Are Jews shutting down Ilhan Omar?

The unrepentant Omar claims Jews are repressing her, even as her campaign of anti-Semitic smears heats up while she is acclaimed as the Democrats’ future.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D.-Minn.) speaks at a workers' protest against Amazon. Credit: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D.-Minn.) speaks at a workers' protest against Amazon. Credit: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr.
Jonathan S. Tobin. Photo by Tzipora Lifchitz.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

Perhaps you thought Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) had been so thoroughly rebuked by the media and fellow Democrats for her anti-Semitic tweets that her campaign against Israel and its supporters had been put on hold. Maybe you also thought the opprobrium thrown in her direction had both shamed her and caused her colleagues to shun her in the manner that is usually dished out to people caught in open expressions of hate.

If so, you were wrong. Omar remains the toast of liberal Washington these days as her prominent placement on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fellow newcomer Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez teasing an article about “Women Shaping the Future” testifies. We don’t know if she was as thrilled by that honor as the lyrics of the classic rock song by Dr. Hook and Medicine Show would dictate. But it’s a clear sign that as far as the pop-culture cheerleaders of an increasingly influential left-wing of the Democrats are concerned, not only is she forgiven for her vicious “It’s all about the Benjamins” smear of the pro-Israel community and AIPAC; it’s not clear if too many of them were ever really all that angry about it.

Nor is Omar backing down even a little bit from a campaign of anti-Israel incitement.

She said some of the right things about the awfulness of anti-Semitism after Pelosi and the Democratic leadership warned that she had gone too far with her Jew-baiting. Liberals judged her brief apology tour a rousing success. They were already desperate to embrace the first Somali-American in Congress who broke new ground by forcing the House to change its rules to allow her to wear a religious head covering on the floor. They bought her claim that she was as unaware that claims that Jews are buying Congress is a classic anti-Semitic as she was about previous assertions of ignorance about the hateful nature of a 2012 tweet in which she said Israel was “hypnotizing the world” to ignore their “war crimes.”

But Omar is not only continuing her efforts to undermine the alliance between Israel and the United States, she’s holding a grudge against Jews and other members of Congress who called her out for anti-Semitism.

At a “Progressive Town Hall” held in Washington this week, she claimed that she and fellow congressional BDS supporter Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)—who was also guilty of spewing anti-Semitism on Twitter when she accused supporters of Israel of dual loyalty—are being targeted by their “Jewish colleagues” because “we are Muslim.” According to Omar, she and Tlaib are not only innocent of being hatemongers, despite their use of anti-Semitic tropes, they are actually the victims of religious discrimination by a powerful lobby. As far as Omar is concerned, far from transgressing the norms of civil debate in a democracy, the same lobby and its allies that only a few weeks ago she accused of being fueled by “the Benjamins” are repressing her and Tlaib.

This is significant because far from learning her lesson and keeping her vow to listen to the Jewish community, Omar has nothing but contempt for both the Jews and their sensibilities. Nor is she the least bit daunted by the criticism she got from mainstream Democrats, who were rightly concerned that Omar speaks more for their party’s base about Israel than they do.

Omar is actually offended by the fact that “a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies got to thinking that everything we say about Israel to be anti-Semitic because we are Muslim. … It’s almost as if everything we say regardless of what it is we say … we get to be labeled something. Because we end up defending that and nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine.”

This is utterly disingenuous. She and Tlaib have been labeled as anti-Semites because they promote anti-Semitism and have embraced an anti-Semitic BDS policy that aims at eliminating the one Jewish state on the planet.

Moreover, she gave the lie to her supposed concern about offending Jews when she reportedly smiled when an audience member at the town hall shouted her line about “the Benjamins.” Even worse than that, she tried out Tlaib’s dual-loyalty meme when she added later, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

Fellow Rolling Stone cover girl Pelosi has been treating the “Benjamins” tweet as a momentary lapse. But Omar and Tlaib have taken the measure of their party’s leadership and decided that they have nothing to fear if they continue with their effort to delegitimize supporters of Israel. Their goal is not merely legitimizing anti-Zionism and a BDS movement whose aim is Israel’s destruction—it’s to shut down the criticism they’ve received for their anti-Semitism and to falsely link the defense of Israel with anti-Muslim prejudice.

In a party where intersectional libels in which every act of Israeli self-defense against terror is a war crime and where self-determination for a Jewish majority is apartheid, Omar and Tlaib have no need to fear Pelosi’s wrath. To the contrary, the speaker’s desire to appease and reward them with choice committee assignments even after the Republicans have finally gotten around to sanctioning their own haters illustrates that Rolling Stone’s prediction the future of the Democrats may be prescient.

It’s not too late for Jewish Democrats and friends of Israel to refuse to take Omar’s antics lying down. They need to make as big a stink about her latest outrage as they did about her previous one. And Pelosi needs to find the guts to punish Omar by taking her committee assignments away. If she doesn’t, Pelosi can forget about deterring future anti-Semitic inroads in her caucus and the rest of the Democratic Party.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.


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