If Ilhan Omar wants to help Palestinians, she should advocate for them

Rep. Ilhan Omar. (photo: Getty Images)
What does a Twitter exchange actually do for the Palestinians trapped under an oppressive occupation, or Israelis who bear the brunt of terror attacks?

By Zaid Jilani | Forward | Mar 28, 2019

AIPAC and right-wing pro-Israel activists would prefer to have a national conversation about whether what a Member of Congress said is anti-Semitic rather than Israeli policy towards Palestinian children. Omar has played into their hands by making statements that offer up that conversation rather than focusing on the plight of the Palestinians.

There is no doubt that Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is earning her plenty of attention. Her comments on Israel — such as claiming that U.S.-Israel policy is “all about the Benjamins” — have earned her support from some hard-left activists but also derision from many within her own party.

Witness how both the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer used their remarks at the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) meeting to condemn her rhetoric on the Middle East conflict. Omar was also targeted by Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who quipped, “From this Benjamin: It’s not about the Benjamins.”

Omar’s response to the denunciations of her rhetoric at the AIPAC meeting was emblematic of her approach to politics so far: she responded in kind, throwing punches and drawing attention to herself rather than the underlying policy issue. “It’s been interesting to see such a powerful conference of people be so fearful of a freshman member of Congress so I hope that they figure out a way to not allow me to have a permanent residency in their heads,” she told reporters.

That surely makes for good Twitter fodder — a medium where a witty retort or personalized jab is often substitute for civil or constructive dialogue. But what does it actually do for the Palestinians trapped under an oppressive occupation, or Israelis who bear the brunt of terror attacks?

With the entire national media trained on her, Omar has repeatedly chosen to sling verbal arrows at Israel or its supporters in the United States, but has said next to nothing about the occupation of the Palestinian people.

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