Ilhan Omar is the epitome of everything Trump hates, she is a Somali, a woman and she is also a Muslim …
Democracy – as we have been taught during our academic years – is a political order whereby one is allowed to voice their opinions about the matters they believe in or not believe in. But the United States perhaps has a very different meaning of democracy, or so it seems. One is only supposed to state what is in their country’s interest. The upshot of this ideology was recently unleashed when Ilhan Omar, a Somali Muslim refugee, who recently took her oath of office as a Democratic Representative in the US Congress, expressed through twitter how the pro-Israel lobby puts pressure on members of Congress to show “allegiance to a foreign country” for which she later apologized. To quote her exact words, “Anti Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity; this is why I unequivocally apologize.”
“At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), The National Rifle Association (NRA) or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone too long and we must be willing to address it.” Now anybody with a sane mind and rational perspective would vouch for the fact that what Ilhan Omar said was just a “fair criticism” of the harmful role lobbyists play in policy making and not bigotry. Not only this, the newly elected congresswoman is also being compared to the 9/11 terrorists by the republicans and called as ‘filth’ by an advisor to the President only for wanting to talk about how inequitable it is to have political influence of a foreign country which in turn convinces one to become biased and intolerant towards a certain race.
Furthermore, a fellow democrat Juan Vargas explicitly said that “questioning support for the US-Israel relationship is unacceptable.” The point to ponder over here is that it is not anti-Semitism as they claim it since Ilhan Omar nowhere mentioned Jews, she only talked about a foreign country, Israel, and America’s close alliance with it. There is not doubt that all forms of hate, whether it is Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, jingoism, bigotry, xenophobia, racism, transphobia should be condemned without any discrimination. It is ironic to attack her views given that Israel’s own policies are anti-Muslim. To call it anti-Semitism is simply an act of outrage and deception.The democratic congressional leadership took advantage of this and announced a resolution criticizing her for her outlook about Israel and American policy clearly misinterpreted by Congress.
Interestingly, a considerable number of Jewish people did not find Ilhan’s comments anti-Semitic or racist. Bernie Sanders, for instance, an American politician and a former senator from Vermont who lost his family in the Holocaust expressed his solidarity by saying Omar’s comments are a “fair criticism” of the Israeli government not anti-Semitism.
This shows the hypocrisy of the United States policy makers and the colossal amount of influence lobbyists have on them. Having anti-government views and opinions does not make someone jingoistic. It is a known fact that AIPAC offers bribes and pushes American lawmakers to make pro-Israel policies. Stating it all out loud was only brave of Ilhan Omar for which she should not be maligned. It is very easy to call out a minority for expressing their views but it is not the true face of democracy.
The author, Shafaq Khursheed, is a researcher at PIIA.
“Why it’s not anti-Semitic for Ilhan Omar to raise the question of dual loyalty”. Middle East eye, March 12, 2019. https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/why-its-not-anti-semitic-ilhan-omar-raise-question-dual-loyalty
“How US politicians use charges of anti-Semitism as a weapon”. Washington post, February 13, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/02/13/how-us-politicians-use-charges-anti-semitism-political-weapon/?utm_term=.00c2f7b506db
“Democrats put off anti-Semitism resolution after a fierce backlash”. New York Times, March 6, 2019.
“Republicans and Democrats say their criticism of Ilhan Omar is about Anti-Semitism. They’re gaslighting you.” The intercept, March 5, 2019.
“Minnesota Congresswoman ignites debate on Israel and Anti-Semitism”. Npr.org, March 7, 2019.