ilhan omar 2.2.23

The Real Reason House Republicans Kicked Ilhan Omar off the Foreign Affairs Committee

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It’s not about anything she said. It’s about racism and Islamophobia.

House Republicans removed Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday because she is a Black, Muslim woman. Officially, that’s not the reason. But the facts speak for themselves: The removal is the culmination of years of targeting Omar by Donald Trump, the rightwing media, and Republican lawmakers who attacked her religion, ethnicity, and history as a refugee. The GOP majority has an official reason for ousting Omar—and then there’s the reason both they and everyone else know is really behind this outrage. 

Their nominal reason is that past anti-Semitic comments make her unsuited to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee. The resolution to remove Omar contains a list of offenses. Read closely, it reveals how the party (along with some moderate Democrats) have targeted Omar since she was elected in 2018, taking her words out of context to make her a boogeyman for the right. 

The first offense is a February 2019 tweet in which Omar attributed lawmakers’ support for Israel to the deep pockets of the pro-Israel lobby, touching on the anti-Semitic trope that Jews buy influence and control. That tweet caused outcry on both sides of the aisle. Omar’s response included the words: “I unequivocally apologize.”

The resolution continues by citing a comment Omar made a month later during a panel discussion: “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” The context matters. Omar was responding to a question about how accusations of anti-Semitism are used to shut down debate over Israel’s policy toward Palestine, particularly when targeted at Muslims like herself. But Omar’s use of the word “allegiance” touched on the trope of Jews being disloyal, and drew bipartisan criticism.

The other accusations against Omar are baseless. One takes a single line from a speech she gave about 9/11 out of context to claim that she minimized the terrorist attack. The rightwing media made a huge to-do about it at the time, painting Omar as anti-American—an opportunist smear rather than honest interpretation of her speech. The resolution also cites Omar’s contention that Israel is an apartheid state as evidence of her anti-Semitism. Whether to apply the term “apartheid” to Israel is open to debate, but it’s not necessarily anti-Semitic to do so, as have Human Rights Watch and the Israeli rights group B’Tselem

The resolution next accuses Omar of “equat[ing] the United States and Israel with Hamas and the Taliban.” This is false. The Atlantic’s Elizabeth Breunig obliterated the smear at the time, noting that attacking Omar as anti-American and anti-Semitic had already become a normal day’s work for the GOP and some Democrats who both seemed to have reasoned that teaming up against a Black Muslim progressive was good politics for everyone.

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