Thursday, February 28, 2019

Representative Omar and Anti-Semitism

How To Define Anti-Semitism

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a first term representative from Minneapolis MN’s 5th district, recently accused AIPAC of buying influence in Congress.  Ms. Omar was born in Mogdishu, Somalia, is a naturalized American and is the first African-American, female, Muslim Representative in history.  Ms. Omar has been a consistent critic of Israel in the past, accusing Israel of humanitarian and political evils, but is she “Anti-Semtic?”

In a tweet from 2012 Ms. Omar said, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.  In this past month, she described her view that the Israel lobby buys off members of Congress to be pro-Israel. Regarding AIPAC (The American Israel Political Affairs Committee), she tweeted: “It’s all about the Benjamins [$100 bills], baby.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi put out a statement that Ms. Omar’s “use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters” was both offensive and wrong, and that she needed to apologize.  Ms. Omar’s apology included a rejection of “Anti-Semitism” and acknowledgement of hurt feelings. But this is not the only example.

The Labor party in England, under Corbyn in particular, as also been strongly condemned for “left wing” Anti-Semitic content in its criticism of Israel. Several members of the party left in 2018 and in February, in part citing this reality.  In France, elements of the “yellow vest” protests have been accused of anti-Semitism in recent weeks. So much so that President Macron announced that they will accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition from now on:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” In their explanations, this includes denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

As Purim reminds us of Haman and Amalek, there will always be those who accuse “the Jews” of this kind of ugliness.  Yes, Ms. Omar, Mr. Corbyn and others – there is a line beyond which you cannot hide as mere free speech.  And we will call you out on it.