Engel Rips Omar for 'Invoking a Vile Anti-Semitic Slur' With Latest Remarks on Israel

Ilhan Omar
Ilhan Omar / Getty Images
March 1, 2019

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) again found herself receiving blistering criticism for anti-Semitic remarks on Friday, and once again it came from a fellow Democrat.

Omar, after already being forced to apologize last month for saying pro-Israel politicians are paid off to do so, said Wednesday she wanted to "talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country," clearly referencing Israel. She also accused her "Jewish colleagues" of bigotry, saying she feared her anti-Israel rhetoric was considered anti-Semitic by them because she is a Muslim.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Omar sits on, blasted Omar in a statement for "invoking a vile anti-Semitic slur."

"I welcome debate in Congress based on merits of policy, but it's unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow Americana citizens because of their political views, including support for the U.S.-Israel relationship," he said in a statement. "We all take the same oath. Worse. Representative Omar's comments leveled that charge by invoking a vile anti-Semitic slur."

"This episode is deeply disappointing following so closely on another instance of Ms. Omar seeming to invoke an anti-Semitic stereotype. 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."

The latest episode is part of what's become an embarrassing and troubling pattern for the freshman lawmaker and congressional Democrats.

The House Democratic leadership rebuked her for invoking anti-Semitic tropes last month when she said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and other pro-Israel politicians were paid off by AIPAC. Although she claimed to unequivocally apologize, she grinned when a left-wing audience member at a forum in Washington, D.C., mentioned the offending tweet she sent. She also told The Intercept she wasn't sorry for being anti-Semitic but rather for how her comments made others feel.

After initially being defensive and wondering why it would offend Jewish Americans, she has also expressed regret for a 2012 tweet where she said Israel had "hypnotized" the world with its "evil" doings in Gaza. She compared Israel to Iran in another interview and said the notion of the Jewish state being a democracy made her chuckle.

Omar also supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has condemned as anti-Semitic.

Omar, one of only two Muslim women ever elected to Congress, is no fringe figure. She's one of the most prominent members of the new Democratic House majority, already gracing the cover of Time and Rolling Stone magazines. Her fiery back-and-forth with Trump official Elliott Abrams—she called him Mr. Adams—received praise from the left last month.