Freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the Somali-American politician who made history last fall by becoming one of just two Muslim women to ever be elected to Congress, bemoans that she’s misunderstood. Who can blame her?
For those who need a recap, Omar was called out during her congressional campaign for supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. She subsequently pledged her opposition to the effort — but then reversed course and embraced BDS as a valid form of anti-Israel criticism. She found herself in hot water again last month, as she engaged in political discourse via Twitter — never a wise move — and claimed that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was taking aim against her criticism of the Jewish state because “it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.”
As with her BDS charade, when forced to apologize for her statement, Omar embraced the concept of shared dialogue and claimed that she abhors the kind of anti-Semitism her original tweet seemed to invoke. She claimed that she never meant to say that Jews and, by extension, the national state of the Jewish people, control politics through their money. The apology was heralded as an example of the good that comes from cross-community interactions.
Just days later, Omar struck again, when she was asked about the controversy. While we may never know what is truly in her heart, her remarks offer substantial proof that when it comes to anti-Semitism, Omar is indifferent at best, or a practitioner at worst.
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” she said, a clear swipe at AIPAC and Israel, one that harkens back to the tired — and frequently deadly — trope that Jews, and their dual loyalties, are inherently suspect.
The denunciations of her newest outrage came fast and from practically all corners of the political universe, except from certain elements of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tried to corral her caucus into passing a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, it embarrassingly faltered. Prodded by Omar and several allies on the left, who used the affair to further gin up animus against AIPAC, what the House of Representatives ended up passing became a watered-down rebuke of hatred in all its forms, even as it included a remarkably strong condemnation of anti-Semitism.
But the homogenization of the condemnation and concomitant minimization of the direct critique of Omar herself left a lot to be desired in the eyes of many. As a result, the Democrat-led resolution was perceived as a mealy mouthed condemnation that satisfied no one.
Anti-Semitism is a serious problem. We need to call it out, expose it and condemn its proponents no matter where they sit on the political spectrum. Our community has a voice. We cannot be afraid to use it to defend ourselves, our legitimacy and our timeless values. JN