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Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on March 11, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on March 11, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Targeted By AIPAC Ads Over Support for Palestinian Rights, Omar Vows 'No Level of Harassment Will Silence Me'

"The rights of Palestinians and all people yearning for freedom and self-determination will not be ignored."

Jake Johnson

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar on Wednesday vowed not to be deterred from fighting for Palestinian rights after the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC began running ads this week linking the Minnesota Democrat with Hamas, spots that Omar's office condemned as both inaccurate and dangerous.

"Given the number of threats of death and violence the congresswoman receives on a near-daily basis, it's not just irresponsible—it's incitement," Isi Baehr-Breen, Omar's deputy communications director, told The Nation.

On Monday, AIPAC began running a Facebook ad showing Omar's face next to a barrage of rockets. "When Israel targets Hamas," the ad reads, "Rep. Omar calls it an 'act of terrorism.'"

The ad appears to be referencing a tweet last week in which Omar—who has denounced Israel's killing of Palestinians and Hamas rocket attacks—described Israeli airstrikes on civilians in the occupied Gaza Strip as "an act of terrorism" and said that "Palestinians deserve protection."

"This is desperate and deeply offensive," Omar said of AIPAC's ad on Wednesday. "The rights of Palestinians and all people yearning for freedom and self-determination will not be ignored and no level of harassment will silence me or the millions of people demanding peace and justice."

The influential pro-Israel lobbying group has also launched ads in recent days targeting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman ever elected to Congress.

"Israel is under attack," reads a Facebook ad featuring Omar and the four other progressive lawmakers, all of whom have criticized the Israeli government's ongoing, devastating assault on Gaza, an air and artillery campaign that has killed more than 220 Palestinians, wounded many more, and displaced nearly 60,000 in just over a week.

The ads targeting progressive critics of Israel are so egregious that they're drawing rebukes from fervently pro-Israel top Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

"I disagree with the statements made by the members, but attacking them in ads does not advance the goal of increasing support for Israel," said Hoyer, a regular speaker at AIPAC's annual conference.

Pelosi, for her part, called the ads attacking Omar "deeply cynical and inflammatory."

"As we always respect Israel's right to defend herself," said Pelosi, "there must be a serious effort on the part of both parties in the conflict to end the violence and respect the rights of both the Israeli and Palestinian people."

As The Nation's Aída Chávez reported Wednesday, "Omar's office is calling on Facebook to immediately remove the ads, which 'blatantly peddle both anti-Muslim hate speech and disinformation,' and on AIPAC to apologize."

Chávez noted that the lobbying organization's latest campaign is "consistent with AIPAC's broader rhetoric; in 2019, the pro-Israel group was forced to apologize and remove at least four Facebook ads saying that Omar, Tlaib, and Representative Betty McCollum, one of the few congressional critics of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, pose a threat 'maybe more sinister' than ISIS."

In a tweet on Wednesday, Tlaib wrote that "to launch such a blatantly Islamophobic attack on Ilhan Omar right now is reprehensible."

"I stand with her to oppose the violence Israel's apartheid government is perpetrating," Tlaib added. "You will not silence those who stand for human rights."

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