U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) weighed in Monday on remarks made by a fellow freshman Democratic member of Congress, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. He said he’s concerned about the use of an “anti-Semitic trope,” but rejects “the speech but not the human being.”
Omar, who is one of the first two Muslim congresswoman ever elected along with U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), drew fire for two tweets on Sunday. She has since “unequivocally apologized” but has not deleted the tweets, as of this story’s publication.
The first tweet was a response to a tweet from the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, a critic of Israel who also frequently defends President Trump over the federal investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia.
Greenwald slammed U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for “threatening punishment” for Omar and Tlaib for their Israel critiques.
It's all about the Benjamins baby 🎶 https://t.co/KatcXJnZLV
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 10, 2019
Omar’s response was: “It’s all about the Benjamins,” aka money. She doubled down with a subsequent tweet responding to an editor of the Jewish magazine Forward who asked who she thinks is “paying American politicians to be pro-Israel.” Omar responded, “AIPAC!” That’s the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
Omar’s rhetoric drew criticism from across the political spectrum. The U.S. House Democratic leadership said that legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies and its treatment of Palestinians is protected by free speech, as reported by the Washington Post, but Omar’s use of “anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Levin issued a statement absent any red-hot rhetoric.
“I am upset and concerned by the use of an anti-Semitic trope, especially by a Member of Congress,” he said. “We must loudly reject any such expression of anti-Semitism, like other forms of bigotry. Silence is acquiescence and acquiescence is complicity, as history has taught us too many times.
“… Trading sound bites will do nothing to help us better understand one another and avoid moments like this in the days and months ahead. The way to move forward is not to turn our backs on one another, but to draw closer, to engage in thoughtful dialogue and policy discussion. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and I sit together on two committees, including Foreign Affairs. I look forward to working hard to understand each other and, hopefully, to come together to battle intolerance in all of its forms.”
In response to criticism, Omar issued a statement on Tuesday, but blasted the “problematic role of lobbyists in our politics.
“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,” Omar said. “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.
“At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”