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Ilhan Omar, don’t squander your chance to lead

photo of article author
Binnur Ozkececi-Taner
Rep. Ilhan Omar’s credentials as a progressive force who would stand up against discrimination have been sharply criticized since her now infamous tweet on Feb. 10 that suggested that support for Israel in the United States was “all about the Benjamins,” a reference to money.

That particular reference in connection with the Jewish faith has long been interpreted as anti-Semitic. To her credit, Omar issued an apology message and stated that “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”

Despite her apology, Omar reportedly made claims at a bookstore cafe in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 27 that her religious affiliation would make it easier for critics to dismiss her objections to U.S. support for the Israeli government, and that she wanted “to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

One of the first people to criticize Omar was Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on which Omar sits. On March 1, Engel demanded an apology from Omar for her remarks, suggesting that while he welcomes debate in Congress based on the merits of policy, “it’s unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the US-Israel relationship.”

Joel Gehrke, the Washington Examiner’s foreign affairs correspondent, wrote March 3 that instead of issuing an apology, Omar used her Twitter account to double-down on “her claims that some Jewish lawmakers have a dual loyalty to Israel, rejecting criticism from Democratic colleagues that she is engaging in anti-Semitism.”

As a Muslim congresswoman who is also an immigrant of Somali origin, Omar is in a difficult position with certain responsibilities and a great opportunity. There is clearly much pressure in today’s politics for individual politicians to advocate for what is important to them. That is, after all, why and how they get elected. However, words matter in politics, and symbolism is at the heart of the political process and critically important.

It was only this just past week that a Republican event in the West Virginia state Capitol included an Islamophobic poster linking Ilhan Omar to 9/11 by depicting her underneath the twin towers burning with the caption “’Never forget’ — You said … I am the proof you have forgotten.”

Omar’s rapid rise in national politics came as a result of her seemingly absolute rejection of “the politics of fear and scarcity” and “destructive and divisive policies” she says are pursued by her opponents. In a 2018 piece in The New Yorker, Emily Witt wrote that Omar’s message was to urge the “moral clarity and courage” of people who “remind[ed] us of the fundamental ideals of this nation, and getting us closer to the American promise.”

Omar has to deliver on her promise. She has the responsibility and the wonderful privilege of leading the way for the future generation of Muslim women (and men) of immigrant origin to become more active and influential in American politics. She also has to be courageous.

But being courageous in our current political climate is not about using Twitter to score a quick point or making a statement that will gain her praise from a small segment of society. Virtue-signaling only to a particular constituency at the expense of finding common ground can pave the way for disastrous political losses. Being courageous in today’s America is about using your position to bring people from all different backgrounds together. It is about rejecting discrimination in all of its forms and colors.

Minnesotans do not want to see Ilhan Omar as the new face of anti-Jewish or even anti-Israel criticism on the left. We need her to be the champion of moral clarity, diversity and inclusiveness.

Binnur Ozkececi-Taner is department chair and a professor of political science in Hamline University’s College of Liberal Arts. She holds a BA in international relations from the Middle East Technical University (Ankara, Turkey), an MA in peace studies from the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute, and a Ph.D. in political science from Syracuse University.

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Comments (56)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/06/2019 - 08:01 am.

    …We need her to be the champion of moral clarity, diversity and inclusiveness….

    Let’s see. A disenfranchised Palestinian population whose land can be seized and given to full citizens another country, ad infinitum, subjected to a blockade of commercial and humanitarian goods.

    Gosh, who can speak to those issues with moral clarity without acknowledging the “special relationship” of Israel–that is the term of current usage.

    …It is about rejecting discrimination in all of its forms and colors….

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/06/2019 - 10:12 am.

      I think a lot of people could speak to that. Just not Omar, so far, who can’t seem to talk about it without engaging in bigotry. She is a terrible advocate for Palestinians and a gift to Trump and Netanyahu. Maybe there is hope for her. Maybe not.

      • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 03/07/2019 - 12:27 am.

        Ah yes, the very section of the Democratic party that has been the hand maiden to Israeli apartheid towards Palestinians now wishes to pass judgement. Such comments are like the proverbial foxes passing judgements on the non compliant hens in the hen house.

      • Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 03/10/2019 - 11:12 am.

        Omar is a breath of fresh air Pat.
        It is Interesting how people criticize the new kid on the block over their usage of words or actions when all they have to do is look back and review what has preceded and has been created by people of ‘acceptance’.

  2. Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/06/2019 - 08:20 am.

    I am sure Omar apologists are not going to react well to this, but that shouldn’t be the case. Pelosi and Democratic leadership are trying to save Omar from herself. If Omar keeps sayin anti-semitic things, they will have to abandon her, remove her from comittees etc. Omar will be much more effective in her Israel/Aipac criticism if she can do it without the anti-semitism. It is possible.

    • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 03/07/2019 - 12:30 am.

      Breaking news. Nancy Pelosi has discovered that growing sections of party will no longer cow tow to her and AIPAC interest in covering for Israeli apartheid. Unfortunately this news hasn’t reached all in the Democratic Party, therefore they still use the “anti-semitic” canard.

      • Submitted by LK WOODRUFF on 03/07/2019 - 02:12 pm.

        Exactly. And growing numbers of us find Ilhan Omar to be a breath of fresh air, who speaks the truth even tho old, entrenched politicians are apoplectic. Reactionary. Threatened enormously by her not falling into lockstep with them.

        I can only interpret that to mean Omar and other freshman congressional types are a real threat to their old, bigoted, racist ideologies. And their jobs. And their political stranglehold on us all.

        Omar has said nothing anti-Semitic. She has said things that many of us also strongly feel. The problem here is that growing numbers of Americans hold views that are at odds with many in DC! We have not had proper representation – but we need to.

        She also poses a strong threat to the current Admin/regime. Hence the incessant attacks by it and by their propaganda arm, Fox News (owned by Murdoch who has taken extraordinary steps to put and keep Trump in the White House, the better to drive his own twisted agenda.)

        I see a changing of the guard coming, and I welcome it. The old white guard are dying out. The torch is being passed on to smart, well-educated young females–some of whom are minorities–who have been held back by the old guard. I look forward to the changes these young women will bring. I hope I live long enough to see it play out fully. I feel relief that the next generation(s) will have younger, more honest, more caring, more astute leaders who act with integrity, and care about ALL Americans.

        • Submitted by David Lundeen on 03/09/2019 - 07:13 am.

          What good is speaking truth if you can’t build coalitions and pass legislature? She’s a fraud, and because she says a couple idiotic tropes doesn’t mean she is even effective. She is an embarrassment.

  3. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 03/06/2019 - 09:28 am.

    Omar and AOC are at the same crossroads. Do you want to be an effective legislator, or a social media/reality TV star? If you want an extreme example of the message getting completely obliterated by the messenger, look to the POTUS.

  4. Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 03/06/2019 - 10:00 am.

    Is the only acceptable thing regarding Israel and AIPAC unquestioning and reflexive support? By extension, is questioning anything at all about Israel or AIPAC automatically anti-semitism? Because in a democracy nothing can be so sacred as to be beyond reproach.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/06/2019 - 10:16 am.

      The answer to both of your strawman questions is no. But those aren’t the issue, because the problem is Omar can’t seem to make her legitimate criticisms without engaging in actual anyi-semitism.

      • Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 03/06/2019 - 10:51 am.

        So in the context of Strawmen in this case, any talk of money or influence is by def off-limits, except when it isn’t?

        This is why I have a hard time identifying with the Dem/Liberal/Left. Identity politics being like an ideological minefield, I get judged for losing a limb. Not even the most ideologically pure being able to wade undamaged. Better to walk around.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 03/06/2019 - 01:57 pm.

        So in other words, you expect any and all criticisms of Israel, and US foreign policy relating to Israel, to be limited only to a set list of acceptable arguments, any beyond which are to be labeled anti-Semitism. Shall we apply similar standards to EVERY group, or is this particular interest group the only entitled to such special treatment? Sadly, this seems another issue, among many, where defenders of the status quo, (in this case continued decades of inaction), seek to defend their interest against the generation poised to supplant them. I expect this will be a growing battle over the course of the next 10 years, as the full might of the millennial generation enters the age range where they will assume access to the power their numbers command.

  5. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/06/2019 - 10:19 am.

    Rep. Omar isn’t someone who leads. She is someone who causes messes which others have to clean up. My guess is that she will be there for a long time, and that doesn’t matter a lot because back bench Congress people don’t count for much. But she will always be a political liability.

    • Submitted by Paul Yochim on 03/06/2019 - 02:07 pm.

      Good point. It makes me wonder if she is really there to represent her constituents or take cheap shots.At least the other “back bench” rep from Minnesota maintains a low profile.

      • Submitted by Barry Peterson on 03/06/2019 - 08:51 pm.

        One of the basic concepts I learned in grade school, about ethical and spiritual thought and behavior, was from Moses and The Ten Commandments.

        The admonitions:

        “Thou shalt not kill,” and
        “Thou shalt not steal,”

        are deadly sins.

        Under Netanyahu’s guidance, and under the guidance of the Likud Party, which the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon left to form a more peaceful political party, Palestinians have been massacred , and their property has been stolen for development by people claiming to be Jews.

        Most are not aware of the teaching in the Quran. In Chapter (or, Sura) 22, the teaching on warfare is to not engage in war unless attacked for property and to defend one’s family and community. It also teaches military actors to be kind to their prisoners.

        Please read, before condemning others, and if Christianity is your cup of tea, please forgive and be peaceful.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/07/2019 - 06:18 am.

        For her, it seems all about her when the reality is, it virtually none of it is about her. This is a situation we will just have to live with.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/06/2019 - 05:15 pm.

      What makes you say that? She has been in office roughly two months.

  6. Submitted by Nicky Noel on 03/06/2019 - 10:21 am.

    The thing I find confusing is that the Congesswoman never said anything about Jewish people. Everything she said was about Israel and Israel’s supporters in the US, a majority of whom are evangelical Christians.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/06/2019 - 10:28 am.

      That’s just being obtuse.

      The apologies and excuses for Omar’s anti-Semitism, some of which she has acknowledged and apologized for, just shows how big a problem anti-Semitism is on the left. Maybe people never learned the history.

      • Submitted by james herzog on 03/06/2019 - 11:08 am.

        Wow, talk about misreading history — the left has not been responsible for anti-semitism, the right has! Please do not use as your proof that the Nazi party was leftists, please do not do that — because they were not.

      • Submitted by Elisa Wright on 03/06/2019 - 01:18 pm.

        Maybe I am not the only person who doesn’t always understand what kind of language can be considered antisemitic. I did my homework in 20th century European history, grew up with many Jews, went to a school where we celebrated Jewish holidays, but when I see things labeled as antisemitic I think, “Good to know.” Linguistically, attempting to be unoffensive must be like walking on eggshells around a tense, passive-aggressive spouse.

        I don’t think Ilhan Omar is antisemitic and to me her comments did not come off as antisemitic.I understand now her remarks can be interpreted differently, I just wouldn’t have.

        There is, however, a glaring double-standard here. No one is mentioning the anti-Muslim/Somali/immigrant mentality that is so blatant in the United States. It is all over. Everything from the subtlety of refusing to hire a female Somali because the way the Somali dress would interfere with the job, to the bombing of a mosque in Bloomington.

        Perhaps if the House is going to officially vote to condemn antisemitism, why not condemn about anti-Muslim-ism, as well?

        • Submitted by lisa miller on 03/09/2019 - 04:20 pm.

          The house did call out anti Islam and other acts of hate. And yes there is a double standard; however that does not excuse her words. You can criticize(and should) Israel without stereotyping. If you listen to the full exchange, she was asked specifically about Israel, she went right to a stereotype of being more aligned with Israel vs the US. And this is not her first or second time. I think this article addresses the issue; although I am concerned with her ability to have those nuanced conversations as that is part of the job description. Not calling her out, only makes Dems appear wanting it both ways. While some may not view the words as hurtful, what matters is many in the Jewish community did.

      • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 03/07/2019 - 12:32 am.

        They aren’t apologies or excuses. Rather they’re the act of calling out a segment of the Democratic party that preaches endless morality while molly coddling apartheid in Israel.

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/07/2019 - 06:21 am.

      She has gotten close to lines no DFL politician should ever get close to. No one who seeks to lead should embarrass her supporters in the way she does.

      • Submitted by Barry Peterson on 03/07/2019 - 05:11 pm.

        Hiram, I understand your angst. However, as a 40-year serving Democrat, with 20-years on the board of directors of the DFL senate district in which Ilhan and her family has made home, and as the precinct chair of our precinct. I will defend Congresswoman Omar as both a young woman learning her way in politics, as one who has read both the Old Testament as well as the Qua-ran, and note that your ideals do not appear to support an enlightened and living democracy.

        Like you, I have people who were close to me who were in the NAZI concentration and death camps. I studied World War II history very closely when in college, and my mentor for my senior thesis is a high standing Jewish member of the society of historians in the United States.

        I care about your responses to Congresswoman Omar, but I also see her point from the standpoint of one who wrote to both late Israeli PM Sharon (receiving a kind response from his assistant, Berit, when he was in a coma), and to late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat when the two were coming close to peace in their region. I offered my support of peace and brotherly love to both parties as a neutral but caring party.

        Sir, Ilhan is not only a Black African Muslim woman, she also has a soul and a knowledge of history which has not been played in a favorable manner in the media. I have advised her staff in D.C. and Minneapolis to encourage her to maintain her basic understanding of how Israel, under the Likud Party, has attacked civilians in Palestine. I have also advised her to attend to the process of learning how to proceed in a more cautious, and diplomatic manner.

        We all put our foot in our mouths and have hit on other people’s nerves. This is part of our collective humanity. Please advise her office as a friend, not as an angry person. With best wishes.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/08/2019 - 03:43 pm.

          Omar’s parents were civil servants.
          She is 37 years old with a degree in political science.
          She has been in the United States for 23 years.
          Ignorance should not be an excuse.

          • Submitted by Barry Peterson on 03/08/2019 - 07:27 pm.

            Responding to Paul Brandon’s comment that after 23-years living in the U.S., there should be no room for ignorance [in Congresswoman Ilhan Omar].

            Paul, have you read the entire Qua-ran with an intent, critical, and objective mind?

            Do you know all there is to know about the world and all of the nuances and sensitivities to which people outside of your direct circle of influence respond in an offended manner?

            Have you been following the news and motion pictures and television broadcasts of how “evil” are “Muslims?”

            Do you know that Islam means “Peace,” and that the Prophet Mohammed was so annoyed at his period’s Bible-thumping hypocrites and ignorant people that those were the people among “Jews” and “Christians” he early on thought it best to purge?

            Are you aware of the fact that in later teaching, Mohammed taught people a very different and extremely peaceful and considerate manner in which to live as non-aggressive and kind people?

            Have you read The Prophet’s Final Sermon on the day of his retirement at a mountain retreat?

            If not, please engage your heart and mind, and recognize the those violent “Muslims” are thought to be “lost Muslims” by the people of Islam.

            More importantly, Ms. Omar clearly welcomes peaceful and considerate education and counsel, as noted in a recent email to those who follow what she has to say.

            As a historian with a healthy interest in philosophies and religions of the world, I have put myself in the shoes of major world political and religious leaders, generals, clerics, princes, kings, and queens, and philosophers.

            I hope you will, too. Ignorance is both bliss and deadly. Ilhan is a considerate woman who, as a Black woman, a Somali woman, and as a Muslim, has seen others like her raped in her community, held back due to the color of their skin and their gender; and irrespective of their character, honor, or level of education and grace.

  7. Submitted by Janice Gepner on 03/06/2019 - 10:38 am.

    The right has shown they want to use Omar as a target. Anything she says that can be used — whether out of context or not — will be used for headlines. She should do what Al Franken did when he was first elected. Avoid the media. Do good work. Try not to be controversial for a while as she gains credibility. She’s in a safe Democratic district but that doesn’t mean she can’t face a difficult primary.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 03/06/2019 - 01:49 pm.

      Why? Then they win. Punch them in the mouth, and expose their hypocrisy.

    • Submitted by Bob Petersen on 03/06/2019 - 01:50 pm.

      So what? If that’s a concern, stay out of politics. Rep. Omar has had it very easy in politics and it is so obvious her idea of reality is far from anything productive for anyone. Bringing up discussion is one thing. Talking about such issues in such a manner is something else. She just shows her true colors. Besides, if a Republican said anything remotely close to what she has been saying, every liberal would demand that person resign immediately.

  8. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 03/06/2019 - 01:39 pm.

    “I’m concerned that some aspects of our relationship with Israel isn’t in the best interests of America.”

    vs.

    “[I want to call out] the political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

    This isn’t hard for any reasonably intelligent person to figure out.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/06/2019 - 05:25 pm.

      Sorry, but you haven’t figured it out. Quelle surprise.

      The self-described supporters of Israel–typically conservative Evangelicals who have created a crucial role for Israel in their eschatological lunacies–have demanded unquestioning allegiance to Israel, or, more accurately, to the policies of the Likkud. This is calling for allegiance.

      What do you call it when Prime Minister Netanyahu is invited to speak to a joint session of Congress in opposition to a policy pursued by the President of the united States? Where do the loyalties lie there? The Republican leadership who staged that particular sideshow are not Jewish, but there allegiance was not so clear.

    • Submitted by John Evans on 03/06/2019 - 05:55 pm.

      She didn’t say that everyone’s support for Israel is all about the benjamins, she was saying the the virtually unconditional support in the U.S. Congress for the right-wing policies of Israel’s current government are all about the benjamins. She’s not completely correct here, but she’s not entirely wrong either.

      When you insist that anyone who even questions America’s support for Israel, no matter how badly Israel oppresses it’s Palestinian population, is antisemitic, then yes, I think yes, I think your support for Israel starts to look like an allegiance.

      Omar isn’t very good at making her point, but she does have one.

      • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 03/07/2019 - 10:48 am.

        She didn’t say that everyone’s support for Israel is all about the benjamins…

        Except, she literally did say that.

        IMO, if you’re going to use bigoted memes as a way to change the US policy on Israel, you’re going to have to get comfortable with them, in other words, own it. Because “hit and run” tactics, ie: make the statement, then deny you made it, isn’t going to get you very far.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/07/2019 - 01:54 pm.

          “Because “hit and run” tactics, ie: make the statement, then deny you made it, isn’t going to get you very far.”

          I wouldn’t be so certain. Those tactics got Trump into the White House.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/11/2019 - 10:38 pm.

          No, she didn’t say that everyone’s support for Israel was all the Benjamin’s. Omar was discussing a hugely successful legislative project within the US by American legislators that restricts attempts to boycott, divest, or sanction Israel. She was discussing BDS. If you want to claim that the Israeli lobby launches and succeeds incredibly powerful and successful initiatives like this without spending significant amounts of money… let’s here you explain how they do it?

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/06/2019 - 06:56 pm.

      Can’t believe I’m saying this but, CS looks like we are in reasonable agreement. If not mistaken Netanyahu made a major presentation to the joint session of congress in 2015, The objective was to (influence) them to shoot down “America’s” agreement on the Iran deal. (Lots of folks supporting his perspective over Obama’s) So when is it apropos to have foreign leaders come in to address our congress to over rule our executive administration, or vice a versa? Personally I think Omar was spot on, and don’t think that makes me any more anti-semetic, than it makes me anti-muslim if some one critiqued if we had Hassan Rouhani come in and did the same thing in favor of the Iran deal! Free speech is free speech, we voted in an outsider with a different perspective and now folks whine when they get a different perspective. Well champions of diversity, quit whining, this is what diversity looks like in reality, sorry its not as touchy and feelie as you would like it to be.

    • Submitted by Elisa Wright on 03/07/2019 - 09:34 am.

      Somali people tend to have a more direct, emotive preferred style of communication which can be off-putting to the dominant Western European-ish culture here. I used to think, well, they should just change that, but now I think it’s more important for us to learn to understand and adjust for the benefit of our populations as well as in our dealings abroad. We should already be accustomed to it since African Americans tend to be more direct as do Israeli.

  9. Submitted by Brian Simon on 03/06/2019 - 03:31 pm.

    I’d say that Rep Omar isn’t squandering her chance to lead, she’s exploiting it. It’s an uncomfortable dialogue, for some, but is very reasonable to ask whether some cogresspeople are more supportive of Netanyahu’s right wing coalition than of their own government. Just a few short years ago, Republicans invited the Prime Minister here to address Congress in a deliberate snub to the Obama administration. Particularly given that Netanyahu himself is now facing indictment on corruption charges, surely it is reasonable to push back on US politicians who seemingly support his administration unquestionably, and potentially counter to US interests.

  10. Submitted by Ahmed Ali on 03/06/2019 - 04:50 pm.

    Here is the fallacy at the core of this entire opinion piece. Instead of directly quoting whatever supposedly anto-Semitic remark Rep. Omar most recently made, the author cites to a summary of what she supposedly said written by a rightwing Washington newspaper:

    BEGIN Joel Gehrke, the Washington Examiner’s foreign affairs correspondent, wrote March 3 that instead of issuing an apology, Omar used her Twitter account to double-down on “her claims that some Jewish lawmakers have a dual loyalty to Israel, rejecting criticism from Democratic colleagues that she is engaging in anti-Semitism.” END

    The problem is that this is NOT true. Rep. Omar never said that “some Jewish lawmakers have a dual loyalty to Israel.” She never mentioned Jewish lawmakers, Jewish people, or Judaism. In fact, she didn’t even mention Israel this last time around.

    The fact that the author of this piece did not quote Rep. Omar’s actual words, which would have been inconvenient to the author’s argument, is telling.

    • Submitted by chuck holtman on 03/10/2019 - 10:26 pm.

      Thank you. The creditability of the entire piece is undermined by the fact that the author (an academic no less, who should be scrupulous in these matters) did not quote Rep. Omar, and did not even characterize Rep. Omar’s comments herself, but instead plucked from the air the (recklessly or intentionally false) characterization of Rep. Omar’s comments by a random writer from a newspaper with a known political bent.

      And the author herself carelessly mischaracterizes Rep. Omar’s preceding comment, which was not that “support for Israel in the U.S.” is about the Benjamins, but very specifically that the support of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (not Jewish, I’m guessing) was about the Benjamins.

  11. Submitted by Kathie Noga on 03/06/2019 - 05:30 pm.

    I support her right to express her views on any topic. Trump has said many offensive things and yet she is the one who is told she can’t express her view point. The Prime Minister of Israel put some laws in place which many people did not like. They protected in thousands on the street. No one is calling them antisemitic for protesting him. Seems like a double standard there. When Trump, Obama or any other world leader does something wrong, we all should have the right to criticize them. We need to examine what Israel is doing in the world as well as the leaders of the Palestinians. I personally think neither of them speak for the people. In fact I think the women of Israel and Palestine should solve the problem in the Middle East. They have suffered the most from the violence there. The men have failed us and have big egos. They want every thing their way. The women are the only ones who could compromise for the good of all and solve the situation there.

  12. Submitted by charles thompson on 03/06/2019 - 06:45 pm.

    Rep Omar has touched the third rail and the sparks are flying. Maybe we should ask Jimmy Carter what he thinks.

  13. Submitted by John Evans on 03/06/2019 - 06:47 pm.

    First term representatives don’t really lead. They have a job to learn.

    And why should we take these criticisms seriously seriously when they’re nearly all coming from people who have let Steve King serve for the last 12 years and never demanded his resignation.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/08/2019 - 10:05 am.

    It’s actually quite refreshing to see some spirited defense of Omar here. Personally, I think there have always been those who are willing to turn anti-Semitism into a trope of it’s own in order to silence critics of Israeli policy, and I think we’re seeing that here.

    If Omar has flipped or flopped on her support or opposition for BDS (boycott, divest, and sanction) against Israel, that’s a legitimate complaint regarding a politician who’s abandoned a campaign promise, but it’s not necessarily anti-Semitism.

    The larger question is: why are so many American legislators dedicated to restricting basic freedoms and mechanisms that people of conscience have used to opposed immoral and inhumane governments all over the world? And why does this assault on American freedoms exclusively protect Israel? Imagine for instance a Nationwide legislative movement to restrict boycotts, sanctions, and divestment targeted at Russia?

    The question as to what extent a demand for these kinds of legislative initiatives are de facto demands for Israeli allegiance is a legitimate question. I wonder if the problem is the fact that Omar has brought these thus far under the radar ani-BDS initiatives out into the light?

    We can argue about whether or not Israeli policy is or isn’t inhumane or oppressive, but we can’t silence that debate altogether. Nor can supporters of Israel set parameters of the debate… you don’t get to decide how people get to criticize Israeli policy.

    And I’ll note with a certain amount of disgust how many “Democrats” have jumped on the anti-Omar and anti-Ellison attack bandwagons with obvious glee and enthusiasm despite the fact that these people are duly elected and popular Democrats. Without exception I note that thus far those detractors have been “centrist” extremist who’ve ALWAYS disparaged liberal and progressive candidates as matter of course. Omar isn’t the one creating the big division here.

    The danger of turning anti-Semitism into a trope of it’s own is that it can backfire and damage the credibility of those making the charge. The days of un-examined accusations are obviously over. Clearly the pro-Israeli perspective isn’t the only perspective on the table anymore, nor should it be.

    The rise of ant-Semitism in the US and around the world is very real and very disturbing trend. But the long endless conflict with the Palestinians is going to demand a reckoning that has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with colonialism. Supporters of Israel have created their own needle that they now have to thread. I sincerely with wish them luck.

  15. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/11/2019 - 06:19 am.

    The complaint is that she supports a boycott of Israel, a perfectly legitimate complaint. Her job is to represent her constituency, not keep campaign promises. I will vote for her because she votes for the right person for speaker, but she shouldn’t be in Congress, at least not in my opinion. When she messes up, and that’s what she always does, I won’t clean it up. Life is too short.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/11/2019 - 09:16 am.

      Hiram, complaints about Israeli policy are also quite legitimate, and no politician satisfies every constituency, there’s ALWAYS a complaint somewhere.

      No one is asking YOU to clean anything up, and I’m not clear how these attacks on Omar can be described as any legitimate attempt to “clean” anything up in the first place.

      I’m not really clear who made this mess frankly. Omar’s comments themselves are relatively uncontroversial. Does AIPAC not exist? Is there no Israeli lobby? Do successful lobbyists NOT spend money to deliver results? Have Israeli lobbyist NOT been successful in getting anti-BDS legislation passed in over half the State and in the US Congress? Why are people of conscience who want to take action against policies they consider to be inhumane and illegal necessarily anti-Semitic?

      Why isn’t the Israeli lobby responsible for this mess? Why did they need this BDS legislation in the first place? One thing it is to lobby in favor of Israeli policy, but lobbying for laws that punish Americans for objecting to Israeli policy? Isn’t that an “overreach” that’s actually at the heart of this mess?

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/13/2019 - 10:50 am.

        Why isn’t the Israeli lobby responsible for this mess?

        Because they are lobbyists, not legislators. Lobbyists are accountable to the people who hire them, not to the voters.

        There is a line here. It’s okay to criticize the role of money in politics. It’s not okay to complain about the role of Jewish money in politics. That is anti semitism, and it’s unacceptable.

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