Rep. Ilhan Omar wins Democratic primary, US media projects

Rep. Ilhan Omar wins Democratic primary, US media projects


Congresswoman who tweeted that Israel “hypnotized the world” wins Democratic primary in Minnesota.

U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN) / (photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)

US Rep. Ilhan Omar has won her district’s Democratic primary election, US media projected Wednesday morning, beating out her challenger, Antone Melton-Meaux. If correct, she will now go on to run for reelection in a bid to secure a second term in Congress.

Melton-Meaux, who described himself as a pro-Israel progressive, made Omar’s comments on Israel a key part of his campaign

Omar had the support of some local and progressive Jews who were excited about supporting a member of “The Squad,” a quartet of prominent progressive freshmen congresswomen that also includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.

Just a few days before the primary, a surprising op-ed appeared on the blogging platform Medium: a Jewish Omar supporter from her Minnesota district, Jeremy Iggers, not only said he was supporting Omar but explained why he thinks she is good for the Jews.

“… Jews are facing a second reckoning — questioning our cherished myths about Israel and coming to grips with its reality of racism and intolerance, the brutality of the occupation, and the profound corruption of its leaders,” he wrote. “By taking on the Israel lobby, Ilhan Omar and Bernie [Sanders] and a few other brave souls have made possible a more honest conversation about Israel. That’s the part that is really good for the Jews — and also very difficult,”

But from most Jews, she has received criticism for antisemitic and anti-Israel remarks.

Upon the release of the race projections, the Republican Jewish Council released a statement saying it “deplores the loss by Antone Melton-Meaux in the Democratic primary in MN-5. While Melton-Meaux is a progressive Democrat and we disagree strongly with him on any number of issues, he would have been a welcome change from Rep. Ilhan Omar and her virulently anti-Israel and antisemitic positions.

“The national Democrat Party’s lurch to the left in recent years has been extremely troubling, and Omar’s election in 2018 was one example of the seriousness of this trend,” RJC continued.

The organization accused the Jewish Democratic Council of America of having failed its members “and our entire community by abdicating their role and staying silent about this primary, when they were in a position to speak with authority about antisemitism in the Democrat Party.”
In 2012, before joining Congress, Omar tweeted that Israel “hypnotized the world.” As a new member of Congress, with the tweet under renewed scrutiny, she apologized.

But in February 2019, Omar responded to a tweet from Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican who had called for action to be taken over Omar’s past statements suggesting that Israel policy in Congress was driven by money.

“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she wrote in a tweet that raised eyebrows.

Asked to clarify what she meant, Omar responded “AIPAC!”

AIPAC, or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is the largest pro-Israel lobby in the United States. Critics said that Omar was invoking two anti-Semitic tropes: again that Israel exerts too much political pressure on U.S. government, and that money was inherently involved in that pull. Many took her words to mean that Omar believed AIPAC pays American politicians to be pro-Israel.

The comments earned her national rebuke, including from many of her Democratic colleagues.

In a subsequent op-ed for The Washington Post, Omar defended her critiques of Israel as calling for a more “balanced” policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but she also called Israel the “historical homeland” of Jews.

But when she and Tlaib tried to visit Israel on a congressional trip, they were denied entry. A 2017 Israeli law entitles the state to deny entry to boycott Israel activists. It was the first time that the Jewish state refused to allow in members of Congress.

Despite this, Omar still received considerable support from high profile members of the Democratic Party, including from Bernie Sanders, who she endorsed vocally during his presidential campaign. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also endorsed Omar, meaning that anyone providing resources to her opponent would have been working against the Democratic leadership, a potentially costly move.

She also enjoyed the support of the state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, including her predecessor in the 5th District, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Omar and Tlaib made history as the first Muslim women to serve in Congress when they won in 2018. At the time, Omar received more votes in total than any new member of Congress and outperformed 428 congressional districts out of 435, according to an analysis from the congresswoman’s campaign team, which was reported on by CNN.

JTA contributed to this report.

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