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Omar, AIPAC and the Jews

February 17, 2019 | by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

Minneapolis leaders have had enough of Ilhan Omar’s insincere apologies and anti-Semitism. An exclusive.

“Jews use financial influence to control society… Jews have dual loyalty… Jews are conspiring to take over the world… Jews are hypnotizing humanity…”

These anti-Semitic tropes have been at the core of some of humanity’s worst atrocities – Crusades, Inquisition, pogroms, Holocaust.

And now, Cong. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is bringing this rhetoric to the hallowed halls of the U.S. Capitol. “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she tweeted, referring to the influence of Jewish money (“Benjamins” is slang for $100 bills), then singled out pro-Israel AIPAC for the corrupt buying of politicians.

Omar’s contention is unacceptable on many levels. Not only does it evoke harsh anti-Semitic myths of Jews controlling the world via money, it is factually wrong: AIPAC pays no money to politicians, nor contributes to their candidacy.

As for Omar’s implication that a pro-Israel policy is bad for America, perhaps she is unaware that Israel is America's most trusted and reliable ally in the Middle East, a beacon of democracy standing on the frontline of the war against terror.

When Omar faced backlash and semi-apologized for these dangerous words, many in the Jewish community excused her ignorance, saying she was “previously unaware” and is now “educated.”

Yet Minnesota State Senator Ron Latz (D) is having none of this.

“Rep. Omar has shown a pattern over the years of using anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tropes or themes in her communications,” Latz, told

Latz would know. Last year, he led a group of local leaders in Minneapolis who invited Omar to discuss issues of sensitivity to the Jewish community. In a two-hour meeting at Latz's home, Jewish leaders respectfully explained to Omar that criticism of Israel must not include anti-Semitic stereotypes. Most attendees came away troubled by Omar’s response, Latz says, yet hopeful her attitude would change.

As it happens, things are worse. Prior to the election, Omar was asked at a synagogue to specify her stance on the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement that uses double standards to delegitimize and demonize Israel as the world’s pariah. BDS has been called "terrorists in suits" for its aim of destroying the Jewish state. 

Omar responded that BDS was “not helpful in getting that two-state solution” – as if to denounce the movement that she now openly supports. This is pure deception.

“Evil Israel”

Recently, when asked how the U.S. should work productively toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Omar first criticized Israel’s very identity “as a Jewish state,” then said: “If we see that in any other society we would criticize it. We would call it out. We do that to Iran.”

Omar falsely suggests that the idea of a state religion is somehow fanatical, racist, and anti-democratic – effectively denying the Jewish state's right to exist. Does Omar not know that Western democracies like England, Spain, Denmark, Greece, Costa Rica and 35 other countries are officially Christian nations? Does Omar not know that 30 countries identify Islam as their official religion?

Yet it is the world’s sole Jewish state – where "freedom of religion for all" is enshrined into Israeli law – that aggravates Omar. This double standard is called anti-Semitism.

As for the other part of Omar’s tweet – comparing Israel to Iran: Does she not know that Iran is a radical theocracy, the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror, that routinely vilifies the United States, and that operates terror bases in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Lebanon – including sponsorship of Hezbollah that murdered 241 U.S. Marines?

Is this what Omar compares to Israel, our ally that votes in concert with the U.S. at the United Nations – more than any country in the world including major U.S. allies like Great Britain, France and Canada?

Does Rep. Omar truly require more re-education – or is something more sinister operating here?

The Apartheid Canard

Omar’s most anti-Semitic Tweet came as Hamas terrorists were bombarding Israel's civilian population with 150 rockets. It was then that she labeled Israel an “apartheid regime,” saying that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and see the evil doings of Israel.”

"Evil apartheid"? Doesn't Omar know that Israel upholds Muslims' freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion – granting more rights to Muslim citizens than any Arab nation, and more religious freedom than the "progressive" nations of Switzerland, Holland, Belgium and France?

Doesn’t Omar know that the first country in the Middle East to grant Arab women the right to vote was not Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, or one of other 23 Arab states – but Israel?

Doesn’t Omar know that in Israel today, 10 percent of Israeli parliament (Knesset) members are Arab; that 30 percent of students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem are Arab; that one-third of the staff at Israel's Hadassah Hospital – arguably the leading hospital in the Middle East – are Arab?

Yet on all this, Omar is silent. Nor does she utter a word about gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia, where women have been arrested for driving a car, and make up just 5 percent of the workforce – the lowest proportion in the world. Does Omar not know about the Saudi Arabian smartphone APP allowing men to monitor their wives and daughters – who have no independent right to leave the country?

Why does Omar not criticize the horrific discrimination against Jews throughout the Middle East, where 74% of Muslims believe anti-Semitic stereotypes (ADL survey), and where entry to Israelis is almost universally denied?

Why does Omar not criticize the Palestinian Authority’s apartheid policies which regard selling land to Jews as punishable by death, and its longstanding vow that should Palestine ever become a state, not a single Jew will be permitted to live there?

Anti-Semitism on the Rise

With the rise of anti-Semitism around the world – ADL reports a rise of 56% in anti-Semitic incidents from 2016 to 2017 – we cannot afford to give a free pass to those spreading anti-Semitic canards.

When such statements become part of mainstream discourse, it emboldens anti-Semites. Though Jews are 2 percent of the US population, FBI data consistently shows that anti-Semitism accounts for the majority of U.S. hate crimes due to religious bias. Whether it is swastikas painted in Jewish cemeteries, or the yeshiva set on fire by neo-Nazis this month in upstate New York, or the horrific murder of 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue – we must be vigilant.

We need to call out the hypocrisy of a former U.S. President taking the stage with radical anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan (“Jews are termites”). And to call out the Women’s March for tolerating co-founder Tamika Mallory’s praise of Farrakhan as GOAT – the Greatest of All Time.

If we don’t call this out, we are enabling anti-Semitism to normalize in “accepted conversation.” The current British experience gives an inkling into this dangerous process: When “critics of Israel” in the UK Labour Party began employing anti-Semitic tropes, that trend went unchecked long enough that today, Jeremy Corbyn – UK Labour’s BDS-supporting leader – may soon become prime minister.

With Ilhan Omar now wielding international influence on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, it is time to stop excusing as "ignorance" her anti-Semitic tropes and dog whistles. To stop pretending that BDS is anything but a bludgeon to delegitimatize and destroy the Jewish state. To ensure that these vile views do not gain ascendance in the US Congress.

As State Senator Latz tells, it is time for all of us to stop the kid-glove treatment of making excuses for Omar. "She should have learned by now. It is time to hold her accountable for what she says."



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