Omar's comments threaten to divide district's Somali, Jewish residents: reports

Last week, Thomas Friedman, the columnist for the New York Times penned a column about his obvious connection to Rep. Ilhan Omar, the newly elected firebrand from Minnesota’s Fifth District—a Democratic stronghold.

Friedman was raised there. He called the district a "crazy mix of Minnesota Jews (we called ourselves "the Frozen Chosen”)" that welcomed Somali refugees like the 37-year-old "a half-century later" and elected her to Congress.

The Washington Post reported that Somali refugees started to arrive in the state back in 1993 and, despite their cultural differences, these groups came together to work for the common good. But recent comments by Omar has reportedly strained the relationship in the community.


Omar Jamal, a Somali community activist, told the Post that he has been in touch with Jewish leaders after Omar's comments viewed by some as anti-Semitic. He supported her campaign but called her recent comments, "wrong, period," according to the report.

"This is up to Ilhan Omar," he said. "She has really spoken in a very dangerous way, and it’s going to be up to her to reach out to people and fix this."

The paper reported that one Jewish leader showed Omar a picture of a cousin who was killed in WWII and said that is why questioning dual loyalty is offensive.

Avi S. Olitzky, a senior rabbi in St. Louis Park, which is in the Fifth District, told The Star-Tribune that Omar’s comments have been a clear attack on the Jewish community.

Omar has apologized for her comments and has support from her Democratic colleagues. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi raised eyebrows on Friday when she said the congresswoman “doesn’t understand” that some of the words she uses are "fraught with meaning."

Omar – who filled the House seat that was held by Keith Ellison -- also took aim at former President Obama in an interview with Politico on Friday, saying his message of “hope” and “change” was a “mirage.”

"Recalling the ‘caging of kids’ at the U.S.-Mexico border and the ‘droning of countries around the world’ on Obama’s watch," Omar charged that Obama "operated within the same fundamentally broken framework as his Republican successor,” the piece read.

“We can’t be only upset with Trump… His policies are bad, but many of the people who came before him also had really bad policies," Omar reportedly said. "They just were more polished than he was."

Omar’s rhetoric has been embraced by some. Her proponents see her attack on AIPAC as bold. Amber Harris, a constituent, told the Star-Tribune that the attacks against Omar are unfair and “obscene.”

“She’s trying to change the Democratic Party to what I think it should be,” she said.

Friedman, for his part, pointed out in his column that he has a lot in common with Omar, but said his dislike of Aipac is based on that fact that it has “let itself become the slavish, unthinking tool of Netanyahu, who opposes a two-state solution, I believe Aipac works against Israel’s long-term interests.”

He wrote that evidence that he's seen suggests that Omar's dislike for Aipac is based on a dislike for Israel.

"Ilhan Omar represents, among other neighborhoods, a significant and liberal Jewish community — my hometown," he wrote. “I can tell you that a vast majority of Jews there would be proud if their congresswoman used her links to American Jews and Muslims to be a bridge builder for peace in the Middle East and America, not just another Aipac/Israel basher. She is young and very new to the national spotlight. Friends of mine back home tell me her humanistic instincts are impressive and authentic. I don’t know if it’s her or her advisers, but she’s gotten herself into a bad place — a huge missed leadership opportunity.