Ilhan Omar calls Israel ‘human rights abuser’ amid funding battle

Rep. Ilhan Omar said Wednesday that Congress must not approve arms sales to nations accused of human rights violations, one day after she and other far-left House lawmakers forced the removal of $1 billion meant for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system from a massive government funding bill.

“We sold $175 billion in weapons last year—more than anyone in the world—to some of the worst human right abusers in the world,” Omar tweeted Wednesday. “Here’s an idea: don’t sell arms to anyone who violates human rights.”

A spokesman for Omar claimed to The Post Wednesday evening that the tweet was not meant to accuse Israel of committing human rights violations.

Rather, he said, Omar was promoting a bill she introduced months earlier that would create a commission to help determine which nations should receive US aid and weaponry.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced Tuesday that he would bring a standalone bill to the House floor that would restore the Iron Dome funding, hours after it was removed from a continuing resolution that would keep the government operating through Dec. 3, avoiding a shutdown

Hoyer said on the House floor Tuesday evening that the measure would be brought up for a vote by the end of this week under suspension of the chamber’s rules — meaning debate will be limited and the bill would require two-thirds approval to pass.

“I was for that,” Hoyer said of appropriating funding for Iron Dome. “I’m still for it, we ought to do it.” Before he came to the floor, the majority leader reassured Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid that the removal of the provision represented only a “technical postponement,” according to Lapid, and that the funding would be restored soon.

Omar’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post about Hoyer’s maneuver.

Moderate Democrats expressed frustration with their progressive colleagues over the move to strip the funding, with some pointing out that Iron Dome is not an offensive weapon, but rather a defensive mechanism used to protect Israelis from rocket attacks by Islamist militants.

Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip on May 12, 2021.
REUTERS/Amir Cohen

“[T]o target Iron Dome now means the issue isn’t a genuine concern over the system, but rather the desire to attack something – anything – related to the State of Israel,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich) tweeted Tuesday. “[I]t’s devoid of substance and irresponsible.”

Omar, the first Somali-American elected to Congress, has a history of persistent criticisms of Israel — some of which have veered into outright anti-Semitism.

Representative Elissa Slotkin
Rep. Elissa Slotkin argues it’s “irresponsible” for Congress to not fund Israel’s Iron Dome system.
Shannon Finney/Getty Images

In 2019, she tweeted that the relationship between the United States and Israel is “all about the Benjamins.” When pressed on who she thought was paying American politicians to support Israel, Omar replied “AIPAC,” referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The congresswoman later deleted the tweet and offered an apology.

Weeks later, Omar responded to critics who demanded she be kicked off the House Foreign Affairs Committee by tweeting: “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”, causing a fresh uproar and accusations that she was accusing Jews of “dual loyalty” to Israel and the United States.

In May of this year, during the most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Omar joined a procession of far-left lawmakers who broke with the Biden administration to denounce the Israeli military’s conduct on the House floor.

In her remarks, Omar condemned then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “a far-right ethno-nationalist” and asked: “How can we pay lip service to a Palestinian state, yet do absolutely nothing to make that state a reality while the Israeli government we fund tries to make it impossible?”

The following month, Omar tweeted that “[w]e have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” an equivalence which caused an uproar among colleagues who urged her to “clarify” her statement.

Omar initially responded by accusing her fellow Democrats of using “islamophobic tropes.” In a subsequent statement, the lawmaker claimed she “was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”

Despite walking back her statement, Omar told CNN in a late June interview she did not regret making the initial comment and claimed that those colleagues who criticized her “haven’t been partners in justice. They haven’t been, you know, equally engaging in seeking justice around the world.”

In addition to Omar, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), threatened to vote against the continuing resolution if the Iron Dome money was included. With Democrats holding a majority of just eight seats, leadership can only afford to have three conference members vote against legislation before it would be defeated.