The Shameful Zionist Attack on Ilhan Omar
Backfired Stirring a Debate on US-Israeli Relations
By James J
March 13, 2019
Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim woman to become a member of the US
House of Representatives, 2019
The Shameful Attack that Backfired
What happened to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was troubling. On the one
hand, because she dared to challenge the way supporters of Israel have
worked to silence debate on US policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, she became a victim of incitement, and the target of
legislation meant to shame her. At the same time, however, the
heavy-handed tactics employed against her by some pro-Israel members of
Congress backfired, exposing new fault lines in the US-Israel
The weapon of choice utilized by Omar's opponents
was to demonize her as an anti-Semite. Her "sin, it appears, was her
continued umbrage over the double-standard that exists in American
policy toward Israel and its treatment of Palestinians.
Israel's assault on Gaza, for example, she criticized the failure of the
US media to pierce through Israeli propaganda and see what was actually
happening to Palestinians in that impoverished strip of land. Once in
Congress, she was deemed to have "sinned" again when she challenged the
power of AIPAC to intimidate politicians and silence debate on
New to Washington and the "acceptable language"
one should use to discuss these issues, she admitted that her word
choices had been unfortunate and apologized for the pain she may have
Despite her apology, she remained a target. Because she
is a hijab-wearing Muslim, who was critical of Israel, the GOP sought to
exploit her in their continuing effort to drive a wedge between the
Jewish community and Democrats. For their part, some Democrats reacted
with hyperventilated outrage. Extreme language was used to denounce
Omar. Her words were described as "bigoted," "vile," and, of course,
Never, in all this time, was there a
critical examination of what she actually said. In fact, she never
accused the Jewish community of controlling the media (unless one
assumes that Israel's ability to dominate media coverage of events
occurring in the occupation can be attributed to the Jewish community).
Nor did she accuse the Jewish community of using money to buy influence
in Washington (unless one suggests that AIPAC speaks for and acts on
behalf of the entire Jewish community). It didn't matter, her opponents
continued to call her an "anti-Semite," and did so with such frequency
that the term stuck, putting her at risk to threats of violence from
The entire affair came to a head when, at a town hall
last week, Omar attempted to explain herself. Asked to address the
controversy that had erupted over her advocacy of Palestinian rights,
Omar's colleague, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, spoke first noting that
to her the question of Palestine is personal her grandmother still
lives in the West Bank and Congresswoman Tlaib desires that she receive
equal justice and recognition of her rights to live in dignity. Reacting
to what she had just heard, Omar said that she couldn't agree with those
who fight for human rights and dignity for others and yet exclude
Palestinian rights and dignity. For her part, she said, the focus should
be universal leaving no one out. She then chided those in Congress
who have pressed her to reject her commitment to call out Israeli abuses
and ignore Palestinians rights. Because she is a Muslim, Omar said, her
criticism of Israel has been automatically seen as anti-Semitic in order
to silence her. Even more troubling she noted was that, as a result of
the manufactured controversy over her words, the discussion became
whether or not she was an anti-Semite, while ignoring "the broader
debate about what is happening in Palestine."
At that point, Omar
said that she resented those who are pushing her to demonstrate
allegiance to Israel. She concluded by saying that she wanted to have
this conversation about "the political influence in this country that
says its okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country."
reaction to this newest "sin" was near hysteria. Without ever listening
to what she actually said, some members of Congress accused her of
saying that the Jews had dual-loyalty despite the fact that she had
said no such thing. They demanded that Omar be censured or removed from
her committee posts. And the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee
proposed a resolution that would have denounced anti-Semitism in a way
that was clearly directed at the congresswoman.
disturbing about this proposed resolution was that none of "Whereas"
clauses included had anything to do with what Omar actually said. She
never accused Jews of "dual loyalty because they support Israel"; nor
did she display "prejudicial attitudes" towards Jews; nor did she ever
make "mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations
What she did do was: challenge official American,
and in particular, Congressional silence on the suffering of the
Palestinians; the efforts by pro-Israel groups to silence debate on this
issue; and the way that some have sought to create a virtual identity
being pro-Israel and American interests.
Despite the obvious
falseness of their claims, Omar's opponents in Congress plowed ahead
with their proposed bill in order "to teach her a lesson." In their
remarks rebuking Omar, they unwittingly made her point. One congressman
said, "Questioning support for the US-Israel relationship is
unacceptable." Another said, "there are many reasons to support Israel,
but there is no reason to oppose Israel." While still another said that
Democrats and Republicans, alike, are committed to insuring that the
"United States and Israel stand as one."
It is exactly this
attitude to which Omar objected when she wrote, "I am told everyday that
I am anti-American if I am not pro-Israel...I know what it means to be
an American and no one will ever tell me otherwise...I have not said
anything about the loyalty of others, but spoke about the loyalty
expected of me."
Because Omar has touched what some have
come to say is "the third rail of American politics" she was being
exploited by some Republicans and hung out to dry by some Democrats.
They put a target on her back. And haters were quick to respond with
frightening death threats and shameful bigoted assaults on her as a
Muslim woman. There is no question that these threats against Omar were
the byproduct of the sustained campaign of incitement.
important to note, however, that outside of the halls of Congress a
different reality was unfolding. The attacks on Congresswoman Omar were
rejected by many Democrats, including progressive Jewish groups, and a
debate was sparked by the issues she raised and the over-reaction to
them by Congress.
By week's end, the entire effort appeared to
backfire. Instead of being the "slam dunk" they expected, the proposed
resolution ran into blocks. Some members objected to singling out of
anti-Semitism, without also denouncing racism, sexism, xenophobia,
Islamophobia, etc. Others protested that Omar was being singled out and
put at risk. And a few of the more prominent Democratic
presidential hopefuls (Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and
Kamala Harris) insisted that charges of anti-Semitism should not be used
to silence debate on Israeli policy.
By week's end, Congress
passed a resolution denouncing all forms of hate or intolerance against
any religious, ethnic, or religious community. Since it made no mention
of Ilhan, it was clearly a loss for those who began the push to shame or
Two final points must be made:
Representative Omar is owed an apology. False charges and a manufactured
crisis have sullied her name and put her at risk.
And secondly, it is clear that Omar's courage has helped to open a
door enabling a discussion of Israeli policy and the US-Israel
relationship. While her opponents attempted to slam it shut, it seems
that their behavior and incitement against her backfired stirring a
debate that has helped to pry the door even further open.
Share the link of this article with your facebook friends