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US Muslim lawmaker sorry for tweet that sparked anti-Semitism row

13 February 2019 AFP, Washington


Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women in the US Congress, "unequivocally" apologized Monday after suggesting US support for Israel is fueled by money from a pro-Israel lobby group.
The Minnesota freshman has faced criticism for weeks over her positions on the Jewish state, but it boiled over late Sunday after she reacted to a Republican critic in a tweet.
"It's all about the Benjamins baby," Omar replied, referring to American $100 bills featuring the likeness of Benjamin Franklin.
When a user asked who Omar believes is paying US politicians to support Israel, the former Somali refugee tweeted a one-word response - "AIPAC!" - referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The exchanges triggered an uproar, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi castigating Omar and demanding an "immediate" apology for using "anti-Semitic tropes" in her tweet, and several Democrats and Republicans assailing their colleague for her language.
Omar obliged, issuing a statement acknowledging that anti-Semitism is "real" and expressing gratitude to colleagues "who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes."
"We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity," she said.
In response to a tweet on Sunday from a journalist questioning why US political leaders always defend Israel, Ms Omar used a slang term for $100 bills, writing: "it's all about the Benjamins baby."
When challenged where she thought such money was coming from, the 36-year-old Somali-American tweeted back: "Aipac."
Aipac spends millions of dollars a year lobbying lawmakers and the US federal government to adopt pro-Israel policies, according to campaign-finance monitors.

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