No one who pays attention to how racism in this country works should be surprised at the continuing freak out over Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women to ever serve in Congress. After February’s overblown scandal over Omar’s tweets regarding the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC’s influence on Congress, Omar’s opponents have found a smear that they know will stick on her—anti-Semitism—and they aren’t going to let it go until she’s out of office.
The latest attempt in this vein comes from Rep. Eliot Engel, the Democratic chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Today, Engel demanded another apology from Omar over comments she made about American politicians’ support for Israel, according to the Washington Post.
In a town hall meeting at a bookstore in Washington, D.C. this Wednesday, Omar discussed lobbying groups influence on U.S. politicians in their views on Israel.
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” she said.
“I want to ask, ‘Why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the [National Rifle Association], or fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy?’” she continued, referencing her criticism of AIPAC.
On Friday, Eliot called her new comments “unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the US-Israel relationship.”
“Her comments were outrageous and deeply hurtful, and I ask that she retract them, apologize, and commit to making her case on policy issues without resorting to attacks that have no place in the Foreign Affairs Committee or the House of Representatives,” Engel said in a statement.
Omar’s spokesman Jeremy Slevin said in a statement that at the event, Omar “reiterated the remorse she feels for her comments last month—and the pain she knows they caused.”
“As she said in her apology, we must distinguish between criticism of a particular faith and fair critiques of lobbying groups,” Slevin continued. “She has consistently spoken out about the undue influence of lobbying groups for foreign interests of all kinds and her comments were about just that. To suggest otherwise is an inaccurate reading of her remarks.”
At her book store event, Omar rightly pointed out that the outrage like that around her February comments makes it impossible to have a substantive discussion about America’s support for Israel and disregard for Palestinian rights.
“We end up defending that, and nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine,” she said at the event, according to the New York Times.
On Friday, the same day that Engel condemned Omar, a poster appeared at a GOP event in the West Virginia Capitol connecting Omar to the 9/11 attacks, according to the Post.
Showing a picture of the Twin Towers after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 above a picture of Omar in Congress, the poster read “‘Never Forget,’ you said.” The caption over Omar’s picture read, “I am the proof you have forgotten.”
Democratic Virginia Delegate Mike Pushkin, who is Jewish, condemned the poster on Twitter, as did Engel. So far, no Republican Virginia Delegates have done the same.