‘Most of us came out of that conversation very troubled by the answers we received…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) Jewish leaders in Minnesota said they confronted Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., last year about her anti-Semitism, negating Omar’s claims that she wasn’t aware her comments were offensive.
Omar’s shocking tweets, referencing centuries-old stereotypes about Jewish greed and manipulation, resulted in multiple public apologies recently and led President Donald Trump to call for her resignation earlier this week.
But the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported that when Omar was just a rising figure in Democratic state politics, members of the state’s Jewish community pulled her aside to confront her about the anti-Semitic rhetoric that had made many uncomfortable.
Last year, state Sen. Ron Latz, a St. Louis Park Democrat, invited Omar to his house where a group of Jewish leaders had gathered. They believed Omar, an Islamic refugee from Somalia, simply didn’t understand why her anti-Israel language was offensive.
“We wanted to reach out to her,” Latz said. “We were a bit troubled about several things she had said.”
Latz said the group specifically confronted Omar about her 2012 tweet, in which she wrote: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel”—a tweet Omar claimed she did not realize was offensive a few weeks ago.
“Over the course of about two hours, we shared with her our concerns for things, including language that has references and meanings beyond just the meanings of words,” Latz said. “Tropes, dog whistles—call them what you will. We explained to her how hurtful, and factually inaccurate, they were.”
Latz recalled telling Omar that criticism of the Israeli government is not anti-Semitic, but the diction and tone used to discuss its policies are important as well.
“I don’t mind a policy disagreement. That’s fine. I accept that she comes from a different place and has a different policy, but those can be expressed in a matter that does not express anti-Semitism with it,” Latz said.
“She grew up in a refugee camp, and her perspective is different, but I would also respect a very serious attempt to understand the history of the Jewish people and the way that they have been demonized and murdered for their faith,” he said.
Latz said many of the community’s Jewish leaders weren’t convinced Omar’s rhetoric would change after they met with her.
“Most of us came out of that conversation very troubled by the answers we received. I was not convinced she was going to give a balanced approach to policy in the Middle East, and I was not convinced … where her heart is on these things,” he said.
At the time, however, they remained cautiously optimistic.
“We were glad she met with us, and we were hopeful she would be more careful about what she tweeted and she said if she got elected,” Latz said. “Frankly, I was hopeful she’d grow in office a little and understand the media platform she has. Instead, she keeps repeating her mistakes, if you can call them that.”