Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said Saturday that she regretted using the word “Israel” rather than “Palestine” while addressing a question about Israel in a recent interview. Her statement came hours after members of her own Democratic Party caucus gathered to call for her to be stripped of committee assignments after she likened Israeli policy toward Palestinians to that of the Nazis.
Speaking at an AFL-CIO conference in Detroit, Omar said, “I recognize that using that term was not the right thing to do. I was wrong to use it, and I regret saying it.”
She added, “I am a proud Palestinian and an American citizen. My comments highlight the need for all people, regardless of religion, ethnicity or political affiliation, to oppose all violence and oppression, including the anti-Semitic violence directed against Jewish Americans.”
The Middle East in Washington is buzzing with a wave of coordinated criticism that began when Omar posted on Twitter that Israel “has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” She later apologized.
But in an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Omar elaborated, saying the word “Israel” was a “cliché” that “captures the spirit and the essence of what this problem is, which is the occupying power, using Jews to do their dirty work.” She later changed that to use “Palestine.”
She also used the term “Zionists” while addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill. That drew a critical reaction on Twitter from Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent senator.
“Using language that minimizes the trauma of the Holocaust is grotesque,” he said in a tweet. “No one should in any way minimize the horror of the Holocaust.”
Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, who has received a series of calls over the past week to strip Omar of committee assignments, said Sunday, “Anyone who uses anti-Semitic tropes or prejudicial accusations about Jews must be held to account.”
Pelosi, who said she has been in contact with the Congressional Black Caucus over the issue, declined to comment on Omar’s specific comments or to speak further.
“I believe in the richness of diverse backgrounds,” she said. “I do believe that those are really the things that build strength.”