Representative Ilhan Omar, D, apologised for what many saw as anti-Semitic comments perpetuating the tired stereotype that Jews control politics with money.

Omar's mea culpa came shortly after House Democratic leaders called the first-term congresswoman's comments "deeply offensive" and urged her to apologise.

In a tweet, the Minnesota congresswoman said "anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on this painful history of anti-Semitic tropes".

In a statement issued earlier, the Democratic leadership said that legitimate criticism of Israel's policies and its treatment of Palestinians is protected by free speech, but Omar's use of "anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel's supporters is deeply offensive."


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she had spoken to Omar and that they've agreed "to move forward as we reject anti-Semitism in all forms".

The statement comes after two Jewish House Democrats, alarmed by what they consider anti-Semitic comments from new Muslim colleagues, urged Pelosi and her top lieutenants to denounce the divisive rhetoric and take action to stop it.

Yesterday, Omar, a new congresswoman, suggested on Twitter that American politicians are influenced by a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, setting off a firestorm of criticisms from both sides of the aisle.

Representatives Josh Gottheimer and Elaine Luria are gathering signatures on a letter asking Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer and other senior Democrats to confront Omar and Representative Rashida Tlaib, also a new congresswoman from Michigan, by "reiterating our rejection of anti-Semitism and our continued support for the State of Israel."

"As Jewish Members of Congress, we are deeply alarmed by recent rhetoric from certain members within our Caucus, including just last night, that has disparaged us and called into question our loyalty to our nation," the letter reads. "We urge you to join us in calling on each member of our Caucus to unite against anti-Semitism and hateful tropes and stereotypes."

Although the letter does not name Omar and Tlaib, its intention couldn't be clearer. In fact, Jewish lawmakers in recent weeks have met to discuss what they should do about their new colleagues, who openly criticise Israel and have made insensitive comments about Jews and Jewish Americans.

The last straw came yesterday, when Omar suggested in a tweet that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R, supported Israel only for campaign donations.

"It's all about the Benjamins baby," she wrote, an apparent reference to the 1997 Puff Daddy single featuring the Notorious B.I.G., Lil' Kim and The Lox.


Omar was responding to a tweet from Glenn Greenwald, a journalist who argued on Twitter that the GOP's move to equate Omar and Tlaib's criticism of Israel to the embrace of white supremacist rhetoric by Representative Steve King, R, "is obscene."

"In the US, we're allowed to criticise our own government: certainly foreign governments. The GOP House Leader's priorities are warped," he wrote.

When people asked what Omar meant by McCarthy's motives being "all about the Benjamins," she tweeted, "AIPAC," referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential pro-Israel lobbying group that has spent millions sending lawmakers on visits to the Jewish nation over the years.

The fallout continued with McCarthy promising an action from Republicans, though he did not say what that would be. The Anti-Defamation League also urged Pelosi to take action.

In their letter, Gottheimer and Luria acknowledge attempts to force a conversation on the matter, arguing that "we cannot remain silent."

"We must speak out when any Member — Democrat or Republican — uses harmful tropes and stereotypes, levels accusations of dual loyalty, or makes reckless statements like those yesterday," the two wrote. "All Members of Congress should reject anti-Semitism, just as we reject all forms of hatred, bigotry, and intolerance, and must denounce those who deny Israel's right to exist, including terrorist groups like Hizbollah and Hamas."

Some of the most ardent pro-Israel Democratic members of the House condemned the tweets, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Florida Representative Ted Deutch.

Nadler called the tweets "deeply disappointing and disturbing" and said Omar "appears to traffic in old anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money." Lawmakers can debate the influence of any particular group on policymaking, he said, but they must "be extremely careful not to tread into the waters of anti-Semitism or any other form of prejudice or hate."

Deutch, who has emerged as a leading Democratic voice against anti-Semitism, also said the tweets reflected "anti-Semitic tropes."

"The use of stereotypes and offensive rhetoric by Members of Congress, whether anti-Semitic or racist, must come to an end," he said. "They should never be a part of any conversation about the policies of Congress. They do not belong in any conversation, period."

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D, said that it was "shocking to hear a Member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of 'Jewish money.' " Omar serves on the Foreign Affairs panel.

"I fully expect that when we disagree on the Foreign Affairs Committee, we will debate policy on the merits and never question members' motives or resort to personal attacks," he said. "Criticism of American policy toward any country is fair game, but this must be done on policy grounds."

Omar's spokesman did not respond to requests for comment. Her spokesman told Politico yesterday that the tweets "speak for themselves." Tlaib's spokesman also has not responded to a request for comment.

This is the second time in as many weeks that Omar has become entangled in a Twitter controversy replete with emoji and snarky clapbacks centered on the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Omar, who supports the anti-Israel movement called BDS, for "boycott, divestment and sanctions," has persistently fought accusations of anti-Semitism by maintaining that her condemnation of the Israeli Government for its treatment of Palestinians does not equate to condemnation of Jewish people. She has also claimed to be the victim of GOP attacks seeking to misrepresent her position on Israel as anti-Semitic.

Some have defended Omar and Tlaib, contending that critics are conflating the congresswomen's condemnation of the Israeli Government with anti-Semitism.

"Accurately describing how the Israel lobby works is not anti-semitism," Ashley Feinberg, a HuffPost reporter, wrote in a tweet that was shared by Omar.

Women's March organiser Sophie Ellman-Golan accused McCarthy of attacking Omar and Tlaib "in the name of 'defending' Jews." She called out McCarthy for tweeting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

Omar's comments come on the heels of escalating Republican ire for the positions that she and Tlaib have put forth in Congress, joining a small group of lawmakers willing to challenge the United States' traditional support for Israeli policy.

McCarthy urged Democratic leaders to admonish Omar and Tlaib for their backing of the BDS movement, which is intended to put economic pressure on Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank.

AIPAC, which is not a political action committee, does not make campaign contributions to politicians, but its individual members can make donations, and the organisation spends millions on lobbying efforts for pro-Israel legislation every year.

In 2018, AIPAC spent more than US$3.5 million lobbying for pro-Israel measures, according to lobbying disclosure filings maintained by the Senate's Office of Public Records. Such legislation includes financial support for Israel and measures that would ban boycotts of Israel, including the BDS movement that Omar and Tlaib support.

Still, some who agree with Omar's position on Israel argued that she could criticise the Israeli government or the pro-Israel lobbying establishment without using stereotypes that Jews find offensive.

"No, criticism of Israel isn't anti-semitism, just like criticism of a Muslim majority state isn't islamophobia, by default," wrote Hend Amry, a Libyan American writer. "However racist or bigoted tropes can be intentionally or unintentionally triggered in making those critiques and yes that matters — it always matters."