Minnesota Rep. Omar Calls Jews “Pro-Genocide” or “Anti-Genocide” On Columbia Visit

While walking through Columbia University on Saturday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN) said that Jewish students were either “pro-genocide” or “anti-genocide.” Omar made her comments to a reporter for Fox 5 News in New York. Her full comment for context: 

“So I actually met a lot of Jewish students that are in the encampment. And I think it is really unfortunate that people don’t care about the fact that all Jewish kids should be kept safe and that we should not have to tolerate antisemitism or bigotry for all Jewish students whether they are pro-genocide or anti-genocide.”

Omar’s office did not respond to an email from TC Jewfolk seeking comment or clarification.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO and national director of the ADL, responded to Omar on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, setting up a back-and-forth between the two. 

“It is patently false and a blood libel to suggest that ANY Jewish students are ‘pro-genocide.’ It is gaslighting to impute that Jewish people are somehow at fault for being harassed and menaced with signs and slogans literally calling for their own extermination,” Greenblatt wrote. “It is abhorrent that a sitting member of Congress would slander an entire group of young people in such a cold, calculated manner. This is how people get killed. @IlhanMN must apologize, but I’m not holding my breath.”

Omar responded to Greenblatt’s post with one of her own, linking to an article from The Intercept about a federal investigation into anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab harassment at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst: “This is the pro-genocide I was talking about, can you condemn this like I have condemned antisemitism and bigotry of all kind?:

“‘Kill All Arabs’

“‘They are all Hamas. All grotesquely evil’

“‘Level Gaza.’”

Greenblatt responded in the early hours of Sunday morning: 

“First, @ADL always​ condemns all forms of bigotry and hate, including antisemitism, racism, anti-Muslim bias, etc. Calls to harm anyone based on their faith or nationality are reprehensible no matter who says it or who is targeted. 

“So, yes, of course we condemn those who say these grotesque things, but do you also condemn those who chant Qassam Brigade? Who declare Zionists are genocidal?  Who call to globalize the intifada?

“Second, referencing a random article about @UMass is a rather weak excuse for a person who, while walking through @Columbia, slandered the vast majority of young Jews against a backdrop of expanding, intensifying antisemitism. 

Look, @IlhanMN, either you misspoke and you simply own the mistake and apologize — or you didn’t misspeak and actually meant it.”

Columbia has become one of the central flashpoints for pro-Palestinian encampments on college campuses in the U.S., with Jewish students being told by one campus rabbi last week that it wasn’t safe for Jews on campus. Omar’s daughter, Isra Hirsi, was among those arrested on the Manhattan campus on April 18.

At the University of Minnesota, whose Twin Cities campus is in the 5th Congressional District that Omar represents, there have been pro-Palestinian protests and “die-ins,” but also pro-Hamas graffiti on the Coffman Union. 

“The ideas animating these campus protests are not about peace and reconciliation for Israelis and Palestinians,” said Sami Rahamim, the director of communications and community affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, at a press conference last Friday with Jewish students at Minnesota Hillel. “Each of these protests begins with the infamous chant ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’ This chant means the destruction of Israel. Why do we think that? Because Hamas tells us this is exactly what they mean. These protests are using the same language and imagery that we would see at a Hamas rally.”

“This language is harmful. It is demonizing Israel and Jewish people who have a connection to Israel. That’s problematic and we’re not being listened to.” 

A recent AJC survey showed that anti-Zionist members of the Jewish community are in the minority. The AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2023 report, found that 85% of American Jews, and 84% of the general public, believe the statement “Israel has no right to exist” – the core of anti-Zionism – is antisemitic. 93% of American Jews say that caring about Israel is at least somewhat important to their Jewish Identity. 

Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the JCRC, said that Omar’s statement endangers Jewish students.

“Rep. Omar’s incendiary rhetoric, including the recent assertion that American Jews who defend Israel are pro-genocide, endangers Jewish students at a time when they are facing historic antisemitism on campus,” he said. “For example, while Jewish students at the University of Minnesota make up only 1% of the undergraduate student population, for this academic year 1/3 of all reported bias incidents on campus are related to Israel/antisemitism.”