House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the entire Democratic leadership on Monday condemned Rep. Ilhan Omar for suggesting that Israel’s allies in American politics were motivated by money rather than principle, an extraordinary rebuke of a House freshman in the vanguard of the party’s left flank.
The Minnesota congresswoman’s Sunday evening tweet — “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” a reference to $100 bills — drew immediate denunciations from Republicans and fellow Democrats, especially Jewish members of Congress. Within hours, Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the leadership issued a joint statement calling Omar’s “use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters” deeply offensive and insisted on an apology.
In response, Omar said her intention was never to offend “my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. . . . This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
The firestorm exposed deep divisions within the Democratic Party over the unquestioned U.S. support of Israel, pitting long-standing Democratic backers of the Jewish state against the party’s newest lawmakers and several 2020 presidential candidates who have spoken out in favor of Palestinian rights.
The episode sparked recriminations inside the party at a moment when Republicans are seeking to use unequivocal support for Israel as a political litmus test. It also comes as Pelosi seeks to keep her caucus united against President Trump and the GOP while hard-left lawmakers try to push the party away from the center on foreign policy, climate change, immigration and other issues.
In a sign of potential clashes, Omar said she would not change her views of the “problematic role of lobbyists in our politics” after the backlash to her tweets. “It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it,” she said.