Rep. Ilhan Omar sparked outrage Sunday from both Democrats and Republicans after asserting on Twitter that U.S. support for Israel is based on monetary support from Jewish groups, especially AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The freshman congresswoman’s egregious use of an anti-Semitic trope to criticize her political opponents is deeply concerning for the state of our nation amid a significant rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes and the massacre of 11 American Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last October.
Omar’s remarks are unbecoming of a U.S. congresswoman and she should be censured in the House, if not removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Most alarmingly, Omar’s comments on Sunday were neither a surprise nor an unexpected gaffe by the Minnesota congresswoman, but part of Omar’s long and calculated opposition to Israel and Jewish people worldwide.
In 2012, Omar posted on Twitter that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
On the 2018 campaign trail, Omar attempted to reassure voters that she does not support the radical Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement that opposes Zionism, endorses Nazi-style boycotts of Jewish businesses, and attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel, but within days of her election to the House, she flipped on the issue, giving BDS her support.
In recent months, the fifth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, has attempted to defend Omar and other freshman Democrats who have made anti-Semitic statements. He has insisted that “the overwhelming majority of the House Democratic Caucus is strongly pro-Israel.”
Despite Jeffries’ reassurances, I fear that the growing hostility toward American Jews and the State of Israel is eroding the broad-based, unqualified support for Israel that is simply no longer seen in today’s Democratic Party.
To be sure, anti-Semitism and opposition to Israel were not always standard among the most progressive groups within the Democratic Party.
During the 1960s, support for Israel and support for the civil rights movement were inexorably linked. Both movements were seen uniformly as a response to institutional discrimination in the forms of racism and anti-Semitism.
Indeed, Martin Luther King, Jr. himself was a prominent supporter of Israel, saying that “Peace for Israel means security,” that “we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity,” and that Israel was “one of the great outposts of democracy in the world.”
As late as George McGovern’s 1972 Democratic nomination to the presidency, the party still pushed aggressively for Israel. That year, the Democrats ratified the first party platform to support moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. The Republicans would not include similar language in their platform until 1980.
The sharp modern turn against Israel will have serious consequences for the Democratic Party and push the party to the fringes at a time when our leaders must serve as unifiers, not dividers.
Further, if Democrats would like to unseat President Trump in 2020, they must demonstrate to voters that they are unequivocally the party that will bring Americans together to get things done.
Of course, it would be very useful for Democrats to accomplish this on immigration reform, infrastructure investment or fixing our broken health care system. But it is also clear that the Democrats must clean house on the emerging anti-Semitic rhetoric within the party if they will truly unite Americans of all backgrounds and faiths and not divide for political convenience.