The Biden administration’s pick to serve as special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism once criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar‘s comments on Israel.
The administration announced its nomination Friday of Deborah Lipstadt, a Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, for the role, which comes with the rank of ambassador.
In March 2019, Lipstadt waded in on the debate over comments Omar made the previous month in which she accused pro-Israel Americans of having an ‘allegiance to a foreign country,’ when Lipstadt was asked whether her statement constituted anti-Semitism.
‘Sadly, I believe it is,’ she told an interviewer with Jewish Insider. ‘Dual loyalties is part of the textbook accusations against Jews. They are cosmopolitans, globalists, not loyal to their country or fellow citizens.’
Deborah Lipstadt (left) the Biden administration’s pick for special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism criticized Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar in 2019 for her comments critical of Israel, saying they relied on ‘anti-Semitic tropes’
Omar had been speaking during panel discussion regarding the firestorm of anti-Semitism allegations made against her for past comments she had made critical of Israel.
‘I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,’ she said.
In her interview, Lipstadt broached the subject of whether, taken together, Omar’s Israel comments were anti-Semitic, which the Minnesota Representative had denied, or simply anti-Zionist.
‘She may think she is only criticizing Israel and its policies but one cannot ignore the fact that she is relying on traditional anti-Semitic tropes to do so,’ she told the outlet.
‘What it suggests to me is that, at best, these people exist in a place where antisemitism is out in the ethosphere; they hear it, breath it in, and don’t even recognize it as antisemitism.’
Omar had faced repeated controversy early in her tenure over tweets that critics regarded as anti-Semitic, including one from 2012 in which she said Israel had ‘hypnotized the world,’ and another shortly after taking office in which she suggested that Jewish lobbying groups had been buying off US politicians
Lipstadt will need to be confirmed by the Senate before taking on the role. The Jewish Insider interview was first reported on by the Washington Free Beacon.
Omar had faced a barrage of accusations of anti-Semitism early in her tenure after taking office in January, 2019, first for a 2012 tweet in which she wrote: ‘Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.’
She later apologized, tweeting in late January, 2019: ‘I heard from Jewish orgs. that my use of the word “hypnotize” and the ugly sentiment it holds was offensive. It’s now apparent to me that I spent lots of energy putting my 2012 tweet in context and little energy is disavowing the anti-Semitic trope I unknowingly used, which is unfortunate and offensive.’
Then, in early February of that year, she broached further controversy when tweeted that US support for Israel was ‘all about the Benjamins,’ and suggested that AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobby was buying off American officials.
Omar would later apologize for the tweets
She later deleted that tweet and issued a statement that said: ‘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.’
That March the House of Representatives, including Omar’s own colleagues, passed a resolution that condemned anti-Semitism as well as all forms of hate speech, and was clearly aimed at her comments.
More recently, Omar once again found herself at the center of controversy, when in June more than 200 American rabbis sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi , condemning her for her failure to reprimand Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and calling on her to remove Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
‘We reiterate that the mob attacks on American Jews today are directly attributable to the rhetoric of Rep. Omar and those who stand with her within and beyond Congress,’ the letter, obtained by Fox News, read.
‘To protect Jewish Americans and, moreover, safeguard the integrity of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, we thus insist upon the removal of Rep. Omar from her appointment,’ the rabbis, members of the Coalition of Jewish Values, wrote.
Their letter came more than a week after Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, came under fire for a controversial tweet, in which she said: ‘We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity.
More recently a group of more than 200 rabbis wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (right) in June, condemning her for her failure to reprimand Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar (left) for her anti-Israel tweet and pressuring Pelosi to remove Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In the letter, the rabbis claimed Omar’s statements would lead to more anti-Semitic attacks
‘We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.’
She later tried to clarify the statement, saying she did not mean to equate Israel and the United States with terrorist organizations.
Speaker Pelosi was asked about the Democratic leadership’s response to the controversial tweet, and said she would not take any retaliatory action against Omar.
‘I think that she clarified her remarks, and we accept that, and she has a point that she wanted to make and she has a right to make that point,’ she said.
The letter comes more than a week after Omar likened U.S. and Israeli actions to the ‘unthinkable atrocities committed’ by terrorist groups like Hamas and the Taliban
‘There’s some unease about how it was interpreted,’ Pelosi continued. ‘She made her clarification.’
But, the rabbis argued in their letter that more should have been done.
‘Rep. Omar’s unfounded assertion that Israel committed “unthinkable atrocities” by defending lives against an openly genocidal terror organization is not merely offensive, it is pernicious – for it is grounded in the blood libel and the calumny that Jews poisoned wells during the Black Death,’ the letter said.
‘Throughout the generations, rivers of blood have been shed by mobs motivated by the incendiary myth of the murderous Jew,’ it continued. ‘Without anything resembling a forceful response from the Democratic Party, tolerance of anti-Jewish hatred has proliferated.’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she will take no further action against Rep. Ilhan Omar for comparing the US and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban – and insisted she has ‘the right to make that point’
The 212 American rabbis, as well as another dozen from other countries – including Israel and Canada, said they had previously warned Pelosi about putting Omar on the Foreign Affairs Committee in 2019, but they were accused of racism.
‘When 12 Jewish Democrats in the House rightfully denounced Rep. Omar’s abhorrent bigotry, the Congressional Progressive Caucus stooped to playing identity politics, cravenly claiming that the motivation for her condemnation was opposition to Rep. Omar as a “Black, Muslim woman” rather than her anti-Semitic animus.’
They also noted that they had previously called out Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green for her ‘insensitive comments’ about Jewish people, but argued that Omar’s statements were more concerning amid a rise in anti-Semitism.