US lawmaker apologizes after House leaders condemn comments as anti-Semitic

US Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) participates in a news conference to call on Congress to cut funding for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), at the US Capitol in Washington, US, February 7, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 February 2019

US lawmaker apologizes after House leaders condemn comments as anti-Semitic

  • Omar was criticized by both Republicans and Democrats for saying on Twitter that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, was paying US politicians to support Israel

WASHINGTON: Democratic lawmaker Ilhan Omar apologized on Monday after party leaders condemned her comments about the pro-Israel lobby in the United States as using anti-Semitic stereotypes.
“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” Omar, who was elected for the first time to the US House of Representatives in November, said in a statement.
“My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole,” she said, adding that she “unequivocally” apologized.
Omar was criticized by both Republicans and Democrats for saying on Twitter that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, was paying US politicians to support Israel.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic House leaders condemned her remarks earlier, calling for an apology and saying anti-Semitism must be confronted and condemned.
“Legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate that the United States and Israel share,” they said. “But Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive.”
Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, said on Twitter, “Rep. Omar’s use of anti-Semitic stereotype was offensive and irresponsible.”
President Donald Trump later criticized Omar’s remarks and said her apology fell short.
“I think she should be ashamed of herself. I think it was a terrible statement. And I don’t think her apology was adequate,” Trump told reporters en route to El Paso for a speech to press his case for a wall along the US-Mexico border.
Even before her most recent comments, Republicans had criticized Democrats for appointing Omar to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and called for her to be removed from her seat because of past statements critical of Israel.


Lampedusa mayor slams Rome over migrant boat standoff

Updated 22 August 2019

Lampedusa mayor slams Rome over migrant boat standoff

  • “The island no longer exists politically. It is just exploited in political clashes in Rome.”

LAMPEDUSA, Italy: The mayor of Italy’s Lampedusa island on Thursday denounced the collapsing government for its failure to deal with migrant rescue boats, as a ship carrying 356 people remained stranded in the Mediterranean.
Mayor Salvatore Martello said the reception center on the tiny isle was already over capacity and would struggle to house migrants currently stuck aboard the Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking.
The vessel, run by charities Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee, has sought a port for almost two weeks after rescuing four boats of migrants off the Libyan coast between 9 and 12 August.
“It would be difficult because the reception center is saturated,” Martello told AFP.
“The island no longer exists politically. It is just exploited in political clashes in Rome.”
Lampedusa has long been a magnet for African migrants fleeing poverty and conflict.
Thousands have attempted to make the unsafe crossing from Libya in a bid to reach Europe this year, despite efforts to deter them.
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been accused of demonizing migrants and leaving them to drown in the sea.
He has repeatedly insisted that rescued migrants can only land in Italy if other EU countries take them in.
Italy’s president on Thursday was holding a second day of talks after the disintegration of the anti-immigrant coalition government, which broke down after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday.
The plight of the migrants aboard the Ocean Viking, which was denied entry by both Italy and Malta, is the latest in a string of migrant boat standoffs with Italian authorities.
The Open Arms rescue ship was allowed to land in Lampedusa on Wednesday, with 83 migrants disembarking, after Italian justice ordered they be brought ashore.
Many of them had spent 19 days on board the ship after being picked up while in difficulty in waters off Libya.
There were initially 147 mainly African migrants on the ship but all minors and some suffering health problems had already disembarked.
A European deal to redistribute them has yet to be implemented.