Ilhan Omar, Could This Be Happening in America?
This is Shabbat Zachor, the Sabbath of Remembrance. What is it that we are bid to remember on this special Shabbat before Purim? We are to remember what the people of Amalek have done to us throughout our history—from the unprovoked attack upon us as we left Egypt after the Exodus, to Haman, to Hitler, to Arafat, to all the Jew-haters of the world. The Torah commands us, Lo tishkach, “You must never forget!”
And now, this hatred seems to have invaded the sacred halls of the US Congress, as Rabbi Shmuley Boteach put it in the Jerusalem Post last week: “Ilhan Omar is a throwback to days of segregation, when racists openly roamed the halls of congress. Yes, hatred is hatred, but no form of bigotry is as pervasive and in as many places as Anti-Semitism.”
While I have been greatly disappointed over the years in the increasingly anti-Israel stance of the Democrat Party, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would come to this. Last week the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives could not bring themselves to make a simple declaration condemning Rep. Ilan Omar of Minnesota for her repeated anti-Semitic remarks, in which she suggested that: Israel is hypnotizing members of Congress, that members are being bribed by Jews, that Jews are concerned only with money—the Benjamins—and that Jews have dual loyalty to the US and Israel.
At 1st, Speaker Nancy Pelosi attempted to censor her but that soon collapsed under pressure from the new crop of her far-left colleagues led by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez who unabashedly supports Omar. And so Congress not only refused to condemn Omar, but endorsed a meaningless resolution condemning nearly every form of bigotry—meaningless because any statement that condemns everything condemns nothing.
And unbelievably, Pelosi has allowed Omar to continue to sit on the powerful House Foreign Relations Committee even though she has it in her power to remove her—a committee that influences policy towards Israel. Eliot Engel, a Jew, the Committee Chairman criticized Omar’s comments but also refused to remove her.
Anti-Semitism is not like other hatreds with its centuries of blood libels, pogroms and terrorism—culminating in the Holocaust. Tragically, it still continues in the genocidal aspirations of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, extremists on the political Right and Left—and now in the world’s greatest democratic institution with Ilhan Omar and her buddies André Carson and Rashida Tlaib. Even David Duke—white nationalist and neo-Nazi—came out in support of Omar.It seems that anti-Semitism is the only thing that can unite both the extreme left and right.
In an interview last week Jeff Balaban said (Tipping Point 1/11/19): Let me tell you about anti-Semitism…Only at the very end when they’re finally putting us in the ovens do they admit, “Yeah, we always just wanted to wipe them out.” Until it gets to there, there’s always a reason. The reason doesn’t have to make any sense…Jews have too much power; Jews are too rich; Jews are capitalists; Jews are socialists; Jews are too this; Jews are too that. Jews weren’t white enough during the Holocaust, now Jews are too white. There’s always a reason. The bottom line is that it’s an irrational hatred that always ends the same way. This time the excuse is Israel. So finally, after being all but wiped out in Europe being told, “Go home; go back to your homeland,” now we’re being told, “You don’t have a homeland; you don’t belong there at all.”
How do you kow it’s anti-Semitism and not just criticism of Israel’s policies? When it’s only about Israel—not North Korea, Venezuela or any other state that grossly violates human rights. Omar’s supporters care so much about Arabs? Arabs are being slaughtered around the world. The most humane treater of Muslims and Christians in the Middle East is by far the Jewish State. And yet the anti-Semitism is perfidious.
Omar ran for congress opposing BDS—Boycott, Divest and Sanctioning Israel, a movement to destroy it. But right after winning her seat, she admitted to actually being a supporter. This seems less surprising now that her hatred for Jews has been exposed. I don’t believe that anyone in the history of Congress has so openly and vilely attacked Jews and Israel. Other bigots have tried to disguise their hatred, but Omar can’t contain her contempt, doubling down on her views when criticized. If you read Omar’s website you will see that she had worked for and raised money for CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, which was founded as a propaganda arm of Hamas—a US designated terrorist group with direct ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. On March 23 Omar will be the keynote speaker at CAIR’s fundraiser. Omar’s defenders say she doesn’t understand what she’s saying. Her efforts on behalf of CAIR say otherwise.
Omar’s argument to her critics is that you’re a racist; you’re a bigot; you’re saying all this because she’s black, Muslim and a woman. Could it be that my criticism is because I’m a Jewish American who for the 1st time in my life feels literally threatened by the rise of this kind of anti-Semitism?
“It must be because of her race,” she says. Really? That’s what racists say. People who say she doesn’t know what she’s doing are racist, misogynist and Islamophobic. We should judge people by what they say and by what they do… not by the color of their skin—to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who also said: “Anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and ever will be so.”
Democratic presidential contenders Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have all come to the defense of Omar saying that being anti-Israel is not the same thing as being anti-Semitic. But remember the test. If it’s only about criticizing Israel and not North Korea or Venezuela, it’s anti-Semitism.
James Clyburn, Democratic Majority Whip of Congress said: “Omar is living through a lot of pain…There are people who tell me, ‘Well, my parents are Holocaust survivors’…It’s more personal with her.” Unbelievable! Clyburn telling Holocaust survivors and their families to check their Holocaust privilege. It’s unreal! It’s not surprising since Clyburn—like Omar—refuses to disavow his connection to Louis Farrakhan—one of the most notorious Jew haters in the world.
What’s so disturbing about Clyburn—think about this—is that he’s the Majority Whip of US Congress. Could it be that the mainstream Democratic Party now legitimizes Jew hatred at the highest levels? Is this why it refused to support an anti-BDS resolution supporting Israel at the beginning of the new Congress—a resolution that would have easily passed before? Before her election the ZOA (Zionist Organization of America) asked to deaf ears why no one in the Democratic Party had come forward to criticize and challenge Omar’s anti-Semitic statements.
This has been brewing in the Democratic Party for some time.
- There was the ugly, overt Jew-hatred on display in the Occupy movement.
- There was the 2012 Democratic convention when a vote on a platform plank calling for the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was booed down.
- There was President Obama’s disrespect and multiple attempts to sandbag Bibi Netanyahu, including interfering in his re-election,
- and Obama’s parting gift, a never before US abstention on an anti-Israel UN Security Council resolution.
We’ve seen what this can lead to in England with the anti-Semite Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn who might become the next prime minister, if we let this sort of thing grow. So I ask, what’s next???
Listening to Omar’s defenders, I was reminded of the days of segregation when racists roamed the halls of Congress, openly expressing their prejudices and fighting against civil rights legislation. I never thought I would see any members of Congress express anti-Semitic views with impunity and be appointed to positions of power—as Omar has.
My friends, I’m worried. I don’t want to see the Democratic Party destroyed. America needs the Democratic Party. Our 2-party system is crucial to the health of our democracy. We just need saner voices to come forward and put a stop to this nonsense.
And lest we think that this doesn’t affect us much in Georgia, Toni Brown told me about a multicultural night last week at the Autrey Mill Middle School in Fulton County featured a map of the Middle East with the State of Palestine replacing the State of Israel! The idea of the event was to have families come and share their stories in an effort to promote cultural understanding. Here, it seems, the understanding goes only in one direction!
This Shabbat Zachor beckons us to be vigilant and fight anti-Semitism whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head. How do we fight it? Let me read you the story of a US Navy cruiser anchored in Mississippi for a week’s shore leave:
The 1st evening, the ship’s Captain received the following note from the wife of a very wealthy and influential plantation owner: “Dear Captain, Thursday will be my daughter Melinda’s Debutant Ball. I would like you to send 4 well-mannered, handsome, unmarried officers in their formal dress uniforms to attend the dance. They should arrive promptly at 8:00pm prepared for an evening of polite Southern conversation. They should be excellent dancers, as they will be the escorts of lovely refined young ladies. One last point: No Jews please.”
Sending a written message by his own yeoman, the captain replied: “Madam, thank you for your invitation. In order to present the widest possible knowledge base for polite conversation, I am sending 4 of my best and most prized officers. One is a lieutenant commander and a graduate of Annapolis with an additional Master’s degree from MIT. The 2nd is a Lieutenant, one of our helicopter pilots with a PhD. The 3rd officer is also a lieutenant, with degrees in both computer systems and information technology and is awaiting notification on PhD from Cal Tech. Finally, the 4th officer, also a lieutenant commander, is our ship’s doctor.”
Upon receiving this letter, Melinda’s mother was quite excited and looked forward to Thursday with pleasure. Her daughter would be escorted by 4 handsome naval officers without peer and the other women in her social circle would be insanely jealous.
At precisely 8:00pm on Thursday, Melinda’s mother heard a polite rap at the door which she opened to find, in full dress uniform, 4 very handsome, smiling Black officers. Her mouth fell open, but pulling herself together, she stammered, “There must be some mistake.”
“No, Madam,” said the 1st officer. Captain Goldberg never makes mistakes!”
Yes, my friends, we must fight Amalek and anti-Semitism wherever and whenever it raises its ugly head. We live in a complex world and we must be smart about it like Captain Goldberg. May Hashem grant us the strength and the wisdom to fight the forces of bigotry and hatred and to unify our great country in the spirit of peace and tolerance for all. Amen!