The terrible irony of the Ilhan Omar controversy is that it amounts to swarms of bigots using alleged bigotry as an excuse to hate-target a Muslim woman of color and feel righteous about it.
In what is surely the most shameful decision of her current term as speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has decided that the time has come for the House to rebuke Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for things she didn’t actually say, and ideas she didn’t actually express. In the process, Pelosi and other Democrats are helping propagate a series of misconceptions about anti-Semitism, Israel, and U.S. political debate.
I’m going to try to bring some clarity to this issue, understanding how difficult it can be whenever we discuss anything that touches on Israel.
To be clear, I do this as someone who was raised in an intensely Zionist family with a long history of devotion and sacrifice for Israel, but who also — like many American Jews — has become increasingly dismayed not only by developments in Israel but by how we talk about it here in the United States.
Of course, Democrats are well conditioned to assume the fetal position and plead guilty whenever the Right mounts one of these swarm attacks, and on cue they began an atonement/cleansing ritual in the form of the House rebuke of Rep. Omar.
But some Dems objected.
Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday defended Rep. Ilhan Omar against the backlash to her comments slamming pro-Israel groups and politicians, which have been called anti-Semitic.
Sanders, who is Jewish, said criticism of Omar and efforts to get her taken off the House Foreign Affairs Committee, primarily from House Republicans, are aimed at stopping a discussion about American’s foreign policy toward Israel.
“What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate,” the Vermont independent said in a statement. “That’s wrong.”
Warren expressed the same opinion, in so many words, and Harris expressed concern that the targeting of Omar was putting the congresswoman at risk.
What did she say this time? Back to Waldman:
In the latest round of controversy, Omar said during a town hall, regarding U.S. policy toward Israel, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
And this was a problem because …
This comment was roundly condemned by members of Congress and many others for being anti-Semitic. Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) called her statement “a vile anti-Semitic slur” and accused her of questioning “the loyalty of fellow American citizens.”
Pelosi then announced that the House would vote on a resolution which, while not mentioning Omar by name, is clearly meant as a condemnation of her. It contains multiple “whereas” statements about the danger of accusing Jews of “dual loyalty.”
But I don’t think she was talking about the “dual loyalty” of Jews. I think she was talking about the way Israel has become a third rail, or sacred cow, or whatever metaphor you want to hang on it ti indicate that Israel must not be criticized no matter what for fear of the critic being called anti-Semitic. We’re all being roped into dual loyalty, Jewish or not.
Here’s the truth: The whole purpose of the Democrats’ resolution is to enforce dual loyalty not among Jews, but among members of Congress, to make sure that criticism of Israel is punished in the most visible way possible. This, of course, includes Omar. As it happens, this punishment of criticism of Israel is exactly what the freshman congresswoman was complaining about, and has on multiple occasions. The fact that no one seems to acknowledge that this is her complaint shows how spectacularly disingenuous Omar’s critics are being. ……
…Ilhan Omar certainly didn’t say that Jews have dual loyalty. For instance, in one of the tweets that got people so worked up, Omar said, “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.” You’ll notice she didn’t say or even imply anything at all about Jews. She said that she was being asked to support Israel in order to have the privilege of serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which was true. Many on the right have called for her to be removed from that committee (see here, or here, or here, or here). Her argument, to repeat, isn’t about how Jews feel about Israel, it’s about what is being demanded of her.
The firestorm around Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent tweets about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and criticism of Israel has drawn attention to what language rises to the level of anti-Semitism, the shamefuldouble standards for Muslims and people of color, and how anti-Semitism is often hypocritically used as a political bludgeon. GOP leadership has called for an official censure and her removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and House Democrats called for a resolution this weekdenouncing anti-Semitismafter Omar recently tweeted, “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country,” which some have said plays on the anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty. Notably, no such outrage from Republican members of Congress emerged after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy used anti-Semitic tropes during the 2018 midterm election or during much of the tenure of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who has a long history of making offensive comments about race and white nationalism.
In response, #IStandWithIlhan has trended with people, including Jews, who support the Muslim congresswoman. Omar (D-Minn.), who has faced anti-Muslim hate linking her to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and death threats, is being unfairly demonized for her critical comments on Israel and AIPAC, especially when compared to white Republican men like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) who recently used “$teyer” in a tweet to refer to Jewish American billionaire Tom Steyer.
Monday night, President Trump tweeted that Omar’s comments are a “dark day for Israel!” which is rich coming from the man who falsely blamed George Soros, a Jewish billionaire, for funding a “caravan” across the border and praised white supremacists, who chanted “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville, as “very fine people.”
This whole episode just stinks out loud, and Democrats who are not defending Rep. Omar should be ashamed of themselves.