Ilhan Omar apologizes to Jewish groups for hurt caused by AIPAC tweet
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Ilhan Omar apologizes to Jewish groups for hurt caused by AIPAC tweet

In a closed call with several organizations, the Minnesota Congresswoman vows to continue the dialogue and build a better relationship with the Jewish community

Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota speaks at a press conference calling on Congress to cut funding for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and to defund border detention facilities, outside the US Capitol in Washington, on February 7, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota speaks at a press conference calling on Congress to cut funding for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and to defund border detention facilities, outside the US Capitol in Washington, on February 7, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

In a brief confidential conference call with Jewish organizations, Rep. Ilhan Omar apologized for any hurt caused by her tweets suggesting that AIPAC pays politicians to support Israel.

“Let me reiterate my sincere apology for any actual hurt my words have caused,” Omar, a freshman Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, said on Tuesday afternoon, according to someone present on the call.

“I know there are a lot of people who in the last weeks have expressed support in trying to say this isn’t anti-Semitic or this shouldn’t be looked at in that way,” she added.

But Omar said it is up to the Jewish community to define anti-Semitism.

“I do not want to give space or energy to anyone who wants to minimize the hurt,” she said.

Omar came under fire last week for posting successive tweets suggesting that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby, pays politicians to be pro-Israel. Democratic and Republican leaders condemned the tweets as echoing anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews, money and power. The allegation is also false, as AIPAC does not donate to candidates or endorse them.

Omar subsequently apologized for the tweets.

The call Tuesday included a range of centrist and liberal Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Democratic Council of America, the refugee resettlement agency HIAS, Americans for Peace Now and Bend the Arc.

Omar kept her remarks brief but promised to meet face to face with the groups in the near future.

She said the call was an opportunity “for you all to directly hear from me how I feel about my actions and for us to start the process of not only healing but building a relationship and getting to the process of politicking on our viewpoints on this.”

Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, was responding on Twitter to Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCathy’s vow to “take action” against her and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, both of whom support the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., right, listen as President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar tweeted, reacting to another tweet from the prominent journalist Glenn Greenwald, who said it was “stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans,” referring to McCarthy’s pledge.

Benjamins are a slang term for $100 bills, which feature US founding father Benjamin Franklin.

Omar, a Somali-born refugee from Ethiopia, was recently appointed to the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee. In recent weeks, Omar and others have been vociferous critics of two anti-BDS bills that are being pushed in Congress.

The dustup isn’t the first time Omar has come under scrutiny and apologized for her Twitter posts. She apologized just last month over a 2012 tweet in which she wrote, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” She said she had intended to criticize an Israeli military action and didn’t realize that the “hypnosis” imagery was regarded as an anti-Semitic trope.

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