The cover up began just hours after The Jerusalem Post reported that Congresswoman Ilhan Omar will give the keynote address at an Islamic Relief USA emergency fundraising dinner for Yemen alongside a well-known antisemitic official from the organization.
The event's itinerary suddenly changed, and his name was removed.
The senior Islamic Relief USA official in question, Yousef Abdallah, has been exposed several times by the Middle East Forum's Islamist Watch blog for advocating for violence against Jews and sharing antisemitic sentiments on his social media pages. As of Tuesday, he was listed as a speaker for the fundraiser together with Omar. Just on Monday, Islamist Watch's latest report about the matter was reported when it became clear that Omar, who has been caught up in a Twitter storm over antisemitic remarks on Sunday night, would be speaking alongside Abdallah at the event on February 23 in Tampa, Florida.
As more and more media reports surfaced, the attempted cover up continued. Not only was his name dropped from the itinerary, and a new flyer released excluding him but minutes later, Jeremy Slevin who claimed to work for Omar desperately sent messages out on social media claiming the articles were "inaccurate" and that "Yousef Abdallah will not be speaking or attending the event with Rep. Omar and was never scheduled to do so. Please correct."
Shown proof of the original itinerary listing both Abdallah and Omar on the Eventbrite website, which the Post last viewed on Tuesday afternoon, as well as a screengrab of the original flyer, which too listed them both, Slevin, responded with a message from the organizers of the event saying: "He [Abdallah] was never confirmed to speak with the Congresswoman. He will not even be in town then. The flyer being circulated is inaccurate and the current Eventbrite and flyer that are up reflect the speakers at the event."
Asked several times by the Post about the strange timing of the changes, how it was possible Omar's PR team never vetted the flyers or itinerary before they were released - despite her being a high-profile member of society, and that it was only brought to their attention on Tuesday night after the media reports surfaced when the flyers have been circulating for days, Slevin was unable to give a clear answer, concluding that he "agreed" that the circumstances were strange.
Slevin later claimed, that according to a timeline that he received from the organizers of the event, on January 19 the Islamic Relief USA "Florida staff notified the marketing department to remove Yousef Abdallah from the flyer because he was not a speaker" but it was never done and it went to print.
He added that the flyer was based on a template used from a previous event, which had included Abdallah.
On February 6, Slevin claimed that Omar had requested details of the program and topics, "but to this date were not provided to Ilhan's staff.
On Monday, The Middle East Forum’s Islamist Watch blog highlighted the forthcoming address, and reported several instances in which Abdallah posted or shared stories of incitement. This includes his captioning and sharing a “very beautiful [folk] story” about “martyrs” who provide guns to “kill more than 20 Jews” and “fire rockets at Tel Aviv.”
In addition, the forum also found that he had referred to Jews as “stinking,” and had claimed that “the Jews set the outside wall of al-Aqsa [mosque in Jerusalem] on fire.”
Abdallah also liked a comment on one of his Facebook posts that called on God to wreak “revenge on the damned rapists Zionists… Shake the Earth beneath their feet and destroy them as you destroyed the peoples of ‘Ād, Thamud and Lot.”
Islamic Relief has been found to have connections to funding terrorism and Islamic extremism. A Swedish government report named it as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood; the Tunisian government is reported to have investigated allegations that Islamic Relief was funding jihadists on the Libyan border; and members of the US Congress have launched an inquiry into a reported FBI and IRS investigation of Islamic Relief’s activities.
The announcement of Omar’s speaking engagement comes just days after the congresswoman, 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’s comment erupted a Twitter hurricane with leaders on the right and left condemning her remarks. Even her own Democratic Party issued a statement in which it called Omar’s statements “deeply offensive. We condemn these remarks.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reported on Twitter that she and Omar had spoken and “agreed that we must use this moment to move forward as we reject antisemitism in all forms.”
Omar apologized for her tweet soon after posting it.
“Antisemitism is real, and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of antisemitic tropes,” Omar posted on the social media site. “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole.”
She then said she stood behind her comment regarding the “problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, NRA or the fossil fuel industry.”
US President Donald Trump called Omar’s apology “inadequate,” and on Tuesday afternoon called on her to resign, saying she “should either resign from Congress or she should certainly resign from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”
Maayan Hoffman contributed to this report.