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People don’t fully understand anti-Semitism, Ilhan Omar says

Minnesota congresswoman, accused of anti-Jewish hatred herself, tells New York Times that bigotry is perceived in different ways by different communities

In this Feb. 29, 2020 file photo, US Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks at a rally in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh File)
In this Feb. 29, 2020 file photo, US Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks at a rally in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh File)

JTA — Many people have gaps in their understanding of what anti-Semitism is and how it works, according to Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has been accused of fomenting anti-Semitism.

Omar, a Democrat of Minnesota, offered her perspective on the anti-Semitism experience in an interview published Sunday in The New York Times Magazine.

“In the process of writing a few of the op-eds I’ve written on the rise of anti-Semitism in comparison to the rise of Islamophobia, it has been interesting to see the ways in which so many people create a lens through which they see it,” she said. “It is important, when you are not of that community, to understand the different ways that bigotry shows up.”

Omar apologized last year for a tweet in which she said “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” referring to the Israel lobby’s influence on lawmakers. Critics from both parties condemned the tweets as echoing anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews, money and power.

In July, the first-term congresswoman came under fire for a campaign mailer that named three donors, all Jewish, backing her Democratic primary opponent.

She told The Times Magazine that “there are a lot of preconceived notions about what thoughts and ideologies I have that have no basis in reality” based on her religion, skin color or gender.

“There’s no one else that exists in a space where they have to deal with the hate of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-Blackness, but also with sexism,” said Omar, an immigrant from Somalia.

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