Rep. Ilhan Omar decries attacks on Jews while warning against equating ‘legitimate criticism’ of the Israeli government with antisemitism

ilhan omar joe biden trump wall racist
  • Rep. lhan Omar decried the recent spike in attacks on Jews in the US and abroad.
  • “Fighting bigotry of any kind means fighting bigotry of every kind,” she said.
  • Omar also warned against equating criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota on Wednesday denounced a recent spike in attacks on Jews in the US and abroad while warning against treating “legitimate criticism” of the Israeli government as synonymous with antisemitism.

“The rise in antisemitic attacks at home and abroad is appalling,” Omar tweeted. “We must be clear and unequivocal: antisemitism is unacceptable and has no place in any movement. Fighting bigotry of any kind means fighting bigotry of every kind.”

The Minnesota Democrat went on to say, “And it also means we cannot equate legitimate criticism of the Israeli government, its policy, and its military occupation with antisemitism. Connecting the actions of a foreign country’s government and military with an entire faith does nothing to keep the Jewish people safer.”

Omar’s tweets came after a group of Jewish Democrats in the House on Tuesday sent a letter to President Joe Biden decrying House lawmakers for calling Israel an apartheid state and accusing it of committing acts of terrorism. The letter didn’t explicitly name Omar or any other lawmakers, but she was among a group of progressive Democrats who employed such rhetoric regarding the Israeli government in over the past few weeks.

Top human rights groups, including the Jerusalem-based organization B’Tselem, have said that the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians amounts to a form of apartheid.

In a tweet amid the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas, for example, Omar said, “Israeli air strikes killing civilians in Gaza is an act of terrorism. Palestinians deserve protection. Unlike Israel, missile defense programs, such as Iron Dome, don’t exist to protect Palestinian civilians.”

In response to this tweet, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) released an ad superimposing Omar’s image over Hamas rockets and distorting her words – prompting condemnation from Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The letter sent to Biden also condemned Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of North Carolina for equating COVID-19 restrictions with the Holocaust, accusing her of making “blatantly antisemitic statements.”

Democrats are increasingly divided over US-Israel relations

Gaza
A woman gestures after finding her home collapsed after the cease-fire brokered by Egypt between Israel and Hamas in Beit Hanoun, Gaza on May 21, 2021.

There’s a growing schism in the Democratic party over US-Israel relations, with progressives like Omar urging the US government to take a more nuanced approach that shows more concern for Palestinians and human rights.

Progressive Democrats have sought to normalize criticism of the Israeli government, and a number of them – including Omar – were heavily critical of Biden’s response to the recent Israel-Hamas fighting. Biden offered full-throated support to Israel as airstrikes pummeled Gaza in response to Hamas rocket attacks, most of which were intercepted by the US-funded Iron Dome defense system. And the president initially tiptoed around offering any public support for a cease-fire.

As the fighting was still ongoing, Omar at one point said the administration was “devoid of empathy and concern for human suffering.”

The fighting killed over 250 people, predominantly Palestinians, including dozens of children.

With a cease-fire in effect as of last Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited leaders in the Middle East this week as part of an effort to ensure the fragile peace holds up. Among those Blinken met with was Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“The aspirations of the Palestinian people are like those of people everywhere,” Blinken said on Tuesday after their meeting, underscoring that the US is committed “to working with the Palestinian people to realize these aspirations.”

During his visit to the region, Blinken announced that the US would reopen a consulate in Jerusalem to handle diplomatic relations with Palestinians, which was shut down under the Trump administration.

The top US diplomat also said the US was giving $110 million in new economic assistance to Palestinians, including $5.5 million in emergency assistance for Gaza. Blinken said this brings the total level of assistance to Palestinians from the Biden administration so far to over $360 million. The Trump administration, which unabashedly supported the agenda of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government, cut off virtually all assistance to Palestinians.

The US gives Israel roughly $3.8 billion in military aid per year, on top of selling it weapons. Democrats like Omar have called for the US to consider conditioning aid to the Israeli government in relation to the peace process and occupation of Palestinian territories. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York both recently introduced resolutions aimed at blocking a $735 million arms sale to Israel.

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A Capitol Police officer was suspended after a Hill staffer spotted a printout of anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion at a checkpoint

capitol police
A U.S. Capitol Police officer wears a mourning band over his badge following a police procession of the hearse carrying the casket of Brian Sicknick, U.S. Capitol Police Officer who died from injuries following the U.S. Capitol building siege on Wednesday, on January 10, 2021 in Washington, DC.

  • A Capitol Police officer appeared to have a copy of the Protocols of Elders of Zion at a checkpoint.
  • A concerned congressional aide snapped a photo, and the officer is being investigated.
  • The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a centuries-old anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Capitol Police officer was suspended on Monday after a Capitol Hill staffer photographed a printed copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion at a security checkpoint inside Congress, according to The Washington Post.

A congressional aide spotted the infamous anti-Semitic conspiracy theory on the desk near a checkpoint, photographed the document and shared it with The Post. The checkpoint was near a 24-hour entrance of the Longworth House Office Building.

Acting Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman told The Post that the relevant officer was suspended pending an investigation.

“We take all allegations of inappropriate behavior seriously,” Pittman said. “Once this matter was brought to my attention, I immediately ordered the officer to be suspended until the Office of Professional Responsibility can thoroughly investigate.”

The House staff member who shared the photograph requested anonymity from The Post for fear of reprisal and said they were “extremely rattled” upon discovering the document out in the open.

According to the report, a date stamp on the document showed that it was printed in January 2019.

The staffer told The Post that in the wake of the January 6 insurrection, where rioters were photographed wearing and holding anti-Semitic imagery, they felt compelled to report what they saw.

In February, Capitol Police announced that they were investigating 35 officers for actions related to the insurrection, and six were suspended.

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a centuries-old conspiracy theory targeting Jewish people born in Imperial Russia and claims to detail a meeting of all-powerful Jewish elders who create a plan for world control.

The text, though fraudulent, was a centerpiece to anti-Semitic ideology in Nazi Germany and has been routinely advanced by white-supremacist groups in the US since the 1920s, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

According to The Post, the Capitol Police officer’s copy of the Elders of Zion appeared to be sourced from a far-right and anti-Semitic Australian website called the Bible Believers Church.

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Frontier Airlines canceled a flight after booting a group of maskless passengers. Now it’s facing claims of anti-Semitism.

frontier airlines
A Frontier Airlines Airbus A321.

Frontier Airlines is facing claims of anti-Semitism after a routine flight from Miami to New York City was canceled on Sunday due to maskless passengers, the New York Times is reporting. 

Passengers had boarded flight 2878 from Miami International Airport to LaGuardia Airport and were preparing for the three-hour trip north when a confrontation erupted between a group of Hasidic Jewish passengers and crew members that resulted in the group’s ejection from the flight. 

“Multiple people, including several adults, were asked repeatedly to wear their masks and refused to do so,” Frontier spokesperson Jennifer De La Cruz told Insider. “Based on the continued refusal to comply with the federal mask mandate, refusal to disembark the aircraft and aggression towards the flight crew, local law enforcement was engaged. The flight was ultimately canceled.”

Martin Joseph, a member of the 21-person group, denied the airline’s account and claims the issue initially stemmed from his 15-month-old child not wearing a mask while eating, he told the Times. After members of Joseph’s group defended the child, citing the federal government’s exemption for children under two, his family and nearby couples were removed from the flight, 

“We understand that the mask has to be worn, and everybody has to wear a mask and that’s the law,” Joseph told the Times. 

Frontier has required passengers to wear masks and undergo a temperature screening before boarding since the spring. The mask rule was later reinforced by executive action from President Joe Biden in January and specifically exempted children under two years of age

Frontier’s policy echoes the government policy but the airline is holding firm on its account that the escalation came as a result of adults not wearing masks and not just the 15-month-old child. 

“The issue did not stem from a child under two,” Frontier said in a tweet that has since received over 3,000 replies at the time of writing. 

Other passengers say that Joseph’s group had been wearing masks during their interactions with the crew, who had reportedly high-fived each other after removing the group from the plane, spurring claims of anti-Semitism. One passenger screamed, “this is Nazi Germany,” as the passengers were deplaning, according to a video posted to Twitter by the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council. 

The Anti-Defamation League of New York is calling for an investigation into the incident.

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