As Ilhan Omar faces another censure resolution, challengers aim to replace her

Rep. Don Bacon said he was introducing the resolution because of Omar's remarks at Columbia University on April 25, when she called some Jewish students "pro-genocide."

Rep. Ilhan Omar speaks at a press conference on Capitol Hill in January 2023. (Shutterstock)

As House Republicans prepared a second censure resolution on Tuesday against Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) over alleged anti-Semitism, some Jewish voters in her district were growing uncomfortable, and her Democratic primary challengers used the moment to remind them they can choose someone else to represent them.

It may be tricky for any one person to represent the deeply diverse district that has one of Minnesota’s highest concentrations of Jewish voters and a sizable Muslim population. Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, which Ms. Omar has represented since 2019, is home to 11 synagogues and 19 mosques.

In the March presidential primary, 19 percent of Minnesota’s Democratic voters statewide went to the polls to vote “uncommitted” to express dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden’s not calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. In Ms. Omar’s district, nearly 32 percent of the Democratic voters checked “uncommitted.”

Bringing the censure resolution against Ms. Omar, one of the first Muslims to be elected to Congress, was Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who said he was introducing the legislation because of Ms. Omar’s remarks at Columbia University on April 25, when she called some Jewish students “pro-genocide.”

She also recently visited a protest encampment at the University of Minnesota, which is in her district, and gave a similar speech. Ms. Omar was at Columbia University in support of her daughter, who is a student there. Her daughter was among the pro-Palestinian protesters Ms. Omar addressed.

“I think it is really unfortunate that people don’t care about the fact that all Jewish kids should be kept safe,” Ms. Omar said to the protesters. “We should not have to tolerate anti-Semitism or bigotry for all Jewish students, whether they’re pro-genocide or anti-genocide.”

Her spokeswoman has told other media outlets that Ms. Omar clearly condemned anti-Semitism and bigotry for all Jewish students. But the use of the word pro-genocide triggered the latest censure action by Republicans. There have been others, all related to Ms. Omar’s rhetoric about Israel and the Jewish people.

“Once again, we’re in an unfortunate and familiar cycle,” Democrat congressional candidate Don Samuels told the Epoch Times in an email. “Congresswoman Ilhan Omar says something inflammatory and offensive. Republicans, with repeat offenders in their ranks, weaponize it. Rinse and repeat.”

Mr. Samuels is challenging Ms. Omar in the primary. A former member of the Minneapolis City Council, he lost to Ms. Omar by 2 percentage points in the 2022 primary.

In 2019, Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) introduced a resolution “condemning the anti-Semitic comments” of Ms. Omar from Minnesota.

The resolution recounted comments she had made. For example, in 2012, Ms. Omar posted in a tweet, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

And in 2018, Ms. Omar posted, “Drawing attention to the apartheid Israeli regime is far from hating Jews.”

At the time, Democrat Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi denounced the statements, saying, “We condemn these remarks and call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize.”

Ms. Omar posted an apology on Feb. 11, 2019. “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me of the painful history of Anti-Semitic tropes,” she posted. “My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. 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. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”

In February, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) introduced a censure resolution for remarks Ms. Omar made in a Jan. 27 speech to a group of Minneapolis Somalis in their native tongue. The speech was widely reported as Ms. Omar saying the U.S. government will only do what U.S. Somalis tell it to do as long as she is in Congress.

Ms. Omar later said on social media that her words were taken out of context and translated incorrectly and posted what she said were her actual words.

Mr. Samuels sees a solution, and it’s in the hands of voters.

“Our democracy offers the best way to address the harm done by these extremists. It’s not censure; it’s defeat at the ballot box,” he said.

“This country needs leaders who can heal our divisions, not pry at them. Let’s elect them to serve.”

Jacklyn Rogers, congressional communication director for Ms. Omar, did not respond to The Epoch Times’ requests for comment. Neither did Ms. Omar’s campaign spokesperson.

Ms. Omar has made numerous pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel posts on social media.

“It’s World Press Freedom Day,” she posted on May 3. “Thinking of the brave journalists especially in Gaza who have paid the highest price, their lives, to share the stories of Palestinians with the world. May we always remember the record number of journalists killed in Gaza by the IDF,” she wrote, referring to the Israel Defense Forces.

Democrat congressional candidate Timothy L. Peterson, who is also challenging Ms. Omar in the primary, says constituents in the district are troubled by her leadership.

“I think most people that live up to the core values of the [Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party] that Hubert Humphrey created to guard against communism and anti-Semitism are absolutely unhappy with Ilhan Omar as a representative.”

Right now, he says, many Jewish people in Minneapolis are very scared.

The Epoch Times had phone conversations with numerous members of the Jewish community in St. Louis Park, one of the most highly concentrated areas of Jews in Minnesota. Most were fearful of speaking publicly. Each said anti-Semitism is on the rise in their area, which is part of Congressional District 5.

“Tyranny is when the loud voices of a few impose their will on many. Only 55,000 of the over 700,000 people in our district voted for Ilhan. The majority of the rest of those folks are very unhappy with her,” Mr. Peterson said.

Jerry Ribnick is a progressive Democrat and a member of the Jewish community. He has hosted political fundraisers for Democratic candidates in his St. Louis Park home from time to time, although Ms. Omar was never one of the candidates who benefited from those fundraisers.

Yet there is no denying that Ms. Omar has political charisma.

“She had such great promise when she came in,” said Mr. Ribnick. “But she certainly is not representing me and the Jewish community. I’m not sure who she’s really representing. Because she’s spent so much time trying to garner headlines and create publicity for herself rather than for the district.

“From the beginning, she was, at best, lukewarm in supporting the Jewish community. And I would say that’s being generous.”

Mr. Ribnick was open to supporting her until she spoke at his synagogue during her first campaign.

“It felt very disingenuous that she was trying to walk a very fine line, if not out and out misrepresenting herself,” he said. “You could certainly feel the hostility, I would say, to the Jewish community already.”

He said he has noticed that she criticizes Israel disproportionately compared with how she speaks about certain repressive regimes.

While he did not vote for her the first time, some of his peers did because there was an optimism that she was going to be much different than how she has turned out.

“Some of her positions with respect to the Jewish community, in particular Israel, and really, some of the anti-American language she uses is very discouraging,” said Mr. Ribnick.

He said that Ms. Omar’s visit to Columbia University to support students who were violating the school’s standards and encouraging them to create further disruption did nothing to help the district or the country.

Mr. Ribnick is throwing his support behind Mr. Samuels.

Republican challenger

Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District is so deeply blue that the race will likely be decided in the primary.

But there is one Republican in the race. Former journalist and Iraqi American Dalia Al-Aqidi will advance to the General Election ballot and face the Democratic winner. She describes herself as a pro-Israel Muslim and says Ms. Omar doesn’t speak for all Muslims.

Ms. Al-Aqidi told The Epoch Times she has met with many members of the Jewish community in the district, and most tend to vote Democrat, although, over the years, many have kept their party affiliation but decided not to vote for Ms. Omar in the primaries.

“The overwhelming sense I’ve been getting since Oct. 7 is shock and betrayal,” Ms. Al-Aqidi said in an email. “So many of them have stood with fellow Democrats for common social justice causes, yet in their time of need, they have been utterly abandoned. Many are waking up to the idea that identity politics and the use of intersectionality and DEI as organizing principles means that Jewish people are wrongly considered white, colonial oppressors.”

The historically left-leaning Jewish community is starting to see that identity politics isn’t about respecting and understanding our differences, Ms. Al-Aqidi said. It is about punishing people for those differences.

“It pits neighbor against neighbor and tears at the very fabric of our country. I left that behind in the Middle East, and I have no desire to see it replicated here. So, to use a phrase you often hear on the left, this problem is systemic in the progressive brand of politics.”

This article was originally published in The Epoch Times. 


Beth Brelje | The Epoch Times

Beth Brelje is an award-winning Epoch Times reporter who covers U.S. politics, state news, and national issues.

Ms. Brelje previously worked in radio for 20 years and after moving to print, worked at Pocono Record and Reading Eagle. Send her your story ideas: Orgu.oerywr@rcbpugvzrf.hf