Ilhan Omar (DFL-Minneapolis) was 20 at the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and has never been credibly accused of plotting anything... except graduating from North Dakota State University and getting started on a fast-track political career that's seen her unseat a longtime Minneapolis legislator and, after a single term, replace Keith Ellison in Congress.
Quite a career, and she's accomplished these feats despite 1) war in her home country, 2) a refugee camp in another (Kenya), 3) having her patriotism questioned, 4) sexism, 5) racism, 6) receiving near-constant criticism, and (no kidding) frequent death threats.
That Omar keeps raising her hand and sticking her neck out after all that speaks to her character and will, both of which appear to have been forged in steel. Omar was back at it again last week, attempting to walk a careful line about the United States' tight ties with Israel, and the influence that country has on American foreign relations.
Just a couple weeks after being forced to apologize for similar statements, Omar's second attempt was similarly received (by some, at least), per the Pioneer Press, which quoted Omar speaking at a bookstore event in Washington, D.C.:
“So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
Omar's plea for a more open discussion was rejected by Steve Heungs, a former assistant attorney general here in Minnesota, who said it invoked the same language formerly used to question Jewish citizens' patriotism. Heungs flatly referred to Omar's statement as "anti-Semitic," and said he and others are "exasperated" by an "insult" like what Omar said at the bookstore.
Take whichever side of that debate you like, and feel free to change your mind later. This is America.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Omar's still facing horrifying rhetoric from the other side on a daily basis. On Friday, a display in the West Virginia state Capitol appeared to connect Omar to the 9/11 terror attacks. Things soon got "heated," according to NBC News, with outraged Democrats calling on Republicans to apologize for linking a freshly minted member of Congress with the worst episode of violence in this country's recent history.
The resulting shitshow was characterized by West Virginia House Speaker Roger Hanshaw as "a series of incidents," maybe the worst euphemism for what's going on since that one guy described the internet as "a series of tubes." Hanshaw, who recently compared LGBTQ rights groups to the Ku Klux Klan, is both bigoted and an idiot, clearly, which is a shame, especially if you live in West Virginia.
Hopefully you don't, though if you do, we'd recommend you consider moving to Minnesota. We've made a lot of progress here, both economically and socially, and our political outcomes and policy results reflect that a little more each day.
As for Omar's Israel opinions, she's not backing down this time. (She declined interview requests to the Pioneer Press, but has otherwise been consistently outspoken on Twitter.) Here are some tweets she issued Sunday in response to U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who'd said Omar's thoughts about Israel are "hurtful."
For now, we're content to do what many in America wish wasn't possible: Let Ilhan Omar speak up for herself.
Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman! I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee. The people of the 5th elected me to serve their interest. I am sure we agree on that! https://t.co/gglAS4FVJW— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 3, 2019
Being opposed to Netanyahu and the occupation is not the same as being anti-Semitic. I am grateful to the many Jewish allies who have spoken out and said the same.— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 3, 2019
We must be willing to combat hate of all kinds while also calling out oppression of all kinds. I will do my best to live up to that. I hope my colleagues will join me in doing the same.— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 3, 2019