WASHINGTON – Two Jewish congressional Democrats have asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to denounce Rep. Ilhan Omar after the Muslim congresswoman claimed Israel is so influential in Washington because “it’s all about the Benjamins” — meaning Jewish money.
Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Elaine Luria (D-Va.) wrote a letter Monday to the top five Democrats in the congressional leadership saying they were “deeply alarmed by recent rhetoric from certain members within our Caucus, including just last night, that has disparaged us and called into question our loyalty to our nation.”
“We urge you to join us in calling on each member of our Caucus to unite against anti-Semitism and hateful tropes and stereotypes,” Gottheimer and Luria told Pelosi.
On Sunday night Omar suggested in a tweet that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) only supported Israel for campaign donations.
“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she wrote, a reference to a 1997 rap song.
McCarthy had said that statements by Omar and Tlaib – which many believe have crossed the line into anti-Semitism – were on par and “more so” with the racist rhetoric coming from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who’s been stripped of his committee assignments.
In another Sunday night tweet, Omar answered a journalist who questioned who she “thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel.”
“AIPAC!” Omar replied, name-dropping the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.
These tweets were met with an immediate backlash on both sides of the aisle.
Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) tweeted Sunday night, “Congresswoman’s Omar’s statements are deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself.”
“So sick & twisted,” wrote Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.). “This continued anti-Semitic trope from Omar is grossly wrong. There should be NO home in US politics, college campuses, or halls of Congress for ANY of this garbage. Now she tweets that if Members of Congress support Israel then they were bought off by Jews.”
“It is deeply disappointing and disturbing to hear Representative Ilhan Omar’s (MN) choice of words in her exchange with a journalist yesterday, wherein she appears to traffic in old anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in a statement Monday.
But not every lawmaker smacked Omar for her tweets.
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) said on CNN’s “New Day” Monday morning that he didn’t view Omar’s comments as anti-Semitic.
“We ought to be careful not to construe in that anything other than a concern about the fact that money has undue influence on political decision making,” Kildee said.
And while former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, who married a Jewish man, first said that “we should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism,” she said that she would call Omar’s office to set up a dialogue between the two.
On Twitter, Omar agreed to meet.
“Chelsea – I would be happy to talk. We must call out smears from the GOP and their allies. And I believe we can do that without criticizing people for their faith,” Omar wrote. “I look forward to building an inclusive movement for justice with you.”