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Who is silencing whom? Rep. Ilhan Omar’s methodology 

Rep. Omar: They call me an anti-Semite to silence my criticism of Israel. Actually, it’s the opposite.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and many of her mentality say that the charge of anti-Semitism is used as an excuse to silence criticism of Israel. Anti-Semitism “becomes designed to end the debate . . . no matter what it is we say,” Omar said, Feb. 27, 2019.

The reality is just the opposite.

To claim the right to criticize Israel, and then to moan that one is charged with anti-Semitism for doing so, is a method to silence calling out anti-Semitism.

The proof of the pudding is that there is little to no criticism of actual Israeli policies that can be attributed to Rep. Ilhan Omar. Her critics do not, and cannot, respond to her criticism of Israeli policy, or to her criticism of American support for Israeli policy, because that is not what she’s talking about. She is charged with anti-Semitism because that is all her critics can respond to — because her anti-Semitic comments are pretty much all she has to say about Israel and American support for Israel. We quote these comments below.

But first, observe: If it were criticism of Israeli policy that Rep. Omar sought to express with impunity, she would not stand out. She would be merely one of the crowd — the American Jewish crowd, no less.

If it were true that the charge of anti-Semitism is an excuse to silence criticism of Israel, then countless American Jews would have to be called anti-Semites! Criticism of Israel, and support for Israel, go hand in hand. It’s part and parcel of who American Jewry is. It is neither new nor extraordinary.

Rep. Omar wants to be new and extraordinary. She can’t get there merely by criticizing Israeli policy. She has to go beyond that.

Lest this be considered semantics, please review for a moment just how critical of Israel virtually every segment of American Jewry is, in one way or another.

Are you a Reform Jew? Chances are, you have been very critical of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

Are you an Orthodox religious Zionist? Chances are, you have been very critical of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Are you a politically liberal Jew? Chances are, you have been very critical of the current Israeli government for its aggressive settlement building on the West Bank.

Are you a politically conservative Jew? Chances are, you have been very critical of the current Israeli government for insufficient response to continuing terrorism from the Gaza Strip.

Of course, these generalizations do not fit the facts as neatly as we’ve drawn them, but the point is well known. It is no big deal to be critical of this or the other Israeli government, policy or institution. American Jews have been articulate in this way at least since the 1993 Oslo Accords. None of this makes American Jews anti-Semites — or anyone else.

When the likes of Rep. Omar claim they are accused of anti-Semitism in order to shut down their criticism of Israeli policy, it’s a smokescreen. It cannot hide their view that it is not Israeli policy, but Israel’s right to exist (or to defend itself, which is the same thing), that they advocate.

If it were Israeli policy that the BDS crowd and the likes of Rep. Omar criticized, they would be part of the chorus. Rep. Omar and her crowd want to go way beyond that. Witness how extensive her anti-Semitic statements have been:

• 2012: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

• Feb. 10, 2019: In explaining why members of the US Congress support Israel, she tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins” [$100 bills]. If her intent were not already clear enough,  when she was asked who, precisely, bought off the members of Congress, Omar replied, “AIPAC!”

When the House leadership came down on Omar, she apologized, but qualified her apology; and then, to boot:

• Feb. 27, 2019: “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.”

• Feb. 28, 2019: Question: “Was it a badly worded tweet that you were apologizing for or was it for being anti-Semitic, wittingly or unwittingly?” Answer: “Absolutely not. I apologized for the way that my words made people feel.”

The way my words made people feel. The classic non-apology apology. The problem isn’t her problem.

We disagree with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who thinks Omar didn’t understand what she was saying. Which time, Ms. Pelosi?

We disagree with Paul Waldman, who wrote in the Denver Post last Sunday that when Rep. Omar launched the dual loyalty charge (“allegiance to a foreign country”), she did not mean Jews. She meant evangelical Christian Republicans. since there are many more supporters of Israel among that group than among American Jews.

Earth to Waldman: Evangelical Christian Republicans vastly outnumber American Jews. Of course there are more American non-Jewish than Jewish supporters of Israel. Thank G-d, there are tens or hundreds of millions of Americans who sympathize with Israel.

But no. Waldman’s illogic, plus other evidence-free assertions, merited this five column, two-line, all caps headline in the Post: “THE DISHONEST SMEARING OF OMAR.”  The message could not have been more clear: If you criticize Omar, based on evidence —on her own words and actions — you will be accused of smearing Omar. Her supporters will try to silence you.

Put Pelosi and Waldman together, and this is what you get: Rep. Omar is culturally obtuse, per Pelosi — Omar “has a different experience in the use of words” and “doesn’t understand that some of them are fraught with meaning” — yet, per Waldman, Omar is so culturally sophisticated that she knows the ins and outs of American Jewish and evangelical Christian supporters and opponents of Israel.

Sorry, Mr. Waldman, your astigmatic apologia for Omar is no more credible than Pelosi’s. When Omar spoke of  “allegiance to a foreign country,” she meant Jews.

Waldman would do well to recall  Occam’s razor: “Simpler solutions are more likely to be correct than complex ones.”

The contradictory apologia for Omar don’t wash. Omar fits a classic definition of an anti-Semite. A recent edition of The American Historical Review ran a series of learned articles on anti-Semitism. One was by Prof. Maurice Samuels of Yale, “Literature and the Study of Anti-Semitism.” Amidst much else, he wrote:

“Anti-Semites tell stories. They concoct paranoid plots with devious characters to explain aspects of the world that escape their control. They blame Jews for imagined crimes: running the banks, controlling the media, plotting world domination” — and, we would add by way of further illustration, anti-Semites tell stories of being muzzled by their critics and of Jews buying off the lawmakers of the land.

Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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