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January 23, 2019 4:16 pm

New Congresswoman Ilhan Omar Apologizes for 2012 Tweet Widely Condemned as Antisemitic

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avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

New Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks to the media after a lottery for office assignments on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, Nov. 30, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Joshua Roberts.

New Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has apologized for tweet she published in 2012 that was widely condemned as antisemitic, saying she did not know her choice of words was offensive.

During a war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip in 2012, Omar tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

Until now, Omar had declined to apologize for the tweet, which many criticized for evoking classic antisemitic themes of omnipotent Jewish power.

Last week, Omar told CNN, “I don’t know how my comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans. My comments precisely are addressing what was happening during the Gaza war and I am clearly speaking about the way that the Israeli regime was conducting itself in that war.”

On Jan. 21, New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss addressed Omar directly in an op-ed, writing, “The conspiracy theory of the Jew as the hypnotic conspirator, the duplicitous manipulator, the sinister puppeteer is one with ancient roots and a bloody history.”

Over the centuries, said Weiss, “This was the template for the anti-Semitic conspiracy: the ability of this tiny minority to use its wiles and its proximity to power to con others into accomplishing their evil ends. It has led to countless expulsions, murders, massacres and pogroms throughout Europe and elsewhere.”

The next day, Omar tweeted, “Hi @bariweiss, You are correct when you say, ‘Perhaps Ms. Omar is sincerely befuddled and not simply deflecting.’ In all sincerity, it was after my CNN interview that I heard from Jewish orgs. that my use of the word ‘Hypnotize’ and the ugly sentiment it holds was offensive.”

“That statement came in the context of the Gaza War,” Omar added. “It’s now apparent to me that I spent lots of energy putting my 2012 tweet in context and little energy is disavowing the anti-semitic trope I unknowingly used, which is unfortunate and offensive.”

Omar continued: “With that said, it is important to distinguish between criticizing a military action by a government and attacking a particular people of faith. I will not shy away of criticism of any government when I see injustice — whether it be Saudi Arabia, Somalia, even our own government!”

“It is important that when you see oppression taking place — when you see our values being attacked as humans — you stand up, and it doesn’t matter who the inhabitors of that particular region might be. Whether it is your father, your brother or your sister, you speak up,” she said.

In response, Weiss tweeted, “Thank you, Rep. @IlhanMN, for reading and for addressing. Please consider this an open invitation to @nytopinion, where I would be happy to talk more about anti-Semitism and Israel with you.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), praised both Weiss and Omar, tweeting, “Hats off to @bariweiss for her op-ed on why the Jewish community was disturbed by @IlhanMN 2012 tweet evoking old anti-Semitic trope. And hats off to Rep Omar for her honest apology & commitment to a more just world. Open & respectful conversations will help us achieve this goal.”

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