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Ilhan Omar dials back rhetoric in sober, thoughtful op-ed

I’m old and uncool and accept my fate.

I don’t tweet, nor even read tweets unless they reach me through some older medium. My communications instincts were formed before the twitterverse. I know how uncool that is, and I’m sure I miss out, but I also believe that sometimes it helps to slow down and think before letting fly with one’s thoughts and feelings.

My young and cool congressperson, freshman Democrat Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, grew up and rose to prominence in a much more hip-shooty world and she’s thriving in it, except when the hip-shootiness gets her in trouble, as with some of her recent comments that gave offense to many, even as they surely thrilled many others. I would not presume to advise her, or anyone under 70, on 21st-century communication strategy.

But in an op-ed in this morning’s Washington Post, Omar dialed it way back, to sober and responsible and I, for one old coot, appreciate the effort to translate the comments into a boring/thoughtful/careful 20th-century tone that might allow some fair-minded people to maybe even open their minds to the best of what she was trying to say in the first place.

Leaving out the hurtful, careless tropes about Jews hypnotizing the world and using “the Benjamins, baby,” to buy pro-Israel influence over U.S. foreign policy, today’s op-ed speaks respectfully of the “horror of the Holocaust,” and the historic suffering of Jews during centuries of anti-Semitism, which might, for the fair-minded, buy space for her to ask Israel and its American allies to acknowledge that the creation of Israel has been a tragedy for the Palestinian people.

She believes, as do many Americans, and argues that a two-state solution is necessary. She doesn’t, nor will I here, attempt to parse the long-running argument over which side is more to blame for the many failures to reach such a deal. A wise decision, for the moment at least and perhaps always, since such blame games seem to usually get in the way of compromise or progress.

In her careful, unhip op-ed, she also asks open-minded Americans to keep in mind certain principles that should be, but seldom are, applied globally by makers of U.S. foreign policy. Here’s a taste of that from the op-ed:

Valuing human rights also means applying the same standards to our friends and our enemies. We do not have the credibility to support those fighting for human rights in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua if we do not also support those fighting for human rights in Honduras, Guatemala and Brazil. Our criticisms of oppression and regional instability caused by Iran are not legitimate if we do not hold Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to the same standards.

And we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to repression in Saudi Arabia — a country that is consistently ranked among the worst of the worst human rights offenders. Whether it is the murder of dissenters such as Jamal Khashoggi or war crimes against civilian populations in Yemen, we must hold all of our allies to the same international standards as our enemies.

This vision also applies to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. U.S. support for Israel has a long history. The founding of Israel 70 years ago was built on the Jewish people’s connection to their historical homeland, as well as the urgency of establishing a nation in the wake of the horror of the Holocaust and the centuries of anti-Semitic oppression leading up to it. Many of the founders of Israel were themselves refugees who survived indescribable horrors.

We must acknowledge that this is also the historical homeland of Palestinians. And without a state, the Palestinian people live in a state of permanent refugeehood and displacement. This, too, is a refugee crisis, and they, too, deserve freedom and dignity.

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Comments (24)

  1. Submitted by Mike Chrun on 03/18/2019 - 12:29 pm.

    As an old guy, it seems to me to be a much better way of actually becoming an effective legislator. It is a fair and balanced piece of work, although I’m pretty sure Fox News and its minions are not going to stop using Ilhan Omar and AOC as poster kids for the new and terrifying Democratic Party that will ruin America unless the bully and racist in charge of our country gets re-elected.

  2. Submitted by Jim Smola on 03/18/2019 - 01:02 pm.

    Well thought out opinions and policies are what we need from our legislators at all levels. I appreciate Rep. Ohmar’s thoughts on foreign policy.

  3. Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/18/2019 - 04:58 pm.

    This was a nice piece by Omar. Maybe she just needs to stay away from Twitter.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/19/2019 - 08:59 am.

      Twitter is not a great place for sober reflection. In fact, the times we live in are not good ones for sober reflection.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/18/2019 - 05:23 pm.

    In a year, when she has a voting record, we’ll have a better idea about who the real Omar is.

  5. Submitted by Barry Peterson on 03/18/2019 - 06:47 pm.

    Congresswoman Omar accomplish so much good by writing her piece in The Washington Post.

    I hope and have faith that people of all religious, political, academic, and financial packgrounds will take heed and respect her for her effort and for the change in tone that she obviously cares to promote in a highly civilized and stately manner.

  6. Submitted by Brian Simon on 03/18/2019 - 08:34 pm.

    As has already been noted in different terms, the critics of Rep Omar will pay no heed to this piece. I suspect they, before, were as interested in finding fault in the speaker as in the words. That she has rephrased more clearly will be of no interest to them.

  7. Submitted by Michael Ofjord on 03/18/2019 - 11:02 pm.

    I am very appreciative of Representative Omar’s ability to see both sides of the Israeli Palestinian question, and her ability to see that we need consistency in policy with both friends and enemies. Such insight and empathy is rare, but always needed.

  8. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/19/2019 - 10:30 am.

    Indeed, avoiding Twitter seems like sound policy, but I’m an old guy, like Eric and / or Mike Chrun, and have never Tweeted, nor read a Tweet unless it came to me by some other means. That said, I agree – Ilhan’s op-ed in the ‘Strib / WaPo was, I thought, as advertised: sober and reflective, and with far too many characters to fit in a Tweet. “Sober” and “reflective” in the same phrase with “Tweet” is usually an oxymoronic combination.

  9. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 03/19/2019 - 10:35 am.

    I agree, Representatives’s Omar staff did a fine job smoothing over her irresponsible tweets with this piece.

    Look at her exchange with Elliot Abrams in the foreign affairs committee. Basically said in her first statement:

    “Why should we believe anything you say”

    When he attempted to respond she followed up with:

    “Stop, that was not a question, it was a statement”

    Now, I agree we should view anything this Neocon says with skepticism; but at least let him speak after you call him a liar.

    In the spontaneous world of verbal interactions and social media she continues to show that she is sadly lacking the capability to do the job she was elected to.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/19/2019 - 12:13 pm.

      I take it you’re not a fan of Rep. Omar, who is apparently the first member of Congress to have his/her staff ghostwrite something.

      Let’s look at her exchange with Mr. Abrams:

      “Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

      “If I could respond to that —”

      “It wasn’t a question.”

      The Failing/Fake News New York Times added a few details. Rep. Omar took Abrams to task for describing the Reagan Administration’s record in El Salvador as a “fabulous achievement.” Abrams regarded her question about the El Mozote massacre as a “ridiculous” question and a “personal attack.”

      I understand that the right-wing in this country does not appreciate Congressional oversight of the Executive Branch, especially (solely?) when done by Democrats. That oversight, however, is the constitutional duty of Congress. Like it or not, that’s our system.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 03/19/2019 - 11:13 pm.

        Well, I guess I have no dog in this fight as I am a former MN 5 CD voter now in MN 3.

        My main issue stems from that, much to my pleasure, Erik Paulsen is no longer my Representative. Dean Phillips ran a successful campaign promising to work on exactly what he immediately set out to work on upon his arrival in Washington: voter access, election integrity, election security, political spending, and ethics. Things that are desperately needed to fix our current mess. Of course these things get little oxygen because ill conceived tweets by Ilian Omar too often take center stage.

        We (as in the Trump resistance) have not been well served by Omar’s early time in office. Here are the top eight priorities from her election web site:

        Guarantee Access to Public Education

        Provide Healthcare Coverage for All

        Establish Economic Justice for Working Families

        Create a Just Immigration System

        Ensure Environmental Justice & Energy Independence

        Re-imagine Our Criminal Justice System

        Achieve Homes for All

        Build Resilient Infrastructure

        These are admirable goals. Goals that likely have great need and strong support across her district from Cedar Riverside to St Louis Park.

        Maybe she could put more energy into these uniting goals rather than the divisive things we have seen to date?

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/20/2019 - 09:17 am.

          She is on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Why do you think she shouldn’t speak on foreign affairs?

          How long has she been in office? And how effective are freshman representatives at pushing through bold initiatives less than three months in?

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 03/21/2019 - 09:52 pm.

          None of which will be accomplished if Trump, and his minions, are allowed free reign to shout nonsense without challenge. Their buffoonery needs to be confronted and refuted at every available opportunity, as publicly as possible, to force the corporate media to report on topics that would otherwise only see coverage in the liberal silo. While you, I, and others might be aware of Eliot Abrams misdeeds, a great many (most likely a great majority) are not. Bringing such to light, and refusing the opportunity to allow a serial liar and criminal to continue to obfuscate his history with pompous indignity, and more lies, is PRECISELY what Rep. Omar should have done in the situation presented. That the timid would hid behind the cowardice of “decorum” is exactly why voices like Omar’s are needed, to provoke the targets into flubbing their script, and to force the weak willed among the left to fight for the future their cowardice imperils.

  10. Submitted by Lydia Lucas on 03/19/2019 - 11:31 am.

    Omar is still immature, politically. She stepped out of a local environment in which she was, frankly, sort of idolized, onto a much wider and more challenging stage, and is finding out that the attitudes and rhetoric that may have worked well at home don’t play too well on that stage. Will she be able (and willing) to channel her passion into responsible representation and policy making? Or not? The jury will be out on this for quite a while. But I think we should honor her attempt to do a re-set (at least until we have a chance to see whether or not it lasts).

  11. Submitted by Kathie Noga on 03/19/2019 - 03:47 pm.

    Ilhan has always believed what she wrote there. She is right about the Prime Minister of Israel. He recently said, “Israel is for the Jews only.” Keep in mind Christians and Muslims actually visit the Holy Land for pilgrimages and they bring in a whole lot of tourist money to this country. Shows how out of touch he is about his own country. Thousands of people in Israel have protested some of his newly implemented laws. He should be criticized. I do not see a settlement until the women on both sides sit down and do a settlement. They are the ones who are capable of it. The men involved have big egos and they want things their way. In Ireland they were able to have a solution after many centuries of problems because both sides were willing to sit down and put together a compromise. I do not see that in the Middle East until the women do it.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/20/2019 - 02:01 pm.

      Netanyahu has said enough objectionable things without misquoting him.
      He was talking about citizens; not tourist.
      And while thousands of Israelis object to him, millions support him.
      As for women in the Middle East, have you heard the quotations from female ISIS members? they’re a lot more fanatic than their men.
      And regarding female leaders and international relationships, there’s always PM May and the EU.

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/20/2019 - 12:46 pm.

    I don’t think Omar has been immature or politically naive. I just think her’s is a perspective people will have to get used to. This is an excellent piece.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/22/2019 - 09:59 am.

    I think as things are actually shaking out the attacks on Omar that were launched by “centrist/moderate” Democrats tell us more about those Democrats than they do Omar.

    It doesn’t look to me like these criticisms end up being widely supported despite their media attention and intensity.

    The idea that Omar, who sits on the House Committee for Foreign Affairs shouldn’t be talking about foreign policy is simply ridiculous. Frankly, the repeated assertion that Omar should be seen but not heard is flat out sexist. The idea that she can talk, but only about subjects moderate Democrats want her to talk about, the WAY they want her to talk about them, is likewise patriarchal nonsense.

    As Omar has pointed out, she holds the same election certification as every other member congress.

    I think the “moderate” Democrats who are now more or less habitually attacking Omar, AOC, and other progressives are simply betraying their own sense of “white male” privilege (be they male or female critics). I think as these attacks continue those Democrats will damage their own credibility and alienate themselves from their Party.

    Omar is doing exactly what she’s supposed to be doing, she’s representing the majority of her constituents, she’s making peace and social justice a priority. That’s not “bad” politics, or naivete.

    It’s a voice some of her constituents are not used to hearing, but those who would prefer a quieter inconspicuous representative tend to be those who don’t need a representative that will actually do anything in the first place, let alone fight for necessary and badly needed change. Omar sits outside some comfort zones, but that’s only because do-nothing or do-as little as possible representatives can only appeal to those who are comfortable with the status quo.

    The main thing to keep in mind is that, although Omar and her colleagues may challenge some comfort zones, NOTHING on their agenda is going to HARM anyone. It’s an agenda that only seeks to improve lives and conditions in substantial ways.

    These are vibrant, popular, eloquent voices for badly needed change and progress. I think we’re entering a liberal era of politics despite “moderates” best efforts to block liberal agendas and policies. I think efforts to marginalize or diminish the champions of this liberal era will only discredit and marginalize those attempting to block the agenda.

    But that’s just me, what do I know? It’s a free country, you don what you want.

  14. Submitted by cory johnson on 03/24/2019 - 10:31 am.

    Is it a sober move to raise money for the US affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood so soon after this current controversy?

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