Israel critic Ilhan Omar wins tight House primary race in Minnesota
The progressive ‘Squad’ member secured her spot after a tougher than expected challenge, giving hopes to rivals that she could be ousted next time
U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, known for her anti-Israel rhetoric in Congress, won the primary on Tuesday for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District.
Omar, who is running for a third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, defeated former Minneapolis council member Don Samuels and three other Democrat candidates, by a narrow margin. She secured her Democratic Party nomination for the district with 50.3% of the vote, as opposed to a surprising 48.2% won by Samuels.
“Tonight’s victory is a testament to how much our district believes in the collective values we are fighting for and how much they’re willing to do to help us overcome defeat. This win is for them and everyone who still believes that regression will not be the legacy of the Fifth,” Omar wrote on Twitter.
Despite her victory, Omar’s political rivals and primary challengers were encouraged in part by the results, with a hope that the congresswoman could be ousted in 2024.
In his concession address, Samuels noted that ending up “two-and-a-half points behind an incumbent in the United States Congress says that, if the playing field were even, if this was not an incumbent challenger’s race, we would win this race,” Fox 9 reported.
Considered a moderate Democrat, Samuels ran on a pro-Israel platform. Like Omar, he supports the “two-state solution” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, in contrast to her, he does not support the BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – movement against the Jewish state.
Throughout her tenure, Omar has been accused multiple times of making anti-Semitic remarks. A few years ago, she suggested that Jewish money stands behind U.S. lawmakers’ support for Israel and stated, “It’s all about the ‘Benjamins’.”
Top progressive senators in Omar’s party, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, congratulated the congresswoman on her win, both writing on social media that they look forward to continue serving alongside her.
Sanders said that Omar “has faced some of the ugliest attacks of any elected official and, throughout this primary, had hundreds of thousands of dollars spent against her. Despite this, she won her primary once again.”
Nonetheless, according to The Times of Israel, pro-Israel and Jewish organizations refrained from investing large amounts of money in the race to defeat Omar for the second time, after her last challenger lost by 20 points.
An article on Ynet also reported that “relatively little was spent in the race,” in what raised the question about whether more support from AIPAC’s Political Action Committee and others could have tipped the scale in favor of a different outcome.
Over the past weekend, members of the politically progressive “Squad” – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.; Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Cori Bush, D-Missouri – helped Omar through her final leg of the campaign.
Her victory comes a week after two other Squad members, Bush and Tlaib, defeated their primary challengers.
The far-left group in the House of Representatives recently called on the U.S. to pass a resolution recognizing the Nakba, the Arabic word for “catastrophe,” which is used by Palestinians to refer to the establishment of the State of Israel.
Last month, Ocasio-Cortez claimed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was “shot by an Israeli sniper” and urged the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice to launch an independent probe into the matter.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.