In defense of Ilhan Omar — again

Rep. Ilhan Omar in Minneapolis, MN, Oct 26, 2018. (photo: Brian Snyder / Reuters)
Did the House pass such a full-throated Resolution about anti-Semitism after Charlottesville, or after the recent Pittsburgh synagogue massacre?

By Jeffrey Isaac | Public Seminar | Mar 5, 2019

I encourage everyone to watch the nine-minute video in its entirety. Far from a fire-breathing or hateful speech, Omar can be seen very carefully trying to parse her words in order to express her frustration, to defend herself, and to clarify her position on the rights of Palestinians.

Ilhan Omar is again at the center of controversy, this time for remarks she made last week at a panel discussion at Busboys and Poets, a Washington, DC, bookstore and restaurant. Omar’s “offending” comment was a reference to “the political influence in this country that says that it’s okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

She was immediately accused of feeding centuries-old anti-Semitic tropes about the nefarious influence of a Jewish cabal. A chorus of denunciations have ensued, a number of prominent House Democrats, most of them Jewish, have taken particular offense, and apparently the House Democratic leadership has decided to pass a four-page Resolution denouncing anti-Semitism and especially references to “dual loyalty,” implicitly rebuking Omar (the Washington Post headline declares that “Rep. Omar’s comments force Democrats to act on anti-Semitism measure.” Indeed, House leadership was forced to do nothing; they are choosing to do this).

Meanwhile, Republicans call for more drastic action against her, shedding crocodile tears about bigotry, seeking to inoculate their party by absurdly comparing Omar to the viciously racist Steve King, and gleefully sowing division among Democrats.

The political denunciations of Omar are defensive, self-righteous, and cynical. They represent political grandstanding and not a serious response to either her comments or to the real harms caused by anti-Semitism in the US, which are not being caused by Omar or her supporters.

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