Hundreds of people demonstrated outside an appearance by Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar while inside, she got a standing ovation prior to speaking during the Council of American-Islamic Relations of Greater Los Angeles’ Fourth Annual Valley Banquet, in Woodland Hills.
The crowd outside, on March 23, chanted “Hey, hey, ho ho, Omar’s got to go!” and carried signs and banners including one that said “Islam Doesn’t CAIR for Free Speech,” according to media reports. But a group of counter protesters said Omar is being unfairly targeted because she is a Muslim, a woman and Black.
The freshman Democrat, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, has drawn scorn from many Jewish and Republican activists following a tweet in early February that said “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” in reference to the support U.S. lawmakers have traditionally offered to Israel.
The remark was criticized by some—including several of Omar’s Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives—as anti-Semitic. Omar later apologized, saying “anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painfulhistory of anti-Semitic tropes.”
However, she has stood by her criticism of the Israeli government.
“Being opposed to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the occupation is not the same as being anti-Semitic. I am grateful to the many Jewish allies who have spoken out and said the same,” Omar wrote on Twitter.
Some of the Saturday demonstrators told reporters they were convinced Omar dislikes Jewish people rather than just being critical of Israeli government policies.
During the event, titled “Advancing Justice: Empowering Valley Muslims,” Omar told the audience she found it ironic that many criticize Islam for oppressing women “and today they gather outside to protest a Muslim woman who is in Congress.”
The group Jewish Voice for Peace was awarded the “2019 Champion of Justice” honors during CAIR’s dinner, as Omar and other speakers said love would ultimately conquer hate.
While she did not directly address her earlier comments, Omar vowed to continue speaking out based on what country is “violating basic human rights. Advocacy … fighting for justice … standing up for what is right … is very inherently Islamic.”