Democrats in the Minneapolis area will decide on Tuesday if want first-term Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to continue to represent them for another two years, or prefer her primary challengers, one of whom, attorney Antone Melton-Meaux, has raised more than $3.6 million in campaign contributions.
According to the Minnesota Star-Tribune, much of the money coming into the coffers of both candidates has come from out of the state, from national supporters of one of the first Muslim women in Congress, and from many around the country who would like to see her leave the national stage.
On Monday, fellow Muslim and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison held a news conference condemning the fact that millions of dollars are being spent to unseat Omar by wealthy donors, but had nothing to say about wealthy donors who’ve been greasing the Congresswoman’s campaign wheels.
Melton-Meaux released a statement on Monday saying five times the amount of contributions came to his campaign from their Minneapolis-area district than did to his opponent. “Voters want to move past toxic politics of hate and division, which is rampant in Washington today,” the challenger said.
In 2012, Omar tweeted: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
When asked in an interview how she would respond to American Jews who found her remark offensive, Omar replied, “I don’t know how my comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans. My comments precisely are addressing what was happening during the Gaza War and I’m clearly speaking about the way the Israeli regime was conducting itself in that war.”
While in the Minnesota legislature, Omar was critical of the Israeli government and opposed a state law intended to restrict the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. She compared BDS to people who engaged in boycotts of apartheid in South Africa.
In an exchange with the journalist Glenn Greenwald in February 2019, Omar tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” in reference to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Democratic leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn condemned the tweet, and the Democratic House leadership released a statement accusing Omar of “engaging in deeply offensive anti-Semitic tropes.”
On February 27, 2019, Omar said: “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” The statements were quickly criticized by senior Democrats as drawing on anti-Semitic accusations of Jewish dual loyalty. The reference to dual loyalty is particularly ironic in the case of the Somalia-born Ilhan Omar.
On May 20, 2019, protesters gathered in Times Square in New York City to call for Omar’s removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In August 2019, Omar and Representative Rashida Tlaib were banned from entering Israel. AIPAC released a statement saying that it disagreed with Israel’s move, suggesting that Omar and Tlaib should have been allowed to “experience Israel firsthand.” So at least the Benjamins are on her side…
All this engagement in extracurricular activity – and Omar has made other enemies besides the Jews – was part of the reason why Melton-Meaux decided it was time to unseat her. “She’s not grounded in this district, she’s not keeping the residents involved in her decision making, she misses votes,” he told district residents. “That’s not the kind of leader people want.”