Rep. Ilhan Omar Under Fire For Tweets Insinuating Lawmakers Are Paid Off for Supporting Israel

Patrick Goodenough | February 11, 2019 | 12:49am EST
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Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., right, and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., the first two Muslim women to be elected to the U.S. Congress. (Photo: Tlaib/Facebook)

( – Stoking fresh controversy, Minnesota Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar on Sunday posted a pair of tweets insinuating that the pro-Israel lobby pays members of Congress to support Israel, upsetting critics ranging from the American Jewish Committee to Chelsea Clinton.

In doing so, Omar – along with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) one of the two first Muslim women in Congress – oddly chose to quote a line from a 1990s hip-hop song whose lyrics include graphic references to misogynistic sex and gun violence.

It began with a tweet drawing attention to recent warnings by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) that he would take action against Omar and Tlaib for what critics view as anti-Semitic remarks, if the Democratic leadership fails to do so.

In that first tweet, left-wing journalist Glenn Greenwald commented, “It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.”

Omar then retweeted Greenwald’s post, adding the line, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”

“Benjamins,” in Puff Daddy’s 1997 song, refers to $100 bills (which bear an image of Benjamin Franklin.)

When another Twitter user (The Forward opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon) wondered who Omar thought was “paying American politicians to be pro-Israel,” Omar responded with one word “AIPAC!” (American Israel Public Affairs Committee)

Among the many responses to Omar’s tweets was former first daughter Clinton, who tweeted, “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism.”

Also from within the Democratic fold, the Jewish Democratic Council of America scolded Omar: “Enough is enough with the anti-Semitic tropes.”

(Screen capture: YouTube)

The American Jewish Committee said Omar should apologize: “Suggesting that a Jewish organization is buying off American politicians is both demonstrably false and stunningly anti-Semitic.”

Linking to a 2018 Gallup poll showing strong Americans support for Israel, the AJC added, “American politicians are pro-Israel because Americans are. Apologize.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should be “addressing” the issue, and asked House Democrats whether they “care to comment on the outrageous anti-Semitism being spewed by one of your fêted members?”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley was also unimpressed: “To see this at the UN was a fight every day,” she tweeted. “This CANNOT be tolerated in our own Congress by anyone of either party. In a time of increased anti semitism, we all must be held to account. No excuses.”

McCarthy himself weighed in: “Anti-Semitic tropes have no place in the halls of Congress. It is dangerous for Democrat leadership to stay silent on this reckless language.”

McCarthy was among Republican leaders who expressed dismay when the Democratic caucus last month appointed Omar to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, noting that she publicly supports the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

McCarthy said at the time that with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer both on record opposing the BDS movement, “I would love to know what changed, because Democratic leaders just promoted a pro-BDS Democrat to a key committee that deals with the State of Israel.”

Curiously, given Omar’s religion, ethnicity and gender, the song she chose to quote from in her tweet includes several uses of the N-word, as well as other common expletives, crude references to sexual acts and to the female anatomy, degrading terms for women, and references to gun violence.

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