Throughout the duration of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement, many conservatives and various others have offered some variation of the following commentary: Yes, of course black lives matter because all lives matter. Critics retort that this sentiment, while laudable and correct in its own right, misses and even disrespects the point. Focusing specifically on the value and worth of black lives is vital, they say, because many African-American citizens believe that their lives are treated unequally in our society. Whether one agrees with that premise or not, it's how a great many of our fellow citizens feel, and it's important to acknowledge and consider that -- even if one abhors the views or statements of some BLM leaders or participants. The "All Lives Matter" rejoinder is therefore seen by many, especially on the progressive left, as a dismissal and a watering down of the core issue BLM is seeking to raise.
Enter Rep. Ilhan Omar, a House Democratic freshman whose anti-Semitic comments and tropes (in addition to her support for the anti-Semitic 'Boycott, Divest, Sanction' effort) have stirred numerous controversies. She's issued quasi-apologies, engaged in "listening sessions," and gone through the motions of learning lessons from what she says are accidental mistakes. Yet her anti-Semitic statements have continued. From seething over Israel's 'hypnotizing' powers, to decrying the supposedly controlling influence of Jewish money, to lamenting the alleged dual loyalties or allegiances of pro-Israel Jews, the parade of stereotypes has not ceased. Facing a blizzard of angry criticism from a large cross-section of the Jewish community, House Democratic leaders decided to hold a vote on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism -- and chastising Omar, by extension. But an outcry from the left-wing and the Congressional Black Caucus has forced Nancy Pelosi and company to broaden the resolution to condemn multiple forms of bigotry. In other words, "All Bigotry Matters."
The defenses of Omar have primary fallen into three categories, none of which are acceptable. The first is that she's naive and doesn't understand what she's saying. If one wanted to be charitable, that may have applied at some stage, but she's a grown woman who's now met with multiple Jewish groups for the ostensible purpose of being educated about the ugly tropes she's perpetuated. Yet the tropes haven't stopped. At what point does she bear sole responsibility for her own words? She's not a child. And even if you want to cynically chalk up all of her transgressions to ignorant mistakes, why should such a bumbling, clueless figure maintain a seat on the foreign relations committee? The second thread is whataboutism. What about Steve King (who was condemned and stripped of his committee assignments by the GOP)? What about President Trump? What about, what about, what about? Case in point, from an individual who amusingly insists that "none of this is whataboutism" while trotting out textbook whataboutism:
If we’re so concerned about implied tropes, why aren’t we concerned about this one?— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 6, 2019
Where was the concern last week when 26 Dems voted for a GOP amendment to expand ICE powers rooted in the racist + false trope that Latino immigrants are more dangerous than US born citizens? https://t.co/KNzRDWJH4z
What about this other "trope"? For one thing, it's not a trope at all. She's referring to a bipartisan majority of the House voting to require that ICE be notified when an illegal immigrant tries to buy a gun. The attempt to compare that legislative action to Omar's repeated anti-Semitic stereotypes isn't just inane and spurious; it's insulting. Relatedly, can you imagine the Omar defenders' reaction if Republicans had tried to soften the blow against Steve King by demanding language condemning Louis Farrakhan (cough, cough) or the New Black Panthers, or some other deflection? To wit, recall how Trump was quite rightly denounced for his 'both-sides' moral equivocation after Charlottesville. Yes, there should space to discuss multiple interwoven societal afflictions, but when the spotlight is on one particular evil or injustice, water-muddying should be avoided. Call it out, without reservation, then broaden the discussion once a clear point has been made. Here's liberal writer Jonathan Chait picking apart some of his fellow progressives:
All these people are making the same argument: We must choose between condemning the greater evil of the opposing side and condemning the lesser evil of our own. We cannot do both. Obviously, this kind of logic is not peculiar to arguments from the left or arguments about anti-Semitism. It is a broadly popular form of deflection...The Democratic Party is far more resistant to anti-Semitism than the Labour Party ever was (which is why, even as recently as ten days ago, [such comparisons] struck me as overly pessimistic). But the speed at which the virus has spread among progressive activists in the wake of Omar-gate has been a depressingly illuminating experience. Progressives are right to object to bad-faith charges of anti-Semitism closing down questions about Israel. But defending anti-Semitism as “just asking questions about Israel” is not a solution. It is the opposite of a solution. Casting harsh condemnation of Israel as a stalking horse for anti-Semitism is easier if anti-Semitic insinuations are routinely smuggled into the debate.
The third strain of Omar apologism pretends that she's being unfairly maligned for merely criticizing Israeli policy or the Israeli government. This is dishonest. She could criticize Benjamin Netanyahu, West Bank Settlements, or even "the occupation" without deploying anti-Semitic stereotypes -- and without embracing a movement that seeks to single out and crush the only Jewish state on earth. Jewish "hypnosis," Jewish money, and Jewish-American "dual loyalty" are not legitimate critiques of Israeli policy. They're something quite different: Anti-Semitism. Don't take my word for it; listen to the progressive Jews who are speaking out, including this powerful column by a woman who wonders if she can maintain her political ties. She asks, "are Jews supposed to stay in a progressive movement that resents us for standing up for ourselves?" I wonder what she makes of what must be the worst take of any Democratic presidential contender on this issue -- though Harris is facing stiff competition from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren:
.@KamalaHarris on @IlhanMN: “Like some of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, I am concerned that the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk,” adds “there is a difference between criticism of policy or political leaders, and anti-Semitism.” pic.twitter.com/colGzYmcPF— Christopher Cadelago (@ccadelago) March 6, 2019
This dog's breakfast is craven and amoral. Especially disgusting is the notion that noticing and calling out obvious bigotry is unfair to the bigot because that "spotlight" could put her at risk. She's the victim, apparently. Was Harris concerned about Steve King being put "at risk" by highlighting his remarks? Are her criticisms of President Trump out of bounds because they might increase the chance that some psychotic person may feel inspired to attack him? How far does this moronic "logic" go? This far? Amazingly, some excuse-making has arguably been even worse, and even more hacktastic, than Harris'. I'll leave you with a reminder that of all the religious-based hate crimes in the United States, Jews are the most targeted group -- and it's not even close. What's important, you see, is that all bigotry matters.
UPDATE - Beyond parody:
Debate on anti-Semitic resolution now postponed as Dems make "minor tweaks" I'm told.— Heather Caygle (@heatherscope) March 7, 2019
Apparently some of the groups who weren't mentioned as being targets of hate speech -- including the Hispanic Caucus -- felt left out and want to be added.