Ilhan Omar Addresses Anti-Israel Comments on ‘Daily Show’
The congresswoman compared the defensiveness she felt at being called anti-Semitic to what people must feel when they are accused of displaying ‘white privilege.’
Trevor Noah knows what it’s like to be called out for his old tweets. So when he had Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) on The Daily Show Thursday night, he was a bit tentative when bringing up one tweet that has haunted the freshman congresswoman.
“You are someone who has been very outspoken, you've always spoken your mind and spoken directly to people, voters, your colleagues, et cetera, and recently you've come under fire for a few of your previous comments,” Noah told his guest.
“Recently?” Omar said with a laugh.
Noah was referring to a 2012 tweet from Omar that read, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
Omar previously apologized for her “unfortunate” words, stressing that there is a “difference between criticizing a military action by a government that has exercised really oppressive policies and being offensive or attacky to particular people of faith.” But she went even further with Noah during Thursday’s interview, comparing her initial defensiveness to the criticism she received to what people must feel when they are accused of displaying “white privilege.”
“With that tweet, what I finally realized is the realization that I hope that people come to when we're having a conversation about white privilege,” Omar said. “People would be, like, ‘I grew up in a poor neighborhood, I can't be privileged. Can you stop saying that? I haven't benefited from my whiteness!’”
But in both cases, she said it’s about acknowledging a “systematic” problem, whether it’s white privilege or anti-Semitism. “That happened for me,” Omar said. “I was like, ‘Do not call me that, that's not what I was doing.’ And I was like, oh, I see what you're saying now. So I had to take a deep breath and understand where people were coming from and what point they were trying to make, which is what I expect people to do when I'm talking to them about things that impact me or offend me.”
“What is important in this conversation is that we separate the land, the people and administrations,” she continued. “When I talk about what we are doing wrong in this country, it's not because I hate this country, it's not because I don't see myself as American. It's because I love this country and because I am American and because I want it to do better.”
When she criticizes places like Saudi Arabia, Israel or now, Venezuela, she said, “I'm not criticizing the people, I’m not criticizing their faith, I'm not criticizing their way of life. What I am criticizing is what's happening at the moment, and I want for there to be accountability so that the government, that administration, that regime can do better. Because I believe that we all deserve better and the human collective requires us to speak up when we see something wrong.”