Responding to the mounting expectations of his Jewish constituents, U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) took a welcome baby step in the fight against anti-Semitism last Thursday by taking the lead on issuing a joint statement with 11 other Jewish members of Congress condemning progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for recent remarks that American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris called “beyond shocking and beyond reprehensible.”
Harris was referring to a June 7 tweet by Omar, stating: “We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”
After accusing the 12 Jewish reps of “Islamophobia,” and following additional pressure from Democratic leaders, Omar released a statement on Thursday claiming that she had not made “a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel,” adding, “I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”
According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance “ Working Definition of Antisemitism,” which has been adopted by the U.S. State Department and dozens of countries around the world, demonizing Israel by questioning its right to defend itself or declare itself a Jewish state—or applying to it a double standard—is anti-Semitic.
The unending campaign of anti-Semitic demonization of Israel by Omar and her fellow progressives in the Democratic Party will not stop until the U.S. Congress—spurred by members like Schneider, who have been elected by Jewish constituents—take a zero-tolerance stand.
The recent condemnation of Omar was a first step. But rest assured, this is not the first time that she has been pulled into the “backroom” by Democratic leaders.
This circuitous pattern lies at the heart of the problem. The leadership begs and Omar, unscathed, smugly retracts and then, at the first opportunity, repeats the offense. This ensures that other offenders, such as Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that the use of anti-Semitic epithets for political benefit goes wholly without cost or consequence.
Simply put, anti-Semitism cannot be effectively squelched if it is sanctioned procedurally as a debatable issue from within the highest office in the land. Rather, it must be met with the same granite wall of opposition that hateful or offensive remarks towards the African-American community are met.
Omar, who was known from the very beginning of her first term by Democratic leadership for her consistent outpouring of statements demonizing Israel and Jews, was placed on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Why this was done is a question for another time, but suffice it to say that this placement—much to the horror of pro-Israel advocates—has provided her with the ideal perch from which to project her rabidly anti-Israel bias. Even if she were not such a visible antagonist, as an avowed anti-Semite, her very seat on the committee is offensive.
If the Democratic leadership truly wishes to address the poisonous emissions, it should discontinue past failed attempts. In place of unctuous proclamations of shock and regret, which actually compound the problem, there should be concrete actions that carry a meaningful political cost. So far, the House leadership has gotten by on the cheap.
For a far lesser offense, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) was stripped of her House committee assignments by the Republican Party. Instead of mere words, Schneider, if he were now to take the lead on an initiative to strip Omar of her undeserved spot on the Foreign Affairs Committee, could truly distinguish himself.
Rather than continuing the circuitous debate, he could provide the critical leadership that Jews at this time are craving. By supporting him, his party would be demonstrating the will to replace platitudinous gestures with a concrete and visible commitment to a policy of zero tolerance, similar to that which the African-American community has come rightfully to expect.
Andrew D. Lappin is a redeveloper of urban industrial properties. He is a board member of The Ember Foundation, NGO Monitor, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA), and serves on The Illinois Policy Board which monitors corporate compliance with the state’s anti-BDS statute. He is a former board member of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
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