Ilhan Omar claims she 'wasn't aware of tropes about Jews and money'

The US Congresswoman was defending herself from accusations of antisemitism as Republicans try to remove her from an influential committee


Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has defended herself against accusations of antisemitism, claiming that she "wasn't aware of the fact that there are tropes about Jews and money".

Speaking on CNN on Sunday, Ms Omar was questioned about previous statements that many have deemed antisemitic, including saying pro-Israel politicians were "all about the Benjamins" comparing the US and Israel to terror groups Hamas and the Taliban, and saying that 'Israel hypnotised the world'.

Ms Omar said that she had been educated with the help of colleagues and friends, and claimed that Republicans were trying to "smear" her because, she asserted, "many of these members don't believe that a Muslim refugee, an African, should even be in Congress, let alone have the opportunity to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee."

Republican Members of Congress are claiming that Ms Omar should not be allowed to serve on the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee due to "a pattern of antisemitic and other controversial statements".

Veteran CNN journalist Dana Bash said: "I'm told that Republicans presented a list in their private meeting this past week. Included in that list is that 'Israel hypnotised the world'. You said that Israel is an apartheid regime, that politicians with pro-Israel stances were 'all about the Benjamins', which you very notably apologised for. That you support the BDS movement which a lot of people think is rooted in antisemitism. [You] compared the US and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban. I want to give you a chance to respond to all of that, which they say is a clear pattern."

Ms Omar responded: "I might have used words at the time that I didn't understand were trafficking in antisemitism. When that was brought to my attention, I apologised. I owned up to it. That's the kind of person that I am. I continue to work with my colleagues and my community to fight against antisemitism."

She went on to claim that Republicans are trying to "smear someone and their character and their love for their country", alleging that many Republican members do not believe that a refugee from Somalia or a Muslim should be in Congress at all.

She said: "These people are okay with Islamophobia, they are okay with trafficking in their own ways in antisemitism."

When pushed by Ms Bash on her "all about the Benjamins" comment about pro-Israel politicians and what she had learned from being educated, Ms Omar claimed: "I certainly was not aware that the word 'hypnotise' was a trope. I wasn't aware of the fact that there are tropes about Jews and money. That has been a very enlightening part of this journey."

She said that to "knowingly insinuate" that her comments meant she is an antisemite is "so wrong", adding that the first op-ed she wrote after being elected to Congress in 2018 was about fighting antisemitism and that she has voted for every resolution condemning antisemitism.

She added: "The reason that the Democratic caucus has not removed me and will not support my removal from the Foreign Affairs Committee is because I have done the work to make sure that I do not support any bigotry."

Mr Omar was questioned alongside fellow Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell on Republican plans to remove them from their assignments to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which has broad powers related to foreign policy, military deployment, treaties, economic policy, and many other key areas of US foreign policy. It is seen as one of the most important and powerful committees of the lower house of the US legislature.

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on whether or not to remove the Democratic members. It appears that Republicans may not have the votes to remove them due to the apparent hypocrisy of removing members of the minority from committees having claimed that it was completely wrong when Democrats removed Republican representative Marjorie Taylor Green from her committee assignments in 2021, when they were in the majority.

In response to her claim that she did not know that there are antisemitic tropes about Jews and money, international human rights lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky tweeted: "Right, and I wasn't aware the earth was round."

David Friedman, US Ambassador to Israel from 2017 to 2021 commented: "If Omar is telling the truth (she’s not) that she never new there were antisemitic tropes about Jews and money, then she is saying that she originated the accusation that Jewish money controls the USA. Isn’t that even worse?!"

After a clip of the interview was circulated on social media, Ms Omar posted a thread accusing the GOP of "hypocrisy", saying that the Republican leader "did nothing" about Islamophobic comments made by members of his own party, citing Donald Trump dining with white supremacists Nick Fuentes, and posted a fundraising link.

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