Rep. Ilhan Omar once again insulted pro-Israel lawmakers and American citizens last week by suggesting they have dual loyalties and are not primarily beholden to America. That isn’t even the latest in this ugly Omar saga.
No, the two-step dilution of her rebuke is the current big news.
First a Congressional Resolution was drafted to rebuke Omar, D-MN, for the dual loyalty claim. But the resolution criticizing Omar for her antisemitism was then watered down to a generic “antisemitism is bad” statement. That was still too harsh for certain powerful segments of the Democratic party. The Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus pushed back hard. So the group added more water to the already diluted condemnation. What may be introduced on Thursday, according to multiple news sources, is a resolution condemning various kinds of bigotry. Antisemitism will be condemned, as will anti-Muslim language.
REBUKE OF OMAR TO GENERALIZED ‘BROAD-BASED’ CRITICISM
We’re strongly against anti-Semitism, but we’re strongly against prejudice directed at any group, Hoyer
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD, once considered a stalwart friend of Israel, told reporters that the general consensus in the party was that any Resolution had to be “broad-based.”
A Resolution drafted specifically in response to Omar – a repeat-offender’s questioning of pro-Israel congressmembers’ loyalty to the United States – was deemed inappropriate for calling out only antisemitism.
“We’re strongly against anti-Semitism, but we’re strongly against prejudice directed at any group,” Hoyer said on Tuesday. “What we’re against is hate, prejudice, bigotry, white supremacy, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism.”
Part of the problem with even a generalized condemnation of antisemitism is that the House recently passed such a Resolution. Last month House Republicans introduced the initiative in response to an earlier outrage of Omar’s. In her now-famous “It’s all about the Benjamins” statement, Omar claimed American members of Congress support Israel because of Jewish money funneled to them by a Jewish lobbying group, rather than because of shared values. That Resolution also failed to mention Omar by name.
‘SAVE THE INK’ ON GENERIC, MEANINGLESS ANTI-BIGOTRY RESOLUTION
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, decried the retreating pointedness of the congressional action.
“If the Democratic leadership thinks some ‘Kumbaya’ language, some ‘fill in the blank parade’ of every ever-possibly insulted group,” will be acceptable, Rabbi Cooper said in a telephone conversation late Tuesday night, they “should do us all a favor and save the ink.”
Rep. Omar, Rabbi Cooper explained, “has stepped over the line” multiple times. Censuring Omar, or removing her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee as well as from other committees would be appropriate responses to the increasingly defiant insults by Omar.
“She needs to be held accountable”
Cooper did not back away from this position despite claims that the criticisms of Omar are because she is a Muslim or a woman of color.
“She needs to be held accountable. You don’t get a waiver for misbehavior as a ‘victim’ whether you belong to any minority religion or race, including those, like me, who cover their heads with yarmulkes,” Cooper said.
“The unwillingness by the Democrat leadership to immediately denounce, specifically, the perpetrators and to stop this anti-Jewishness dead-in-its tracks is a worrisome sign,” Rabbi Aryeh Spero wrote in response to an email query regarding the watered-down Resolution.
“The Democrat leadership seems to be making a choice, preferring the intersectionality voting blocks in whom it envisions its future.” Spero is the head of Caucus for America. He is an author, former pulpit rabbi, is widely published in national publications and is a public speaker.
Both rabbis bemoaned the rise of antisemitism in America, pointing out that it has now seeped into the halls of Congress. Each likened the normalization of American antisemitism to the Corbynization – meaning, the flagrant antisemitism – of England’s Labour Party. Each also mentioned the hollowness of apologies which are closely followed by even more of the same sorts of slurs.
Spero described what is happening as a “death by a thousand cuts” to Israel and her supporters. “Week after week, poisonous remarks against Israel or Jews are made by Islamists with the goal being a continuous seepage of anti-Jewish caricatures into the political discourse and into the minds of a country’s population. The apologies are insincere, an expedient; a breather until the next time.”
HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE CHAIR OBJECT OF INSULT
Cooper pointed out that Omar’s taunts could be viewed as direct jabs at House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel. “Engel is one of the long-term mentschen (meaning people with a conscientious and impeccable character) in Congress. She is insulting her chairman.”
Those who hoped Rep. Engel would have the courage and, more importantly, the backing to remove Omar from the coveted seat on the HFA Committee were quickly disappointed.
In a televised interview the committee chair said that he was “not close” to removing Omar from HFA, claiming it might instead “exacerbate” the situation. “I’m looking to get rid of anti-Semitism, not looking to punish anybody.” An unprincipled retreat seems hardly the way to achieve his objective.
Perhaps as alarming as Omar’s slurs are her increasingly belligerent responses to the criticism.
NOW OMAR CLAIMS SHE’S TOLD SHE HAS TO PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO ISRAEL TO BE AMERICAN
When Jewish Democratic Congresswoman Nita Lowey, NY, tweeted that she “feels saddened” that Omar continued “to mischaracterize support for Israel,” and that “dual loyalty” accusations against Jewish members of Congress should be “roundly condemned,” Omar came out of her corner with a quick upper-cut.
“Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman!” Omar tweeted back at Lowey. “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.”
Omar’s response to Lowey suggested that her attacks on pro-Israel Congress members is how she best represents her constituents: “The people of the 5th (congressional district of Minnesota) elected me to serve their interest,” Omar added.
Omar’s Insulting Tweets
The Minnesota Congresswoman has raised the bar for audacity and outrage, while cloaking it in the garb of pseudo-bravery. And it has caught on. Omar’s insulting tweets have been lauded in thousands of supportive replies and retweets. Those tweets claim she is “speaking truth to power.” The power of the Jewish Lobby is again a meme in American life.
Rabbi Cooper noted that rather than widespread condemnation of Omar’s antisemitic critiques of her colleagues, she has instead been the beneficiary of increased support from her base and even rewarded by being featured in a cover photo of Rolling Stone magazine.
So, what would be an appropriate response to Omar’s repeated insults? Rabbi Cooper recalled the words of the famed Soviet Refusenik Natan Sharansky at a farewell dinner in his honor by the Jewish Agency in New York City last year.
“Sharansky said,” Cooper recalled, “that it was not his place to tell someone whether they should be conservative or progressive, but that when there is antisemitism and it comes from someone in your group, then you need to speak out.”
It is doubtful the House Democrats will heed Sharansky’s wisdom.