February 3, 2023
On Thursday, February 2, the Republican-led House voted along party lines to remove Minnesota Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Relations Committee over previous comments she made about Israel that members of both parties viewed as antisemitic, reports USA Today.
Omar said on the House floor Thursday that the vote to remove her is about more than silencing her voice: “This debate today is about who gets to be an American,” she said. “I am an American. An American who was sent here by her constituents to represent them in Congress.”
“Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted? Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy?” she said on the House floor prior to the vote.
Republican leaders have threatened to take action against Omar over a number of controversial statements she’s made since she came to Capitol Hill in 2019.
But the GOP calls got louder last year when the Democrat-led House stripped Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) and Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) of committee assignments for menacing social media posts. Both GOP lawmakers have been reinstated to committees this Congress.
Born in Somalia, Omar fled the country’s civil war when she was eight. The family spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before arriving in the United States, according to her congressional biography. In 1997, she moved to Minneapolis with her family, living in the city that she now represents in Congress.
A prominent progressive in Congress, Omar, who is Muslim, has been a fierce critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and routinely questions U.S. aid to the Middle East ally.
Omar faced criticism in 2019 from both sides of the aisle for comments she made during a town hall and for controversial Twitter replies.
During the town hall event, Omar suggested Israel demands “allegiance” from American lawmakers—adding that “a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, (think) that everything we say about Israel (is) anti-Semitic because we are Muslim.”
Critics condemned Omar’s comments. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in a statement that “the charge of dual loyalty not only raises the ominous specter of classic anti-Semitism, but it is also deeply insulting to the millions upon millions of patriotic Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, who stand by our democratic ally, Israel.”
Omar also faced backlash when she responded to a Tweet from journalist Glenn Greenwald, who shared an article about then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy considering “action” against Omar Tlaib, for their criticisms of Israel.
“It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans,” Greenwald tweeted.
“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” Omar replied on Twitter, referencing $100 bills.
Then, a columnist replied that she “would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess.”
“AIPAC!” Omar tweeted in response, referencing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Omar apologized for the posts the next day and deleted the tweets, but the Twitter reply sparked outrage even among Democratic leadership.
The congresswoman also was admonished in 2021 for a tweet in which she demanded accountability and justice for “unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”
“Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided,” Illinois Representative Brad Schneider and 11 other Democrats wrote in a joint statement in response to her tweet.
Her comment in 2019 that “some people did something” in describing the September 11 attacks drew harsh rebuke from Republicans as well as family members of those killed in the terrorist attack. She said her comments were taken out of context—noting that Muslims across the nation became immediate targets.
“What I was speaking to was the fact that as a Muslim, not only was I suffering as an American who was attacked on that day, but the next day I woke up as my fellow Americans were now treating me a suspect,” she told Face the Nation later that year. “To some people, it’s easy for them to not think of me as an American, as someone who would not have the same feelings as they did as we were being attacked on American soil.”
As he campaigned to help Republicans take back the House last year, McCarthy vowed to strip Omar of her Foreign Relations seat, if he were elected speaker. In an interview last year with the conservative media site Breitbart, McCarthy said removing Omar was due in part to Democrats using a “new standard” in removing Greene and Gosar.
The vote to oust Omar from Foreign Relations, a committee which she has served on since 2019, follows Democrats reappointing her to serve on the committee last week. The resolution to oust her only needed a simple majority to pass—but no Democrat was expected to support it.
“McCarthy’s effort to repeatedly single me out for scorn and hatred—including threatening to strip me from my committee— does nothing to address the issues our constituents deal with,” Omar said in a statement.
Research contact: @USATODAY