(June 16, 2021 / JNS) Standing up to hatred is hard. When those who take a moral stand against it act together, however, it can be confronted to an impressive degree.
What started as four Jewish Democrats in Congress attacking the comments of Rep. Ilhan Omar and other colleagues—not by name—as anti-Semitic, grew to 12 members specifically criticizing Omar, who had posted a tweet comparing the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban, accompanied by a video in which she is seen questioning Secretary of State Antony Blinken on America’s opposition to the trying of American and Israeli soldiers in the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The U.S. and Israel are not even parties to the ICC. Nor was the ICC founded to pursue claims against Democratic countries. It arose after the Holocaust to pursue regimes, with no systems of justice, which engage in war crimes.
One basis for the Trump administration’s having cut aid to the Palestinian Authority was its breaching of the Oslo Accords and filing charges against Israel with the ICC. The other was the P.A.’s failure to end its “pay for slay” policy of rewarding terrorists who murder Jews and Americans. The Biden administration resumed the transfer of substantial aid to the P.A. without its dropping of either.
In response to the letter from 12 Jewish lawmakers, and aware that the Democratic Congressional leaders were about to criticize her publicly, Omar somewhat backtracked on her comments. She released a statement claiming that she was “in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems,” and that she was seeking “accountability for specific incidents regarding those [ICC] cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.”
Yet, her outrageous tweet was merely one of many anti-Semitic posts and comments that she has made for the past two years. She referred to Israel’s recent operation in Gaza to stop the massive rocket attacks by Hamas against its own civilians as “an act of terrorism.” She even lamented that Hamas did not have the Iron Dome missile defense system that Israel had.
Previously, she used the anti-Semitic “dual loyalty” canard, stating in February 2019 that supporters of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship are people who “push allegiance to a foreign country.”
Democratic Congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, James Clyburn, Katherine Clark, Hakeem Jeffries and Pete Aguilar welcomed her latest “clarification,” saying, “Drawing false equivalences between democracies like the U.S. and Israel and groups that engage in terrorism like Hamas and the Taliban foments prejudice and undermines progress toward a future of peace and security for all.”
This statement properly placed the blame on Omar by declaring that her statements “foment prejudice.” It could have been the turning of the tide in the fight against anti-Semitism.
But standing up against hatred must be maintained, even in the face of criticism, and the Democratic leadership in Congress wilted under the visceral attacks by Omar’s allies. Rep. Cori Bush, for example, attacked those who criticized Omar’s anti-Semitism, stating: “Enough with the anti-blackness and Islamophobia.”
Omar herself accused the 12 Jewish Democrats of bigotry by saying that “the Islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive.” Her colleagues Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Betty McCollum and head of the Progressive Caucus Pramila Jayapal also came to her defense, which is not surprising as all of them have themselves spewed anti-Israel rhetoric.
They claim that criticizing Omar puts her in danger. In fact, it’s Omar’s comments that put Jews in danger. Hamas is pure evil. It shouldn’t be hard for all members of Congress to support Israel over a terrorist organization whose covenant calls for the murder of all Jews and, of course, the destruction of Israel.
Furthermore, Omar’s clarification doesn’t indicate that she no longer believes that the ICC should go after Israel and America: She merely said that she shouldn’t have equated them with Hamas and the Taliban. She showed that the criticism had no effect on her, as she has continued with her anti-Israel-anti-Semitic tweets.
It’s obvious that Democratic Congressional leaders like Pelosi—who described Omar as a “valued member of our caucus,” and recently endorsed her for reelection—have been bullied into silence and will continue to tolerate anti-Semitism in their ranks.
The 12 Jewish Democrats have the power to join their Republican counterparts in Congress for a majority to remove Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee. If they fail to do so, she and her supporters in the House will continue to grow stronger. It may not be easy for them to stand up against Omar’s hate, but who said it’s easy to do the right thing?
If they wilt under the attacks and fail to join their Republican colleagues to take action against her, they will not only display moral cowardice, but will bear responsibility for the rise of anti-Semitism within the Democratic party and across the country.
Farley Weiss, former president of the National Council of Young Israel, is an intellectual property attorney for the law firm of Weiss & Moy. The views expressed are the author’s, and not necessarily representative of NCYI.
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