Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke appears to have gotten a free pass from Washington after unequivocally calling Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “racist.” The reaction to O’Rourke’s words — there wasn’t one — stood in stark contrast to the bipartisan response to Minnesota’s freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar for her remarks about an influential pro-Israel lobby group in Washington.
The silence from “many sides” highlighted the clear double standard and hypocrisy when it comes to who utters criticism of Israel.
While on the campaign trail in Iowa on Sunday, the Texas Democrat said the U.S.-Israeli relationship was important but threatened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“That relationship, if it is to be successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist, as he warns about Arabs coming to the polls, who wants to defy any prospect for peace as he threatens to annex the West Bank, and who has sided with a far-right, racist party in order to maintain his hold on power,” O’Rourke said just days ahead of Israel’s election on Tuesday for its next prime minister.
The silence out of Washington—from Democrats and Republicans—was deafening compared to the sparks that flew against Omar, one of two Muslim congresswomen elected in November.
Indeed, several other Democratic presidential candidates endorsed O’Rourke’s remarks about Israel’s prime minister. That same support proved elusive to Omar when she offered her criticism of Israel in February. She took to Twitter on Sunday and posted a simple emoji to publicly acknowledge that she recognized what appeared to be a double standard.
Omar found herself in the middle of a firestorm on Feb. 12 after there was outrage over her comment to a tweet about how she and Michigan’s Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib—the other Muslim woman member of Congress—could face consequences for criticizing Israel.
“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she tweeted in reference to a slang term for $100 bills coined by rapper Notorious B.I.G. When asked whom she thought was paying lawmakers, Omar replied: “AIPAC!” a pro-Israel lobby group.
The congresswoman was ultimately forced to apologize, saying that her intention was never to offend “my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. . . . This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
That, however, failed to quiet the storm. Many Democrats and Republicans were still angry, with some calling her anti-Semitic and demanding her resignation. President Trump described Omar’s apology as “lame.”
A second round of outrage against Omar erupted from comments she made at a “progressive town hall” event in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 27.
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Omar said at the event, supposedly referring to Israel.
That remark was met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders drafting a resolution clearly directed at and prompted by Omar though not naming her specifically. The House passed the resolution that broadly condemned hate and intolerance.