One of America’s appeals is its freedom of speech. You can say anything that pops into your head. While you can technically do that anywhere, America is one of the places where you don’t get imprisoned or penalized for having an opinion. Of course, there are limitations — you can’t yell “BOMB!” in a mall and hope to get off scot-free — but the majority of all speech is protected to be free until it comes from a person in power. Recently, one of Minnesota’s U.S. Representatives, Ilhan Abdullahi Omar, was berated by both sides of Congress for an anti-Semitic tweet that shesent.
It all started with a tweet from Glenn Greenwald, a journalist for The Intercept, citing an article that detailed GOP Leader, Kevin McCarthy, promising ‘action’ towards Rep. Omar and fellow US Rep. Rashida Tlaib due to their “criticisms” of Israel. To which Omar quoted the tweet with the caption “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” with a musical note emoji. This refers to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which lobbies for pro-Israel policies and often helps funds political campaigns for candidates in favor of Israel. This sparked outage, with many critics on both sides of the aisle. President Trump said “I think she should be ashamed of herself,” and the Democratic leadership later followed with “Anti-Semitism must be called out, confronted and condemned whenever it is encountered, without exception.” But was this anti-Semitism?
I don’t believe so. For Omar to voice her opinion on how an Israel lobbyist group affects US policy is completely within her right; this does not make her anti-Semitic. Omar has been public about her views on Israel, tweeting in 2012, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine #Israel”. While people are allowed to have opinions, officials like Omar should be more tactful in the way they share them but that does not make her statements anti-Semitic.
Despite being part of the media age, I don’t believe Twitter is the most appropriate platform for Omar to discuss her views. There are better platforms, like voting, attending conferences, and other official opportunities to voice her concerns. The same goes for her apology. While it reassured her commitment to supporting American and Jewish people alike, it also reinforced her fight against organizations like AIPAC that she says have a “problematic role” in US politics.
While officials like President Trump believe her apology is not “adequate”, I believed it. I don’t believe Omar’s goal was to be anti-Semitic or to insult a religion. I think Omar was convinced there was an injustice and she was trying to shine some light on it. Though her methods may be less than ideal, no organization/group should be exempt from skepticism or scrutinization.
Frank Peña is a third-year Journalism and Informatics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.