JCRC Responds to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Tweet Acknowledging Her Use of Anti-Semitic References

January 22, 2019

Minneapolis, MN — Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement on Representative Ilhan Omar’s acknowledgment that her 2012 tweet employed language that was anti-Semitic and offensive:

“The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) appreciates Rep. Ilhan Omar is taking a step in the right direction in building trust with her Jewish constituents by acknowledging that the ‘ugly sentiment’ in her 2012 tweet accusing Israel of having ‘hypnotized the world’ to carry out ‘evil’ is ‘unfortunate and offensive.’

“Prior to this acknowledgment, the JCRC expressed its dismay to Rep. Omar’s office after she responded to CNN’s Poppy Harlow question about the 2012 tweet by inexplicably claiming ‘I don’t know how my comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans.’ As Bari Weiss articulated this weekend in The New York Times, the language which Rep. Omar used evokes the ‘conspiracy theory of the Jew as the hypnotic conspirator, the duplicitous manipulator, the sinister puppeteer [and] is one with ancient roots and a bloody history.’  Indeed, as we’ve seen from Charlottesville to Pittsburgh, this ancient libel of Jewish hypnosis, manipulation, and control has been used by white supremacists and others to justify their hateful actions and to frighten and endanger our community. 

“Over the past few days, the JCRC engaged directly with Rep. Omar and her office, including shortly before last night’s acknowledgment.  We hope Rep. Omar’s follow-up tweet stating ‘[i]t’s now apparent to me that I spent lots of energy putting my 2012 tweet in context and little energy is disavowing the anti-semitic trope I unknowingly used, which is unfortunate and offensive,’ indicates that Rep. Omar is committed to engaging with and listening to the diverse voices and experiences of her Jewish constituents. 

“We also recognize that because of Rep. Omar’s acknowledgment many of her followers on social media may better appreciate why stereotypical descriptions of Jews are dangerous and wrong, as they are in describing any other group. We encourage Rep. Omar to use her voice to speak out against anti-Semitism, in all its forms, across multiple platforms.  

“As the public affairs voice for Minnesota’s Jewish community the JCRC is committed to maintaining our respectful and honest dialogue with Rep. Omar.  These conversations are essential in building greater understanding, trust, and partnership in areas of importance to our Jewish community and the people of the 5th Congressional District.  For example, we are deeply troubled by Rep. Omar’s support for the ‘BDS’ movement, which seeks to delegitimize and isolate Israel, and which rejects Israel’s sovereignty and the Jewish people’s right to exercise self-determination in our ancestral homeland. 

“We will continue to advocate for Israel’s duty to defend its citizens from terror groups like Hamas, which was indiscriminately firing rockets at Israeli civilians when Rep. Omar took to Twitter in November 2012 to call Israel’s actions ‘evil.’ Given the existential threats that Israel faces on multiple fronts, Israel has not just the right, but a duty to protect its citizens from violence.

“In summary, we appreciate Rep. Omar’s public acknowledgment of the pain caused by her words, and we look forward to continuing to engage with her on these and other issues of importance to her Jewish constituents and the community at-large.”

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As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights anti-Semitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.