Quite clearly, there exists a vast double standard in which racist comments and/or actions are viewed through different prisms when culpability is assigned to different people, even many years later and even after apologies are offered.
Witness the case of anti-Semitism.
Truth be told, while anti-Semitic statements and actions may be criticized, there are no serious fundamental consequences to one engaging in anti-Semitism today. The recent case of Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s obviously anti-Semitic tweets, and even more so, her vitriolic anti-Semitic political positions, make the double standard abundantly clear. Following her most recent expression of hostility towards Jews in general, and Israel in particular, Omar may have belatedly “apologized” for her clear anti-Semitic tweets for purposes of political expedience, but her anti-Semitic support for the BDS movement continues. Most troubling, given her proclivities and biases, she still sits on the Foreign Relations Committee in the House of Representatives.
As recently as 2016, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance adopted a working definition for anti-Semitism which has now been widely adopted around the world. The definition is utilized by the U.S. State Department, and it includes various anti-Israel activities—many of those employed by BDS activists in their quest to delegitimize the State of Israel. With this as the guide, there are two members of Congress who clearly meet the standard of expressing anti-Semitic views given their open support of the BDS movement. They are Ilhan Omar and Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.
Former chief rabbi of England Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks famously spoke out in the British House of Lords in a memorable speech about the danger in Democratic societies where anti-Semitism becomes accepted within a major political party in a democracy. Sacks was talking about the rise of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who world Jewry fears may become the next prime minister of England. Fearful, almost half of all English Jews have indicated that they may leave England if Corbyn is elected. The English Jewish community voted in overwhelming numbers for the Conservative Tory party of Prime Minister Theresa May in the last election.
Unfortunately, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez further legitimized Corbyn with a recent phone call with him after which she publicly praised him. Can one imagine the uproar if it was instead a Republican member of Congress, and the call was with a white racist instead of the anti-Semite Corbyn? The answer is quite obvious. After all, we saw what happened to Representative Steve King and his loss of committee assignments for his reprehensible comments. Yes, this is a clear double standard.
There is a famous dictum in the Jewish Talmud that admonishes us to recognize that he who is merciful to the cruel is destined to become cruel to the merciful. Corbyn complains about Israel’s policies, and yet, he infamously placed a wreath at a cemetery for Palestinian Arab terrorists, including those involved in the 1972 Summer Olympics Munich massacre. Corbyn calls both terrorist entities Hamas and Hezbollah “friends,” despite the fact that they are committed to deliberately targeting civilians and regularly commit war crimes. Remarkably, it is the very target and victim of these attacks—Israel—that is the subject of Corbyn’s slings and arrows.
Those like Omar and Tlaib complain about Israel’s policies but fail to castigate the Palestinian Authority’s Nazi-like “pay for slay” policy of providing incentive money to terrorists, offering greater financial rewards to those who commit the greatest crimes. Dare we forget the murder of innocent Americans as well, like Taylor Force.
Omar and Tlaib want to boycott, divest and sanction democratic Israel where Israeli Arabs serve in all areas of Israel. With a full right to vote, Israel’s Arabs have their own political parties, sit in Israel’s Knesset and even want to increase aid to a Palestinian Authority. The same P.A. that honors mass murderers of Jews, names schools and city squares after these terrorists (including those murdering Jewish children and babies,) and dedicates 7 percent of its budget to rewarding these mass murderers and their families.
Something else to be considered. It is not surprising that those on both the far left and far right actually agree on their opposition to Israel and Jews. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan recently publicly called Jews “termites” many years after he referred to Hitler as “a very great man.” Notorious white supremacist David Duke came to Omar’s defense for her anti-Semitic tweets about Jews and money. Of course, Duke is also a supporter of the anti-Semitic BDS movement. When it comes to Israel, both white supremacists and left-wing anti-Semites support boycotting Israel. They also support the anti-Semitic Palestinian Authority, whose leader Mahmoud Abbas financed the Munich massacre, wrote a book denying the Holocaust, and who a few years ago praised one of the Olympic terrorists, Abu Daoud, as a legitimate hero.
Media attempts to compare Omar’s comments to previous statements made by U.S. President Donald Trump and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are outrageous. President Trump has a Jewish daughter and son-in-law (who work with him) and Jewish grandchildren, and has been an extraordinary friend of Israel and has made probably the strongest comments against anti-Semitism of any president. Congressman McCarthy is one of the best friends Israel has in Congress. On the other hand, Omar has a history of making anti-Semitic comments, having events with anti-Semites and promulgating anti-Semitic views on Israel. Media attempts to make this comparison are deeply offensive to the Jewish community and indirectly is an attempt to minimize Omar’s anti-Semitism.
For the first time in decades, there are now members of Congress that are unabashedly anti-Semitic. Democratic leader and friend of the Jewish community House Majority Leader Stony Hoyer commented about Omar that actions speak louder than words, and that her actions should not reflect anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, her political positions are undeniably anti-Semitic, and they are unlikely to change.
Actions do speak louder than words, and the Jewish community awaits action.
Farley Weiss is president of the National Council of Young Israel. He is an intellectual property attorney for the law firm of Weiss & Moy.