Ilhan Omar sidesteps question when asked what her relationship with local Jewish community is like

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., offered a vague response on what her relationship with the local Jewish community is like during a friendly interview with MSNBC host Chris Hayes

Omar, a member of the progressive “Squad” on Capitol Hill, has long been accused of anti-Semitism over remarks she has made over the years from her “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” tweet targeting the pro-Israel lobby to singling out Jewish donors in a mailer while accusing her Democratic primary opponent of being “in the pocket of Wall Street.” 

Appearing on his “Why Is This Happening?” podcast, Hayes confronted Omar about the backlash aimed toward her. 

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“One axis of criticism that you’ve received is around things you’ve said about either Israeli policy, the Israeli government — people have accused you of anti-Semitism in remarks that you’ve made or on Twitter about Benjamin Netanyahu,” Hayes began, referring to the former Israeli prime minister. “Obviously, you have a lot of Jewish folks in your district, you have a lot of synagogues, you have visited a very vibrant Jewish world in the Twin Cities. What have those relationships been like, what those conversations have been like?”

“Because I do know people that do have pretty progressive politics that I do think have been offended or have questioned your heart on these matters and I know that’s happened in your district. I’m curious what those conversations have been like,” Hayes added. 

UNITED STATES - JUNE 17: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., attends a bill enrollment ceremony for the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act in the Capitol on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – JUNE 17: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., attends a bill enrollment ceremony for the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act in the Capitol on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

“Yeah, I think communities are not monolithic,” Omar responded. “You know, there’s different ideologies people have. There’s different perspectives in different places where people come from and there are different relationships people have with me that sort of inform a positive reaction to anything I say or a negative reaction to anything that I say. And I think my relationships in that community and every community is along those lines.”

Omar then steered clear of discussing her relationship with the Jewish community by pivoting to the apparent clashes she has had with her own Somali community. 

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“I’m Somali and, you know, the Somali community in Minnesota, in my first two races, 95% of them didn’t vote for me,” Omar said. “And so I do know that the relationship that people have of you…”

“That’s wild,” Hayes reacted with a chuckle.

“Yeah, I know,” Omar agreed, causing Hayes to laugh. 

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01:  Christopher Hayes attends The Build Series at AOL HQ on November 1, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 01:  Christopher Hayes attends The Build Series at AOL HQ on November 1, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
(WireImage)

“And, you know, the perspectives people have are informed about on who they think you will be and, you know, what they expect for you to follow through with,” Omar said. “I think people will have an idea of the kind of policies they want you to advocate for and if you are not for those policies, everything you say will be seen only through that lens and everything you do will be seen through that lens. And I see it within my own community as a member of the Somali diaspora.”

“And so I don’t really take offense to it, I just know that, you know, we continue to have dialogues, we continue to have conversations. I am who I am. I believe in the things that I believe in and I will continue to push for a world that is more just, where people are not being oppressed and where everybody can live a life that’s dignified,” Omar added. 

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The congresswoman later suspected the reason she had ruffled feathers within the Somali community was that she defeated male Somali primary candidates and some didn’t believe it would be a “good example” to have the first Somali legislator “be a woman.” She indicated to Hayes that the Somali community by in large now strongly supports her. 

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