AT ALL, but I'm surprised she's earnestly not aware of the people that will absolutely take it that way..."
Other responses were more critical, including that of Chelsea Clinton, who wrote, "We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in antisemitism."
Soon after, Omar responded to Clinton, saying, "Chelsea - I would be happy to talk. We must call out smears from the GOP and their allies. And I believe we can do that without criticizing people for their faith."
Omar sidetracked the conversation, ignoring the direct criticism for her antisemitic remarks. However, Clinton responded positively, agreeing to schedule a meeting and advance away from prejudices, despite Omar not mentioning the antisemitic comments themselves.
Clinton later clarified that she intends to condemn antisemitism on Omar's part as well as on either end of the political spectrum. "I also think we have to call out antisemitic language and tropes on all sides, particularly in our elected officials and particularly now," Clinton tweeted.
Meghan McCain, the daughter of the late US Senator John McCain, encouraged Clinton, saying, "Thank you, Chelsea - antisemitism on all sides, in all spaces, no matter how uncomfortable should always be called out and condemned."
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Jonathan Greenblatt contributed to the discussion as well, saying that "words matter."
"Antisemitism is on the rise in the US and abroad," Greenblatt continued. "The use of this tired antisemitic trope about Jews and money is inappropriate and upsetting. As Americans and Jews, we expect our politicians to condemn bigotry, not fuel it."
Congresswoman Elizabeth Cheney, daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, responded to Omar, as well, claiming that "House Democrat leaders should condemn this anti-Semitism and immediately remove [Ilhan Omar] from the House Foreign Affairs Committee."
Max Rose, a New York Democratic congressman, responded to Omar, as well.
"Congresswoman Omar's statements are deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself," he wrote. "Implying that Americans support Israel because of money alone is offensive enough. But to go a step further and retweet someone declaring their pain at her sentiment is simply unacceptable."
"At a time when antisemitic attacks are on the rise, our leaders should not be invoking hurtful stereotypes and caricatures of Jewish people to dismiss those who support Israel," Rose continued. "In the Democratic party - and in the United States of America - we celebrate the diversity of our people, and the Gods we pray to, as a strength."
Dan Shapiro, former US ambassador to Israel, denounced Omar, as well, calling her statement a "vile antisemitic trope."
"Some of us remained uncomfortably quiet after her BDS flip-flop and other offensive remarks because we were aware of efforts to work with her," said Shapiro. "Her support for BDS is apparently her essence: blaming Israel alone for the conflict, absolving Palestinians of all responsibility, delegitimizing Israel's very existence..."
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