Zoha Naqwi, Contributor
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar received criticism for tweets that were accused of containing anti-Semitic stereotypes. On Feb. 10, Representative Omar tweeted in response to an article detailing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s plans to take “action” against Omar and fellow Representative Rashida Tlaib, also a Muslim woman who has criticized Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory. In response to the article, Omar tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” When asked to clarify where the supposed money was coming from, the congresswoman tweeted, “AIPAC!”
Criticism then followed from all levels of government, with Minnesota officials such as State Senator Ron Latz and national figures such as Chelsea Clinton and President Trump voicing various levels of concern. The president went so far as to demand for the removal of Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee as well as her resignation from Congress.
State Senator Latz, who represents Senate District 46, an area with a large Jewish community, discussed his relationship with Omar that goes back to when she was running for the Congressional seat. “There seems to be a pattern developing which indicates more of an attitude than mistakes,” Latz said in article published by CBS, “and that’s what’s most troubling. I mean, I’m grateful that she seems to be willing to be engaged in conversations with the Jewish community, but she doesn’t seem to be learning from those conversations.”
The tweets from Omar were criticized due to their nature of playing into anti-Semitic stereotypes that imply wealthy individuals of Jewish faith exert massive influence that is unseen to the public. Such stereotypes have been used to profile figures such as George Soros and Michael Bloomberg, both of whom were called out in an October tweet by Kevin McCarthy that read, “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer and Bloomberg to BUY this election!”
Omar offered a response to the criticism stating, “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.” The situation has also sparked a discussion of how Omar’s role as a Muslim woman has influenced the backlash. Todd Green, a religion professor at Luther College and an author of several books on Islamophobia, added that he believed the criticism did not come from a fear of anti-Semitism: “Much of the controversy over Ilhan Omar’s tweets has been driven by #Islamophobia, particularly the belief that Muslims by default are anti-Semitic and that we must therefore assume the worst of them and their intentions.”
On Feb. 17, protestors gathered outside of Omar’s office in Minneapolis to condemn the comments. Those protestors were countered with another crowd, supportive of Omar, who positioned themselves between the office and the protestors.
This article was originally published in the Feb. 22, 2019 issue.