The latest mailer from Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Mn-05) named the donors of her Democratic primary opponent, Antone Melton-Meaux. Three of the named donors are Jewish, with the fourth from a Jewish community. District voters began receiving the mailer last week. Since then, both supporters and critics of Omar are divided amongst themselves over its meaning.
Those mentioned on the mailer are Seth Klarman, a billionaire hedge fund executive; Jonathan Gray, president of a private equity firm named The Blackstone Group; Stanley Weinstein, a retired real estate executive; and a Michael from Scarsdale, New York. The mailer sources its information from articles by Buzzfeed and MinnPost, both of which cited other, non-Jewish backers as well.
One of the quoted donors, Weinstein, remarked that while he didn’t believe the mailer was explicitly anti-Semitic, he still believes that Omar herself is prejudiced against the Jewish community.
“This [the mailer] in itself? No. But I find her anti-Semitic. She is trying to capitalize on people that hate her. She’s saying ‘look at these kind of people.'”
Of all the donors that contributed to Melton-Meaux’s backing, Omar’s mailer includes only those who are Jewish and categorizes them as being “in the pocket” of GOP, Wall Street, and medical industry interests.
This latest controversy dredges up Omar’s past remarks about Israel, such as her outspoken support of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The BDS movement is controversial for its aim to diminish Israeli government power and raise up Palestinians.
In a since-deleted post from 2012, Omar tweeted: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine #Israel”, and in 2018 claimed Israel’s influence is “all about the Benjamins”. The incumbent later apologized, insisting it wasn’t her intention to offend Jewish communities, but instead to communicate the reality of Israel’s lobbying power.
A number of Jewish leaders interpret Omar’s mailer as explicitly anti-Semitic. Rabbi Avi Olitzky of the Beth El Synagogue in the Greater Minneapolis Jewish Community expressed great dismay. Just last year, Omar publicly apologized to Olitzky over her past remarks against the Jewish community. She also promised him she would educate herself about her problematic rhetoric to prevent further offense.
Subsequent to that meeting, Olitzky defended Omar from public backlash on multiple occasions. In response to crowd chants to “send her [Omar] home” at President’s Trump rally last year in Greenville, North Carolina, Olitzky wrote:
Even if her previous remarks may be offensive and even if she disagrees with the policies of the current Israeli government, I cannot stay silent today. I stand fully beside her – and her colleagues – and support her in the face of the recent racist tweets of the president. This is not how we engage in civil dialogue. This is not how we do business and politics in this country. We are and have been better than this. We need to be better than this.
Olitzky changed his tune after learning about the mailer.
“My immediate thought when I saw the mailer was ‘here we go again.’ This had both implicit and explicit anti-Semitic tropes.”
Melton-Meaux’s campaign raised $3.2 million last quarter – a little over $2 million more than Omar’s campaign. However, Omar states that her internal polls rank her above Melton-Meaux by 37 percentage points.
Early voting for the Democratic primary begins June 26, with the Primary Election on August 11th. No registration deadline exists for in-person voting; deadline for online and paper registration was July 21.
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