Yesterday, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democratic freshman from Minnesota, was forced to apologize for her latest foray into anti-Semitism, which triggered a widespread outcry -- including from many members of her own party. She clearly suggested that pro-Israel support among American leaders is fueled by financial interest, promulgating the well-worn anti-Semitic trope that Jewish money controls people in power and buys politicians' loyalties. When challenged over her bigoted comment, she confirmed that was exactly what she'd meant, specifically naming a nonpartisan Israel advocacy organization, comprised of American Jews, as the culprit. This touched off even more criticism; the angry chorus grew louder and louder, finally reaching such a crescendo that House Democrats' leadership team publicly called for an apology, referring to Omar's tweet as a "deeply offensive" deployment of anti-Semitic "prejudicial accusations." It isn't the first time she's done something like this. Omar previously tweeted that Israel had "hypnotized the world," blinding people to its "evil doings." Her emerging pattern of behavior caused President Obama's ambassador to Israel to weigh in, negatively and decisively:
2. Some of us remained uncomfortably quiet after her BDS flip-flop &other offensive remarks because we were aware of efforts to work with her: by colleagues, party leaders, her local Jewish community in MN. She indicated to them she had other policy priorities, not Is/Pal issues.— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro) February 11, 2019
4.Her approach indicates she doesn't want to be a consensus builder or understand others' views. She wants to push her extreme view, embarrassing her Democratic colleagues who inevitably are asked to respond. She's made herself a lightning rod. It will isolate her. And it should.— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro) February 11, 2019
I'll return to his references to 'BDS' in a moment, but this chapter of the story concluded, as I mentioned, with an apology from Omar, who claimed (again) to be 'learning' how not to make anti-Semitic comments. She tossed in a few parting jabs at "lobbyists," including those from the pro-Israel group she'd just targeted:
Listening and learning, but standing strong ???? pic.twitter.com/7TSroSf8h1— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
This statement was panned by many conservatives, for all sorts of reasons. For instance, it's worth noting that AIPAC spends much fewer dollars to influence American politicians than other lobbying interests do, including ones that Omar favors. As is almost always the case, "lobbyists" are only bad if they're advocating causes that one opposes, in which case such causes are labeled "special interests." We'll see how long Pelosi and company can keep at lid on Omar's (hilariously sloppy) loose cannon. Incidentally, Steve Scalise makes a pretty good point about Omar retaining her seat on the House Foreign Relations Committee, particularly after GOP leadership's defenestration of Steve King, after his latest game of footsie with white nationalism. How many strikes until she's out? Omar does have some defenders, of course, including...David Duke and Linda Sarsour, odious figures from opposite ends of the political spectrum who are united by a shared bigotry.
But let's return to the point about the anti-Israel 'BDS' movement, which stands for "boycott, divest, sanction." This effort is, unto itself, anti-Semitic, and Omar lied about her support for it until after she was elected. Before letting others explain why that's the case, let me first acknowledge that criticisms of specific Israeli policies can sometimes be wrongly and reflexively attacked as "anti-Semitic," which inhibits open and reasoned debate. The over-application of that term, and rushing to impute bigoted motives within Israel-related conversations, is a form of "end of discussion" silencing that I specifically called out in my book. It is also true, however, that criticism of Israel is wildly outsized in many quarters across the international community. The only explanation for the massively disproportionate amount of opprobrium directed at this tiny country -- which is a thriving, pluralistic democracy that safeguards a wide spectrum of rights for its citizens -- is that it's the lone Jewish state on earth. That is the appalling reality. And the 'BDS' movement is an object lesson in the sort of selectivity that exposes dark motives. This is a useful measuring stick:
Delegitimization (Ex: Israel is not a democracy because it is a Jewish state)— (((AG))) (@AG_Conservative) February 11, 2019
Demonization (Ex: Israel “hypnotizes the world" and is "evil")
Double standards (Ex: Israel must be boycotted, but sanctions against Maduro regime are inhumane)
Omar has violated all 3.
Here's a portion of a recent speech that applied the third of those tests, which is often a huge 'tell,' to BDS:
Why does BDS single Israel out alone for condemnation when there is such a double standard – when the world treats everybody one way and the Jew or the Jewish State another way? There's only one word for it: anti-Semitism. Let us call out the BDS movement for what it is. Let us delegitimize the delegitimizers by letting the world know when there is a double-standard, whether they know it or not, they are actively participating in an anti-Semitic movement.
That was...Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, speaking at AIPAC's national conference last year. How must he feel about people like Omar and her "sister" Rashida Tlaib being touted as "fresh faces" within his "diversifying" party? Tlaib, for her part, is the newly-elected Michigan Congresswoman who famously told a cheering crowd that Democrats are going to "impeach the motherf***er," speaking of the president. Tlaib is an anti-Semite (just keep scrolling), who is now reported to have contributed to Louis Farrakhan's publication in 2006. Farrakhan is a raging anti-Semite, racist, and homophobe. Will this new revelation be another headache for House Democrats, or will proximity to Farrakhan's vile hatred once again be airbrushed or suppressed in pursuit of partisan ends? I haven't the slightest clue how this can be defended:
Pretty remarkable that the 2005 Farrakhan/Obama photo that was suppressed for 13 years made such a splash in 2018 when it came out, but a group photo of the @OfficialCBC w/ @LouisFarrakhan from the same time w/ members who still serve & are in leadership now has gone nowhere. pic.twitter.com/JXEJ2E2DT7— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) January 14, 2019
I'll leave you with the following question: Would this damage control from Tlaib fly if it were coming from a Republican lawmaker who'd written for a Neo Nazi newsletter? You know the answer.