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February 6, 2019 8:50 am

Rep. Ilhan Omar Dodges Antisemitism Question at Center for American Progress

avatar by John Rossomando


Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks to the media after a lottery for office assignments on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 30, 2018. Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

On Tuesday morning, Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar dodged a question about her comments on Israel during a discussion on religious freedom at the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Just last week, Omar said that hearing Israel described as a democracy made her “almost chuckle,” and then compared it to Iran’s theocratic dictatorship.

She also compared Israel to the Jim Crow-era South, saying: “The American Jewish establishment claims Israel is a democracy for all its citizens. But the nation state law classifies 1.6 million Palestinian Israelis as second class.”

Arabs comprise more than one-fifth of Israel’s population of nearly 9 million people. They hold 18 seats in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. An Israeli-Arab has sat on the country’s supreme court, and a growing number serve in the nation’s army.

CAP Executive Vice President Winnie Stachelberg tried to set the table for Omar, noting that the new congresswoman had acknowledged that some of her comments “had inadvertently echoed stereotypes against Jews.” Omar rambled a bit in response, ultimately saying, “I, I think, am at a breaking point where we’re starting to have a conversation about what it means to be of people that harbor hate and the kind of journey we can all be on in fighting against discrimination collectively while still having the freedom to debate foreign policy and not only think about how we engage our allies, but also how we criticize and hold them accountable.”

Omar did not take questions from reporters.

After criticizing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement as “not helpful in getting that two-state solution” during her campaign, Omar endorsed BDS after her election. BDS is seen as antisemitic because it singles out the world’s only Jewish state for a boycott, and seeks to isolate Israel politically, economically, and culturally.

Omar also attempted to deflect criticism by talking about attending a service at a Minnesota synagogue after October’s murder of 11 people inside a Pittsburgh synagogue.

“We cannot stand up to one kind of hate while inflaming hate against a religion or nationality,” Omar said.

John Rossomando is a senior analyst at The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

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