Freshman congresswoman Ilhan Omar was a frequent target at this year’s American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, drawing stern and, at times, veiled rebuke from Democratic and Republican leadership, as well as the Prime Minister of Israel himself, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Minnesota Democrat, however, struck a defiant tone on Twitter and on the steps of Capitol Hill, where she spoke to reporters about the criticism hurled at her during the annual event.
“It’s been fascinating to see such a powerful conference be focused and so fearful of a freshman member of Congress,” Omar told reporters, according to CNN. “I hope that they figure out a way to not allow me to have a permanent residency in their heads.”
Omar, one of the two Muslim women currently in the U.S. House of Representatives, has been in the hot seat ever since accusing AIPAC, a prominent pro-Israel lobbying group, of buying U.S. lawmakers’ support for Israel. The most controversial of Omar’s criticisms of Israel and its lobbying efforts was a February tweet in which she said politicians’ support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins, baby.”
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She also raised concerns about “the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
Omar later apologized for and clarified her remarks, which some viewed as anti-Semitic.
“From this Benjamin, it’s not about the benjamins,” Netanyahu said in a satellite address to the conference on Tuesday. And apparently, that’s not all he had to say.
Journalist Nathan Guttman pointed out that Netanyahu’s speech mentioned “in one word” the Pittsburgh massacre at a synagogue last year. “Ilhan Omar’s comments get an entire paragraph,” he said.
Omar homed in on Netanyahu’s apparent hypocrisy on Tuesday morning, referring to corruption charges the prime minister is facing on bribery and breach of trust. Among the allegations: that Netanyahu accepted $300,000 worth of champagne and cigar gifts from his billionaire friends.
Omar kept that same energy later this afternoon, retweeting Guttman’s observation in an extensive thread criticizing Netanyahu, his allies, and his priorities.
“White supremacist violence is on the rise globally. Right-wing extremists killed more people in the U.S. in 2018 than any year since 1995. Anti-Semitic violence accounted for 58% of religious hate crimes. Yet the topic Netanyahu chose to focus on was…me,” Omar tweeted.
“Netanyahu is in an alliance with Otzma Yehudit, referred to as the ‘KKK of Israel,’” Omar continued. “Its leaders were members of a foreign terror organization and were involved in attempts to target Yitzhak Rabin. Yet Netanyahu chose to focus on … me.”
“I—like so many others—have not criticized AIPAC because of its membership or the country it advocates for,” she said. “I’ve criticized it because it has repeatedly opposed efforts to guarantee peace and human rights in the region.”
U.S. politicians who took the stage at AIPAC missed the point. Vice President Mike Pence accused Omar of trafficking and repeating anti-Semitic tropes, adding that “anti-Semitism has no place in the Congress of the United States of America.”
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer appeared to echo some of Pence’s comments, though he didn’t mention Omar by name.
“When someone says that being Jewish and supporting Israel means you’re not loyal to America, we must call it out,” Schumer told the conference.
Omar, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia, kept her focus on Twitter to Israel’s policies, urging readers not to accept “a status quo of perpetual armed conflict and occupation”—a reference to Israel’s current aggression towards its neighbor, Palestine, and the Palestinians living within Israel’s borders.
“We must stand for universal values of human rights—and the international institutions designed to uphold them—wherever they may be violated,” Omar tweeted.