Since Feb. 12, The Guardian has published five pieces either entirely or largely sympathetic to Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, after the congresswoman was forced to apologize for tweets widely viewed as anti-Semitic.
The tweet, suggesting the only reason that the United States supports Israel is because AIPAC money buys politicians’ support, came on top of a 2012 tweet the freshman lawmaker was also forced to apologize for which accused Israel of “hypnotizing” the world to hide their “evil” ways.
If you include a pro-Omar op-ed (published before the latest row), that makes six sympathetic pieces, with nothing published to date largely critical.
The latest article, by U.S.-based Guardian reporter Sabrina Siddiqui, featured comments by New York Times contributor Wajahat Ali, who, though mildly uncomfortable with the words Omar used in her tweet, claimed there’s a “target on her because she’s Muslim and black woman.”
This narrative, that Omar was being criticized in large part because of her gender, color and faith, was similarly highlighted in a Feb. 4 Guardian op-ed by Mesrine Malik that opined on the row over the 2012 “hypnotized” tweet that “because she is a Muslim, and a Muslim’s place in Western public life must always be subject to scrutiny, [Omar’s] opinions are distorted into a sinister shape.”
The suggestion that Omar is held to a higher degree of critical scrutiny because she’s a Muslim women of color is pretty much the opposite of the truth, as the reason she and fellow Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib received such positive media coverage when they were elected was due to their gender and faith. International press coverage after their November victories hailed the election of “the first Muslim women elected to Congress”—in the context of a record-setting number of women and minorities elected to Congress—as a “milestone” for America, with many outlets taking particular interest in Omar being the first congresswoman to wear a hijab.
In fact, until the recent row over Omar’s tweets, the fact that both Tlaib and Omar are both pro-BDS, and that Tlaib is even more radical in rejecting the continued existence of a Jewish state within any borders, were downplayed or ignored. Further, Omar’s Feb. 1 tweet, which absurdly compared Israel to segregation under the Jim Crow South of mid-20th-century America, received little mainstream media coverage.
The glowing press coverage of Omar and Tlaib, and obfuscation (until the recent controversy) of their radical views is consistent with a media that often accepts the intersectionality and identity politics imputing value to individuals based solely on desired racial, ethnic or gender characteristics. This ideology implicitly rejects the classic liberal view that people should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. We say “desired” characteristics, because the intersectionality calculus prioritizes (perceived) race, gender and sexual orientation, yet doesn’t give much “minority” value to Jews, who are often seen, regardless of their skin color, as “white” exploiters of black and brown people.
For Guardian editors, being a Muslim woman of color and anti-Israel almost guarantees you sympathetic coverage. But even for serious media outlets, the likes of Ilhan Omar, at the very least, are all but guaranteed to receive a fair hearing, which is a good thing given America’s racial history.
However, many of Omar’s defenders aren’t merely asking that she be treated fairly. Rather, they often seem to demand that such preferred minorities be granted a priori victimhood status, regardless of their personal histories, and the presumption of moral virtue, regardless of their behavior. While Omar’s story, as a Somali immigrant elected to Congress, is inspiring, the excusing, obfuscating or erasing of her use of anti-Semitic tropes—based on an illiberal reflex in which her immutable traits trump reasoned discussion and universal moral standards—represents the very worst of the modern left.
Adam Levick has served as managing editor of UK Media Watch, a CAMERA affiliate, since 2010.