Sanders on Ilhan Omar: ‘It Is Not Anti-Semitic to Be Critical of a Right-Wing Government in Israel’

By Patrick Goodenough | April 16, 2019 | 4:46 AM EDT

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

( – Asked Monday night about the row over comments made earlier this year by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Sen. Bernie Sanders said he does not believe she is anti-Semitic, and that “it is not anti-Semitic to be critical of a right-wing government in Israel.”

At the Fox News town hall in Pennsylvania, host Bret Baier described Sanders, a 2020 presidential contender, as “a staunch supporter of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.”

Sanders interjected, saying that he has spoken to Omar “about twice in my life,” but added, “I respect her.”

“This is what I do support: I support a Muslim member of Congress not to be attacked every single day in outrageous, racist remarks.”

Baier pointed out that some Democrats had been critical of Omar – one of two Muslim women elected to the House last November – for “language kind of associated with anti-Semitism.”

“Can you understand why some Jewish Americans would have a problem with some of that?”

Sanders said “I think that that is not quite right,” adding that Omar may need to do “a better job in speaking to the Jewish community.”

Sanders noted that he was himself Jewish, and that members of his father’s family were victims of the Nazis, “so this is an issue of some sensitivity to me.”

“So I will do everything in my power, and I hope that every member of Congress will fight not only anti-Semitism, but racism, and anti-Muslim activity so we create a non-discriminatory society,” he said.

“But it is not anti-Semitic to be critical of a right-wing government in Israel,” Sanders declared. “That is not anti-Semitic.”

Omar’s remarks that gave rise to the controversy included comments insinuating that pro-Israel U.S. lawmakers have dual loyalties to Israel and the U.S., and suggestions that the pro-Israel lobby was paying U.S. politicians to be pro-Israel.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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