We expect our congressional representatives to not offend our allies, such as Israel. It would appear that Rep. Ilhan Omar, (D-Minn.), a freshman congresswoman, didn’t get that memo.
In late May 2018, conservative writer John Gilmore, @Shabbosgoy on Twitter, found an old tweet of Omar’s he thought was offensive to Jews. Gilmore called Omar a “Jew-hater” in a tweet that included a screenshot of Omar’s old anti-Semitic tweet from 2012.
In that 2012 tweet, Omar had written: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine #Israel” That atrocious tweet has since been deleted.
— JohnGilmore (@Shabbosgoy) May 31, 2018
Omar replied to Gilmore’s tweet only five minutes later. She replied, “Drawing attention to the apartheid Israeli regime is far from hating Jews.” She added, “You are a hateful sad man, I pray to Allah you get the help you need and find happiness.”
Drawing attention to the apartheid Israeli regime is far from hating Jews. You are a hateful sad man, I pray to Allah you get the help you need and find happiness. https://t.co/SvEXjlxlEN
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) May 31, 2018
She was defending her anti-Semitic tweet with another anti-Semitic tweet. The old tweet–although it reflected the ability to exercise her God-given, American right to free speech–is clearly, grievously anti-Semitic. She may have the right to say what she wants, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have to suffer the consequences of what she says.
Five minutes after that, another Twitter user interjected. @mrotzie replied to Omar, defending her comment about the “apartheid Israeli regime,” saying, “Only one person here conflating Jew and Israel with this tweet and it’s not you.”
Only one person here conflating Jews and Israel with this tweet and it’s not you. ?
— alter kocker indie rocker (@mrotzie) May 31, 2018
Omar replied: “Well you know, if a Muslim says something negative about the Israeli government, they must hate Jews. Didn’t you get that memo?” She ended the tweet using an emoji with wonky eyes and sticking its tongue out as if to imply that the idea of taking her comment as anti-Jew is ridiculous.
Karma has a way of rebounding and rectifying things whether you wish it to or not. And free speech, especially the problematic kind, has a tendency of not disappearing, especially if it was on Twitter. Omar’s use of an anti-Semitic trope, and her going as far as defending that atrocious slur, were met with all kinds of reactions. But the most memorable and compassionate responses were those that sought to educate Omar. The efforts of others were communicating to Omar why her comments were hateful and anti-Semitic, something she needed to be edified, enlightened, and uplifted to.
On Feb. 11, Omar gave us insight into why she clearly needs a very real and new memo. Her thinking is the epitome of why Congress needs an anti-semitic resolution.
Listening and learning, but standing strong ?? pic.twitter.com/7TSroSf8h1
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019
What could have been a very real and heartfelt opportunity to express regret, in an apology to us all, was instead used to reaffirm she takes issue with supporting American allies and those advocating specifically for the country of Israel. AIPAC is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that identifies itself as “a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United States.”
Did she insult the Jewish organization AIPAC and add the NRA (National Rifle Association) and “fossil fuel industry” to fake a pithy attempt at softening the blow?
And yet, the latest inflammatory and veiled words from Omar are words she is not pretending to apologize for.
During a discussion at a Washington bookstore last week about critics of Omar’s anti-Semitism, she argued that the label is being used in bad faith to shut down debate. She wants to speak out against the nation-state of the Jewish people without acknowledging the fact that the nation-state and the Jewish people are one and the same, or the fact that her words can accurately be identified as anti-Semitic.
The sentence that amassed the most attention was, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is O.K. for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
Efforts to maintain our strong alliance with Israel are seen as pushing “allegiance to a foreign country.”
If the criticism does not have a parallel with a criticism that could be leveled against any other country, then it is specifically a Jewish-only criticism and can be understood as anti-Semitic.
What does it mean, specifically, to be anti-Semitic? According to the Department of State (USDOS) website, the USDOS has used a working definition of anti-Semitism since 2010. In 2016, the 31 member states of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), of which the United States is a member, adopted a nonlegally binding working definition of anti-Semitism at its plenary in Bucharest. As a member of IHRA, the United States now uses this working definition and has encouraged other governments and international organizations to use it as well.
For a publicly active member of Congress, Omar has a very dangerous and vocal opinion about the Jewish Nation that is Israel, a dangerous one for Americans to tolerate. We need congressional members to work for us and preserve our freedoms and global safety. We need members of Congress who understand why we need to retain our strongest intelligence allies—and not insult them while serving in public office.