Jewish and Muslim activists in Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s home district in Minnesota have denounced the congresswoman’s controversial remarks about Israel and Jews, CNN reported on Sunday.
Omar Jamal, Steve Hunegs, Mohamed Ahmed and Avi Olitzky agree that Omar’s words were anti-Semitic, the report said.
Omar came under criticism in January for tweets she had made regarding Israel. She then waded deeper into the fevered anti-Semitic swamps in February, tweeting about pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) buying political influence, plugging into an age-old anti-Semitic trope about Jews, money and power.
In February, Omar tweeted “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” referring to the $100 bill that features Benjamin Franklin’s likeness. Omar made the reference in regards to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s threat to punish her and her colleague, Muslim Rep. Rashida Tlaib, (D., Mich.), who had also made anti-Israel remarks and continued to promote Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)against Israel.
According to CNN, local Minnesota leaders want the congresswoman – the first Somali-American representative in Congress – to understand why her words have caused so much pain.
“We wanted to show her how what she had said was consistent with the statements of anti-Semites and anti-Semitism over time,” Hunegs said. “It’s unfortunate and, almost in the classical sense, tragic because she has the capability of being an important bridge builder.”
Olitzky, a senior rabbi, said that some of his congregants were alarmed at what Omar had said and that he had the opportunity to discuss it with her, according to CNN. “Congresswoman Omar shared with me that she understood our pain and listened to that pain. But then the tweets continued, and the comments continued,” he said.
Both Olitzky and Hunegs said they were approached by local Muslims, including Somalis, interested in supporting their Jewish neighbors, the report continued.
“We can reinforce the good relationships that already exist, because in a sense people are kind of sick and tired of it and they want to move forward and find ways to work together,” Hunegs said.
“(When you are elected,) you’re supposed to bring people together, you’re supposed to create a sense of unity instead of farther dividing them and pitting one group against the other,” Jamal noted, expressing disappointment in the congresswoman on behalf of himself and Somali refugees who had fled to America, CNN reported.
“(When you are elected,) you’re supposed to bring people together, you’re supposed to create a sense of unity instead of farther dividing them and pitting one group against the other,” Jamal said.
Ahmed, for his part, dismissed the claim that Omar was merely criticizing the Israeli government rather than attacking
Jews. “When David Duke of the Ku Klux Klan agrees with you, you’re not doing something right.”
“I speak as a friend of Israel and a brother to the Palestinians by faith,” he said, according to CNN. “We believe in Palestinian rights and freedoms, but we will not do it denigrating our Jewish community.”
Ahmed and Jamal conceded that not everyone in the local Somali Muslim community agrees with them regarding Omar’s statements, including Ahmed’s own family, CNN added.
Omar’s office did not respond for comment, the report said.