Opinion

Keep It Up, Ilhan Omar

Neither Hamas nor a black day, but a glimmer of hope on Capitol Hill

Then Representative-elect Ilhan Omar attends a press conference in the capitol, Washington D.C., November 30, 2018.
AFP

Maybe Mogadishu will turn out to be the source of hope. This war-torn city was the birthplace of the most promising U.S. congresswoman today.

Ilhan Omar is not only one of the first two female Muslim members of the House of Representatives, she may herald a dramatic change in that body. “Hamas has entered the House,” Roseanne Barr was quick to cry out; “A black day for Israel,” tweeted Donald Trump. Neither Hamas nor a black day, but a glimmer of hope on Capitol Hill.

Maybe, for the first time in history, someone will dare tell the truth to the American people, absorbing scathing accusations of anti-Semitism, without bowing her head. The chances of this happening aren’t great; the savage engine of the Jewish lobby and of Israel’s “friends” is already doing everything it can to trample her.

The president mentioned removing her from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Congress was set to pass a resolution, the second in one month, against uttering “anti-Semitic expressions,” specifically aimed at Omar’s statements.

When will Americans and Europeans stop running scared every time someone screams “anti-Semitism”? Until when will Israel and the Jewish establishment succeed in exploiting (the existing) anti-Semitism as a shield against criticism? When will the world dare to distinguish between legitimate criticism of an illegitimate reality and anti-Semitism?

The gap between these two is great. There is anti-Semitism one must fight, and there is criticism of Israel and the Jewish establishment it is imperative to support. Manipulations exercised by the Israeli propaganda machine and the Jewish establishment have managed to make the two issues identical.

This is the greatest success of the Israeli government’s hasbara: Say one critical word about Israel and you’re labeled an anti-Semite. And labeled an anti-Semite, your fate is obvious. Omar has to break this cursed cycle. Is the young representative from Minnesota up for it? Can she withstand the power centers that have already mobilized against her in full force?

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Maybe it’s important that she knows there are people in Israel crossing fingers for her? 

Her success and that of her congressional colleagues, Rashida Tlaib from Michigan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, could be the first swallows that herald the coming of spring. This is the spring of freely expressing opinions about Israel in America. Cortez already asked this week why isn’t bigotry aimed at other groups condemned just like statements against Israel are.

What, after all, has Omar said? That pro-Israel activists demand “allegiance to a foreign country”; that U.S. politicians support Israel because of money they receive from the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC, and that “Israel hypnotized the world.” What is incorrect in these statements? Why is describing reality considered anti-Semitic?

Jews have immense power in the U.S., far beyond the relative size of their community, and the blind support given by their establishment to Israel raises legitimate questions regarding dual loyalty. Their power derives from their economic success, their organizational skills and the political pressure they exert. Omar dared to speak about this.

Just imagine what Israelis and Jews would feel if Muslim Americans had the same political, economic and cultural power Jews have. Such power, above all the intoxication with power that has seized hold of the Jewish establishment, comes with a price. Omar and her colleagues are trying to collect on it.

Due to the Israel lobby, the U.S. does not know the truth about what is happening here. Congress members, senators and shapers of public opinion who are flown here ad nauseam see only Israeli victimhood and Palestinian terror, which apparently emerged out of nowhere. Islamists, Qassam rockets and incendiary balloons – not a word about occupation, expropriation, refugees and military tyranny. Questions such as where the money goes and whether it serves American interests are considered heresy. When talking about Israel one must not ask questions or raise doubts.

This cycle has to be broken as well. It’s not right and it’s not good for the Jews. Omar is now trying to introduce a new discourse to Congress and to public opinion. Thanks to her and her colleagues there is a chance for a change in America. From Israel we send her our wishes for success.

When will the world dare to distinguish between legitimate criticism of an illegitimate Israeli reality and anti-Semitism?