Rep. Omar says it is about one Benjamin: Netanyahu

Kadia Tubman
Reporter
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photos: Alex Edelman/Rex/Shutterstock; Jim Young/Pool/Reuters)

After weeks of fending off accusations of anti-Semitism, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., responded to a gibe by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In his satellite address to the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, D.C., Netanyahu took aim at a February tweet by Omar asserting that American support for Israel was “All about the Benjamins.”

"From this Benjamin: It’s not about the Benjamins!” Netanyahu said. "The reason Americans love Israel is not because they want our money; it's because they share our values,” said Netanyahu. “It's because America and Israel share a love of freedom and democracy."

Omar was quick to reply.

“This from a man facing indictments for bribery and other crimes in three separate public corruption affairs,” she responded via Twitter.

Netanyahu is facing an indictment on corruption charges and is under investigation in at least one other case. He met Monday with President Trump, who signed an official recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the long-contested region Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 war.

Not long after Omar, representing Minnesota’s 5th District in Minneapolis, took office as one of the first Muslim members of the House, she became a controversial figure for her public remarks about Israel.

In February, Omar said on Twitter that the pro-Israel lobby’s political influence was “all about the Benjamins,” a comment for which she apologized. But she then came under renewed criticism for saying in a town hall that some Americans promoted “allegiance to a foreign country.”

"I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” said Omar, in what was understood to refer to American supporters of Israel. "I want to ask, 'Why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA or fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy?’”

Omar, who also supports the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” (BDS) movement against Israel, again apologized for comments in a Twitter post: “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” she said, adding, “I unequivocally apologize.”

Still, the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish members of Congress offended by Omar’s comments pushed for a resolution to denounce anti-Semitism and single out her comments. Instead, in a gesture to Omar and her allies, especially among the progressive freshmen elected in 2018, the House voted a broad anti-hate resolution condemning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacy that did not name her specifically.

Republicans, led by Trump, have seized on the controversy to paint Democrats as anti-Semitic. Some Democratic candidates for president, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, said they would pass up the AIPAC conference, although Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer spoke there, saying “the overwhelming majority of Democrats are pro-Israel and have always been.”

“I don’t know what happened to them, but they are anti-Israel,” Trump told reporters on Friday morning on the South Lawn of the White House. “Frankly, I think they are anti-Jewish.”

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