Jewish Democrats condemn W. Virginia poster linking Muslim congresswoman to 9/11

‘Anti-Muslim prejudice is as unacceptable and pernicious as anti-Semitism,’ says Democratic Majority for Israel

Rep. Ilhan Omar at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in the Rayburn Building in Washington, DC, February 13, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/JTA)
Rep. Ilhan Omar at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in the Rayburn Building in Washington, DC, February 13, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/JTA)

WASHINGTON, DC — Jewish Democratic groups condemned on Sunday an Islamophobic poster spotted in the West Virginia state capitol over the weekend, connecting a Muslim congresswoman to the 9/11 attacks.

In the capitol’s rotunda on Friday was a display with an image of the World Trade Centers being struck by hijacked planes with the text: “‘Never Forget — You said.'” Underneath that image was a photo of Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, with the accompanying caption: “I am proof you have forgotten.”

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the poster, which was exhibited on what was billed West Virginia GOP Day, a celebration of the Republican Party in Charleston.

“Anti-Muslim prejudice is as unacceptable and pernicious as anti-Semitism, and any other form of racism,” said Mark Mellman, the CEO of a new Democratic pro-Israel advocacy group, Democratic Majority for Israel.

“The Republican attack, attempting to falsely link Congresswoman Omar to the terrorism of September 11th, represents hateful bigotry,” he went on. “Democratic Majority for Israel condemns this ugly charge, as should every American committed to our country’s ideals.”

Omar, a newly elected member of the House of Representatives, has sparked repeated controversies over the last several weeks for tweets and comments that critics have said are redolent of anti-Semitic tropes.

Last month, Omar tweeted that American elected officials’ support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins,” referring to American $100 bills. In a follow-up tweet, she said she thought the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC was paying them to back Israel. The social media posts were quickly met with intense condemnation, including from House Democratic leaders and Jewish groups, who demanded she apologize.

“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 later said in a statement. “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole … This is why I unequivocally apologize.”

But she added that AIPAC and other lobbies — like the National Rifle Association and fossil fuel industry — have too much influence in Washington.

Appearing at a Progressive Town Hall last week, Omar accused her detractors of calling her criticisms of Israel “anti-Semitic” because she’s a Muslim.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America, which also condemned Omar’s tweets suggesting AIPAC paid politicians to support Israel, also castigated the poster.

“We strongly condemn and disagree with Rep. Omar’s repeated use of anti-Semitic tropes, including her egregious dual loyalty claim earlier this week,” the JDCA said in a statement, referring to her statement from the Town Hall that she wanted to “talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

Some voices, including the JDCA, said that comment amounted to accusing Jewish Americans of being equally loyal to Israel.

“At the same time,” the JDCA statement went on, “we unequivocally condemn bigotry in all its forms, including this Islamophobic attack on Ilhan Omar. Hatred targeting any individual or group must come to an end.”

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