05:16 GMT +323 March 2019
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    Ilhan Omar: Anti-Zionist or Anti-Semite?

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    Andrew Korybko
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    Newly elected Somali-American congresswoman Ilhan Omar has generated an intense debate in her adopted homeland after her controversial comments about the role of pro-Israeli lobbyists.

    She published two tweets last month alleging that the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (popularly known by its abbreviation as AIPAC) pays government officials to support Israel, which she soon apologized for after coming under intense criticism from her own party for propagating what many decried as anti-Semitic stereotypes. Some say that her apology wasn't sincere, however, since she later implied that the pro-Israeli lobby is "push[ing] for allegiance to a foreign country", which also landed her in hot water with her critics.

    In Omar's defense, her supporters say that she's an anti-Zionist and not an anti-Semite, with the difference being that the former is against the political ideology of Zionism upon which the State of Israel was founded while the latter is outright hatred against the Jewish people and their religion. She also doubled down and insisted that her comments were aimed at tackling the taboo topic of lobbying interests in general and weren't intended to offend Jewish Americans. Still, Omar's opponents say that anti-Zionism has nowadays become a euphemism for anti-Semitism and speculate that the congresswoman willingly blew a dog whistle that she knew would convey hateful sentiments about that community.

    The scandal has since taken on epic proportions and grew from being about just a couple of controversial comments to a full-on discussion about the possibility of institutionalized anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party and the prevailing influence that powerful lobbying groups might have over America's domestic and international policies. Whether she intended to or not, Omar opened a can of worms and consequently became one of the country's most politically polarizing figures, with her supporters lauding her as a brave advocate of free speech unafraid of taking on taboo institutional interests while her opponents see her as a shameless hatemonger of thinly veiled anti-Semitic stereotypes.

    Andrew Korybko is joined by Casey Washer from Ohio, who has bachelors in Russian, and teaches Israeli history and Hebrew at a Jewish private school and Abdimalik Sh Ali Ahmed, Somali-American political commentator from Ohio.

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    Tags:
    anti-zionism, Anti-Semitism, American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Ilhan Omar, United States
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