Rep. Ilhan Omar thinks that opposition to Israel’s existence does not make her anti-Semitic
Why is Rep. Steve King stripped of his committee assignments for making white supremacist comments, but Rep. Ilhan Omar retains her committee assignments despite making anti-Semitic comments?
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweets that Congresspeople are pro-Israel because they have been paid off by the pro-Israel lobby. “It’s all about the Benjamins” —i.e., $100 bills — to quote Omar exactly.
This tweet, which recently came to light, joins other crude, anti-Semitic statements by Rep. Omar: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” And, Omar “chuckles” (her word) when she hears Israel called a democracy.
Omar’s first statement is deemed anti-Semitic because it refers to Jews and money, while her second statement is not deemed anti-Semitic because it calls Israel — not all Jews — “evil.” Therefore, since Omar has apologized for the anti-Semitic trope in the first statement, she is, in effect, given a pass on the second statement. Granted, she was criticized for it, and apologized for it, but with this caveat: “I don’t know how my comments [on Israel’s ‘evil doings’] would be offensive to Jewish Americans . . . I am clearly speaking about the way the Israeli regime was conducting itself in that  war [against Hamas in Gaza].”
Regime? Israel is a regime? Like Saddam Hussein’s? Like Bashar Assad’s?
Evil doings? Such as Israel defending itself against rockets fired indiscriminately at its civilians and against the terrorization of its residents, especially in Sderot?
Sorry, whether Omar’s comment second comment is anti-Semitic becomes a matter of semantics. Clearly she is filled with the same bigoted bile against Israel and pro-Israel Americans as Rep. King is filled with bigoted bile against non-whites. So again, why is King stripped of his committee assignments but Omar retains hers — on the foreign relations committee, no less? If she deems Israel evil for defending itself, she is not against Israeli “policy,” she is against Israel’s existence.
Not that we regard Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s censure of Rep. Omar as insignificant. Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders said in a joint statement: “But Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive. We condemn these remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments.”
We are pleased that the House leadership received enough pro-Israel pressure from its own members to speak up against Omar. So, Omar apologized — sort of. We quote Rep. Omar:
“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.” Fine. But then she said:
“I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry.”
In other words, while AIPAC did not cause Congresspeople to be pro-Israel by buying them off, AIPAC should be legally shut down or restrained anyway. We did not hear from Rep. Omar a parallel condemnation of the pro-Palestinian lobby on Capitol Hill.
So who is kidding whom about Rep. Ilhan? Who thinks that her disagreements with the “Israeli regime” are merely over its policies, or that her apology is tantamount to accepting the Jewish people’s right to a country of their own? Why does she retain her committee assignments? Why the double standard in the House of Representatives?
Rep. Omar explained her apology by adding: “We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity.”
Deconstruct this statement. First of all, it is a non-sequitur. Rep. Omar was criticized for anti-Semitic comments and her crude anti-Israel remarks, not for her identity.
Second, an apology for a misdeed is compromised when it assumes that her critics mistreat her. She tries to deflect the real damage on Israel and the Jewish people that she did inflict by citing a theoretical damage against her that has not been inflicted.
If anything, the double standard applied to Rep. Omar is unjustified solicitude for her identity, a courtesy rightly not extended to Rep. King. Unlike Omar, we are concerned for the safety of Israel because of its Jewish identity and because of its policies, as humane as possible in the face of unrelenting terrorism, its pioneering medical and technological research, and its humanitarian assistance around the world, regardless of the ethnic, religious, racial or national identity of the recipients.
Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News