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Dozens of Jewish-American leaders condemn AIPAC ads targeting Ilhan Omar

Congresswoman Omar's staff say AIPAC's 'Islamophobic attack ads' are putting the lawmaker's life at risk
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was also the subject of a contentious AIPAC ad campaign in May, where her face was placed beside Hamas rockets.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was also the subject of a contentious AIPAC ad campaign in May, where her face was placed beside Hamas rockets (AFP)
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Washington

Dozens of Jewish-American figures working in policy, politics and advocacy have condemned recent attacks on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar by the American Israel Public Affairs Council (AIPAC), and urged the group to discontinue its ad campaign.

In a letter published on Thursday, the figures also urged AIPAC to discontinue ads targeting Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib.

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"While we may not all agree with the Congresswomen's views and characterizations on issues related to Israel and Palestine - nor with one another's positions on these subjects - we are united in condemning these ads as not merely misleading, but dangerously so given their potential to incite or inspire bigotry, harassment and violence against the lawmakers they target," read the open letter, signed by figures from J Street, Americans for Peace Now, IfNotNow, and the ACLU.

The individuals were not representing their organisations, but the affiliations revealed wide-ranging concerns towards the advertisements.

"These vitriolic and divisive ads against women lawmakers of color who have been disproportionately subject to misogynist, racist hatred and threats of lawmakers are particularly reckless," the letter read.

"We call on AIPAC to cease running these ads and to apologize to the Congresswomen they unfairly and dangerously target."

The text in the Facebook ad campaign by AIPAC, Washington's most influential pro-Israel lobby group, said: "Inciting hate by demonizing Israel and spreading vicious, dangerous lies about our democratic ally doesn’t advance the prospects for peace."

It then showed images of each congresswoman while accusing them of lying about Israel and using quotation marks around the words "apartheid" and "ethnic cleansing".

AIPAC did not respond to Middle East Eye's request for comment on the letter by the time of publication.

'Peddling anti-Muslim hate speech and disinformation'

The lobby group also took out a specific ad targeting Omar, which reads: "Stand WITH America. Stand AGAINST Terrorists."

"For Ilhan Omar, there is no difference between America and the Taliban. Between Israel and Hamas. Between democracies and terrorists," the ad read.

It was slammed by Omar's staff, who said that "AIPAC is putting Rep. Omar’s life at risk with repeated Islamophobic attack ads."

"The language AIPAC uses in paid ads to smear and vilify [Omar] is virtually identical to the language used in death threats she gets," Jeremy Slevin, Omar's communications director, said in a tweet on Wednesday.

"It shouldn't have to be stated, but baselessly linking Muslim-Americans to terrorism is *the* textbook example of Islamophobia and is routinely used to silence advocacy for Palestinian human rights."

Tlaib also tweeted in response, saying, "I am so sick of this s***", while Ocasio-Cortez and Bush did not comment.

AIPAC responded to Slevin's tweet, calling it a "baseless attack" and that "there is no moral equivalence between democratic allies and the terrorists who target them".

Omar, a Minnesota lawmaker, had been heavily criticised after remarks she made in June, where she commented on the US administration's opposition to probes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into abuses in Afghanistan and the occupied Palestinian territories.

She was also the subject of a contentious AIPAC ad campaign in May during the Israeli offensive on Gaza, where her face was placed beside Hamas rockets.

"When Israel targets Hamas, Rep. Omar calls it 'an act of terrorism,'" the ad read, which was inaccurate. Omar described Israeli air strikes killing civilians in Gaza, not the targeting of Hamas, as terrorism.

Omar's office said at the time that the advertisement was "blatantly peddling both anti-Muslim hate speech and disinformation", while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the ads "deeply cynical and inflammatory" and not advancing "the goal of increasing support for Israel," respectively.