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Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) speaks with local television journalists while campaigning at the Richfield Farmers Market on August 8, 2020 in Richfield, Minnesota. (Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images)

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) speaks with local television journalists while campaigning at the Richfield Farmers Market on August 8, 2020 in Richfield, Minnesota. (Photo: Stephen Maturen via Getty Images)

Pressure Mounts on Facebook to Remove AIPAC's Islamophobic Attacks Against Ilhan Omar

"If something happens to Congresswoman Omar both AIPAC and Facebook, for allowing the ads to run, will have blood on their hands."

Kenny Stancil

In response to AIPAC's latest ads falsely accusing U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of sympathizing with terrorist organizations, CodePink on Friday launched a petition urging Facebook to remove the Islamophobic attacks, which have been condemned for endangering the life of the Minnesota Democrat as well as other progressive lawmakers targeted by the pro-Israel lobbying group.

"AIPAC's Islamophobic incitement against a Muslim woman of color in Congress in order to further their pro-Israel agenda is disgraceful and dangerous," Ariel Gold, national co-director of CodePink, a women-led peace group, said in a statement. "Rep. Omar is an incredible leader for justice and equality both at home and in the U.S.'s foreign policy."

"Despite attacks against her, she has continued since coming into Congress to bravely raise her voice for the rights of Palestinians living under Israel's brutal systems of occupation and apartheid," Gold added. "If something happens to Congresswoman Omar both AIPAC and Facebook, for allowing the ads to run, will have blood on their hands."

In addition to Omar, the paid ads, which the American-Israel Public Relations Committee began running on Facebook earlier this month, also attack Democratic Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.). Tlaib and Omar are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, and all four women of color have used terms like "apartheid," "act of terrorism," and "ethnic cleansing" to denounce the Israeli government's violent oppression of Palestinians.

"Rep. Omar's description of Israel's practices as 'apartheid' is not only accurate but now a popularly held belief," Danaka Katovich, CodePink's Middle East campaign coordinator, said Friday. "Organizations like Human Rights Watch and B'Tselem have more recently used the term to describe what is happening in occupied Palestine."

CodePink's petition states that Omar, Bush, Ocasio-Cortez, and Tlaib "are not the only members of Congress who have spoken out for or acted in support of Palestinian rights. They are being targeted by AIPAC because they are Muslim and/or women of color. This racism is unacceptable and must be addressed."

As part of a growing campaign against AIPAC's longstanding effort to use harassment and intimidation tactics to deter Omar and other social justice advocates in Congress from defending the human rights of Palestinians, CodePink is also asking people to report the "dehumanizing" ads on Facebook as violations of the platform's anti-hate speech policy.

Jeremy Slevin, Omar's senior communications director, responded to the latest attacks by tweeting earlier this week that "the language AIPAC uses in paid ads to smear and vilify Ilhan Omar is virtually identical to the language used in death threats she gets."

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, deputy executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based civil rights organization, also released a statement Thursday condemning AIPAC for "placing Ilhan Omar's life at risk" by spreading "this vile, Islamophobic language to Facebook users." 

"Facebook should immediately take down these vile ads and congressional leaders must condemn AIPAC for continuing to incite Islamophobic hatred against Rep. Omar," Mitchell added.

In addition, Haaretz reported Thursday that "at least 45 Jewish-American figures active in leadership in policy, politics, and advocacy spaces wrote a letter urging AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr and board president Betsy Berns Korn to immediately discontinue the ads and apologize to the congresswomen."

CodePink, for its part, started its petition to Facebook because "AIPAC responded to Mr. Slevin's remarks by doubling down on their attack against" Omar, and it "seems to have no intention to take the ads down themselves."

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