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U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (3rd L) listens during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol January 4, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo:  Alex Wong/Getty Images)

As Omar 'Unequivocally' Apologizes, Critics Rip Democratic Leaders for Trying to 'Silence Criticism' of AIPAC

"What the congresswoman said is very uncontroversial," noted journalist Glenn Greenwald. "Everyone knows AIPAC is an extremely intimidating lobby, just like the NRA is. There's nothing wrong with pointing that out."

Jon Queally

Progressive critics on Monday condemned a statement by Democratic congressional leaders—including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi—who demanded an apology from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) regarding statements she made about the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Among those critics was healthcare activist Ady Barkan, who said he was "deeply disappointed" in the Speaker's "failure" on the matter.

"When AIPAC and its army try to silence criticism of the immoral, illegal, inhumane occupation by screaming about anti-Semitism and claiming that nobody may ever talk about how the Israel lobby, uses money to build power," Barkan declared, "don't fall for their bullshit."

And while Omar on Monday afternoon did "unequivocally" apologize for a pair of tweets Sunday night that some registered as containing "anti-Semitic tropes," she reaffirmed her belief that powerful lobbying interests—including AIPAC, the fossil fuel industry, and the NRA—remain "problematic" in U.S. politics.

"Listening and learning," Omar declared in a tweet, "but standing strong."

Even while many Jewish Americans and other progressives defended Omar from an onslaught of attacks over her tweets—because, as one noted, "accurately describing how the Israel lobby works is not anti-Semitism"—the freshman congresswoman said in her Monday statement that "We always have to be willing to step back and think through criticism."

She added, "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. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole."

Omar's apology for her comments came shortly after she was rebuked by members of her own Democratic Party, led by Pelosi.

"We are and will always be strong supporters of Israel in Congress because we understand that our support is based on shared values and strategic interests," the House Democratic leadership said in a rare joint statement. "Legitimate criticism of Israel's policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate that the United States and Israel share."

Such a statement, of course, immediately drew outrage from human rights advocates and progressives.

Barkan, meanwhile, issued a scathing indictment of Democrats and other lawmakers who continue to pretend that AIPAC does not use its vast resources and political organizing to "silence" lawmakers on the issues of Israel's apartheid state and the wholesale suppression of the Palestinian people as he offered his real-life experience as a Democratic campaign staffer in this astounding 11-part thread:

Earlier in the day, journalist Glenn Greenwald appeared on Democracy Now! where he condemned those attacking Omar and also challenged the notion that being critical of AIPAC has anything to do with being anti-Semitic.

"This is all so ridiculous," argued Greenwald. "It's all based upon this demand that we indulge what everybody knows is an utter and complete fiction, which is that we're allowed to talk about the power of the NRA in Washington, we're allowed to talk about the power of the Saudis in Washington, we're allowed to talk about the power of big pharmaceutical companies and Wall Street and Silicon Valley and the fossil fuel industry in Washington, but we're not allowed to talk about an equally potent, well-organized and well-financed lobby that ensures a bipartisan consensus in support of U.S. defense of Israel, that the minute that you mention that lobby, you get attacked as being anti-Semitic, which is what happened to Congresswoman Omar."

"What the congresswoman said is very uncontroversial," Greenwald added. "Everyone knows AIPAC is an extremely intimidating lobby, just like the NRA is. There's nothing wrong with pointing that out. There's certainly nothing anti-Semitic about saying that, about criticizing the Israeli government for its aggression and militarism. And anybody who cares about Palestinians and about the ability of Muslims in the United States to be able to speak freely ought to be defending her."


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