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Common Dreams, February 11, 2019

Progressive critics on Monday condemned a statement by Democratic congressional leaders—including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi—who demanded an apology from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) regarding statements she made about the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Among those critics was healthcare activist Ady Barkan, who said he was "deeply disappointed" in the Speaker's "failure" on the matter.

"When AIPAC and its army try to silence criticism of the immoral, illegal, inhumane occupation by screaming about anti-Semitism and claiming that nobody may ever talk about how the Israel lobby, uses money to build power," Barkan declared, "don't fall for their bullshit."

And while Omar on Monday afternoon did "unequivocally" apologize for a pair of tweets Sunday night that some registered as containing "anti-Semitic tropes," she reaffirmed her belief that powerful lobbying interests—including AIPAC, the fossil fuel industry, and the NRA—remain "problematic" in U.S. politics.

"Listening and learning," Omar declared in a tweet, "but standing strong."

Even while many Jewish Americans and other progressives defended Omar from an onslaught of attacks over her tweets—because, as one noted, "accurately describing how the Israel lobby works is not anti-Semitism"—the freshman congresswoman said in her Monday statement that "We always have to be willing to step back and think through criticism."

She added, "Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole."

Omar's apology for her comments came shortly after she was rebuked by members of her own Democratic Party, led by Pelosi.

"We are and will always be strong supporters of Israel in Congress because we understand that our support is based on shared values and strategic interests," the House Democratic leadership said in a rare joint statement. "Legitimate criticism of Israel's policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate that the United States and Israel share."

Such a statement, of course, immediately drew outrage from human rights advocates and progressives. ...
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