In defense of Ilhan Omar

Silencing voices of dissent is not the American way:

A formal condemnation of anti-Semitism that is up for a vote in the House this week has touched off a furious debate between older House Democrats and their young liberal colleagues over whether Representative Ilhan Omar is being singled out for unfair treatment over her statements on Israel.

The resolution, likely to be voted on Thursday, grew out of Ms. Omar’s suggestion last week that pro-Israel activists were pushing “for allegiance to a foreign country” — a remark that infuriated leading Jewish members of the House, who say it played into the anti-Semitic trope of “dual loyalty.”

First of all, it needs to be made (crystal) clear that criticism of the State of Israel, especially in how it treats Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, does not automatically equate to anti-Semitism. Their actions in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, do not remotely resemble democracy, regardless of your definition of such. All that being said, critics need to take the time to study historical anti-Semitic tropes and symbology, so they don't (maybe inadvertently) invoke them. Like the money issue, which is notorious for motivating pogroms against Jews for well over a thousand years. It happened in Nazi Germany in the 1930's, and it just happened again in Belgium of all places. But back to the Palestinian problem, and another one of Steve's boring anecdotes:

Back in the 1980's when I was in the Army, I came in direct contact with the PLO. It was a bitter time for them, as they had just been defeated and driven out of Beirut. They sought refuge in the same country I was sent to train in (Tunisia), but since we were both "visitors," we avoided each other as much as possible.

A few years later, when I was pulling duty as an Army Recruiter in the Chicago area, I met a guy named Mike who was a former Army dude. He was a factory manager, and we soon became good friends. But he was also Palestinian, born in Ramallah before the Six-Day War. His family moved to the U.S. when he was 12 or so, and he was a naturalized U.S. citizen the day he swore his oath to the U.S. Army. Anyway, one night he told me he was going to hang out with one of his cousins, and I asked him if I could come along. He gave me a long look, then smiled. Turned out, the entire bar (and neighborhood, mind you) were Palestinians, and my U.S. Army sweatshirt and the fact I took like $25 from a few guys shooting pool raised the tension level just a tad.

Finally, the bartender asked me what I thought about the Israeli-Palestinian situation, and I said something along the lines of, "It's intolerable, just like Apartheid (which still existed at the time). Constant settling in the West Bank and turning Gaza into the world's largest prison camp are not the acts of a democratic government. It can't go on much longer."

The moral of the story is, even 35 years ago, the injustice was obvious. I was right, all except for the last part. And a big part of the reason the injustice is still going on is right up there in Washington, DC:

Ms. Omar’s stand has created a delicate situation for Democratic leaders, who are also facing calls from some supporters of Israel to strip her of her seat on on the Foreign Affairs Committee, which Mr. Engel heads.

So far, the leaders have shown little inclination to do so, though Mr. Hoyer, the majority leader, told reporters last month that “there may be further actions that we will need to take” if remarks like the ones about Aipac continued.

And in an interview last month, Mr. Engel said he had a blunt talk with Ms. Omar before she took her seat on the panel.

“I talked to her about my views on Israel, and I said to her that we respect everyone’s views but this was something that I wasn’t going to allow to be swept under the rug,” he said. He added: “It wasn’t a confrontational meeting. She was pleasant, but I made it very clear to her where I stood and what I expected.”

Understand, if the actions of Israel (and AIPAC) are "off-limits" on the Foreign Affairs Committee, that Committee might as well just disband. The United Nations Human Rights Commission is accusing Israel of war crimes in how it dealt (harshly) with Gaza protesters in 2017/2018, and Congress needs to deal with that. Because the Trump administration ain't gonna do a damn thing to hold Israel accountable.

Taking the time and effort to censure Ilhan Omar (for a second time) is not only wrong, it sends a message to Netanyahu that we don't really care what the IDF or the settlers do, that we have stopped counting the Palestinian dead. And that makes us guilty, too.



More important

It's politically stupid to try to silence opinion that is neither extreme nor hot-headed.

Pelosi stalls after getting an earful

from Democrats defending Rep. Omar:

Earlier in the day, Democrats, including some prominent African-Americans, confronted Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a testy closed-door meeting, demanding to know why they were being pushed to pass the resolution when bigoted comments by Republicans have gone unchallenged.

Representative Ayanna Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, said she told leadership that there must be “equity in our outrage,” noting that Ms. Omar, a Minnesotan and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, was being attacked for her faith.

“Islamophobia needs to be included” in the anti-Semitism resolution, she told reporters on Wednesday. “We need to denounce all forms of hate. There is no hierarchy of hurt.”

The closed-door meeting, the weekly gathering of House Democrats at the Capitol, generally involves discussion of the legislative agenda and political strategy. Instead, according to multiple people present, it turned into a gripe session over the treatment of Ms. Omar by her own party.

“What would be the appropriate level of punishment — a public flogging?” Representative Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, asked in an interview after the meeting.

This may be the end of it, but you can expect right-wing pundits to be parsing every damn word out of Ilhan's mouth.