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February 4, 2019 9:20 am

Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib Should Be Sanctioned — History Demands It

avatar by Harold Brackman


Executive director of the Palestine Right to Return Coalition Abbas Hamideh poses with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) at a swearing-in ceremony and private dinner in Detroit on Jan. 12, 2019. Photo: Abbas Hamideh/Twitter.

If history teaches lessons, the Democratic Congressional leadership will regret it if they don’t sanction Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

Here are some of Congresswoman Omar’s anti-Israel and “anti-Zionist” outbursts:

In 2012, she tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Under pressure, she has clarified that she was “befuddled” when she made an “unfortunate” word choice. But she still has not removed her 2012 tweet.

Omar has also never stopped labeling the Jewish state an “apartheid regime.”

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Now she has further poisoned her relations with the Jewish community by declaring her support for the BDS Movement, which she had disavowed during her campaign. As of today, she favors a draconian boycott of Israel — but no sanctions on the authoritarian Maduro regime in Venezuela.

Finally, Omar asserts that Israel’s new nation-state law “does not recognize the other religions that are living in it.” She equates democratic Israel to repressive Iran — even though her statement on the new Israeli law is plainly false.

Michigan freshman Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s extreme anti-Israel rhetoric tracks Omar’s. But she has also accused certain unnamed senators who support Israel of unpatriotic dual loyalties.

So what’s been the response from the Congress’ new Democratic leaders? Mostly mute. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even appointed Omar to the prestigious House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Omar’s and Tlaib’s bigotry should be equated with GOP Congressman Steve King’s white supremacist bigotry. The House Republican Steering Committee has removed King from all committee assignments. So far, no action against Omar and Tlaib has been taken.

And what does history tell us?

Congressman John Rankin of Mississippi was elected in 1921 — the same year as New York Congressman Emanuel Cellar, who lamented Rankin’s tirades against Jews and African-Americans. In 1938, when the House Committee on Un-American Activities was established, Rankin helped steer the committee from the threat posed by American Nazis to investigating only American Communists. Rankin numbered among his closest political allies Gerald L. K. Smith, that era’s David Duke, just as today Omar’s allies include major Omar fundraiser Maher Abdel-Qader, who views the Jews as “satanic,” and questions the Holocaust.

In December, 1940, Rankin gave a speech charging that “Wall Street and a little group of our international Jewish brethren are still attempting to … [plunge] us into the European war.”

Rankin threatened Congressman Cellar, whom he called “the Jewish gentleman from New York.” He smeared columnist Walter Winchell as “a little communistic kike” and a “slime-mongering kike.”

Not even World War II and the Nazi Holocaust slowed Rankin’s antisemitism. He crusaded against Hollywood as a communist-infiltrated “tarantula.” He also juxtaposed the stage names of Jewish stars with the names on their birth certificates, like Edward G. Robinson (Emanuel Goldenberg).

Not until 1949 did the Democratic House trim his powers. Congressional leaders hesitated because they wanted his vote for legislation and were afraid of alienating other bigoted Southern Democrats. They eventually came to regret their decision.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Congress waited too long to slap down Congressman Rankin and GOP Senator Joe McCarthy. Will Democrats in Congress make the same mistake today?

Historian Harold Brackman is co-author with Ephraim Isaac of From Abraham to Obama: A History of Jews, Africans, and African-Americans (Africa World Press. 2015).

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