Saturday, February 23, 2019 | ePaper
US Muslim lawmaker sorry for tweet that sparked anti-Semitism row
Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women in the US Congress, "unequivocally" apologized Monday after suggesting US support for Israel is fueled by money from a pro-Israel lobby group.
The Minnesota freshman has faced criticism for weeks over her positions on the Jewish state, but it boiled over late Sunday after she reacted to a Republican critic in a tweet.
"It's all about the Benjamins baby," Omar replied, referring to American $100 bills featuring the likeness of Benjamin Franklin.
When a user asked who Omar believes is paying US politicians to support Israel, the former Somali refugee tweeted a one-word response - "AIPAC!" - referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The exchanges triggered an uproar, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi castigating Omar and demanding an "immediate" apology for using "anti-Semitic tropes" in her tweet, and several Democrats and Republicans assailing their colleague for her language.
Omar obliged, issuing a statement acknowledging that anti-Semitism is "real" and expressing gratitude to colleagues "who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes."
"We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity," she said.
In response to a tweet on Sunday from a journalist questioning why US political leaders always defend Israel, Ms Omar used a slang term for $100 bills, writing: "it's all about the Benjamins baby."
When challenged where she thought such money was coming from, the 36-year-old Somali-American tweeted back: "Aipac."
Aipac spends millions of dollars a year lobbying lawmakers and the US federal government to adopt pro-Israel policies, according to campaign-finance monitors.