Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks to the media after a lottery for office assignments on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 30, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Joshua Roberts.
Since February 12, The Guardian has published five pieces either entirely or largely sympathetic to Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar after the Congresswoman was forced to apologize for tweets widely viewed as antisemitic.
Her recent tweet, suggesting that the only reason the United States supports Israel is because AIPAC money buys politicians’ support, came on top of a 2012 tweet that the freshman lawmaker was also forced to apologize for, which accused Israel of “hypnotizing” the world to hide its “evil” ways.
If you include a pro-Omar op-ed (published before the latest controversy), that makes six sympathetic pieces in The Guardian, with nothing published to date largely critical.
The latest article, by US-based Guardian reporter Sabrina Siddiqui, featured comments by New York Times contributor Wajahat Ali, who, though mildly uncomfortable with the words Omar used in her tweet, claimed that there’s a “target on her because she’s Muslim and black woman.”
March 21, 2019 9:31 am
This narrative, that Omar was being criticized in large part because of her gender, color, and faith, was similarly highlighted in a February 4 Guardian op-ed by Mesrine Malik that opined that “because she is a Muslim, and a Muslim’s place in Western public life must always be subject to scrutiny, [Omar’s] opinions are distorted into a sinister shape.”
The suggestion that Omar is held to a higher degree of critical scrutiny because she’s a Muslim women of color is pretty much the opposite of the truth, as the reason she and fellow Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib received such positive media coverage when they were elected was due to their gender and faith. International press coverage after their November victories hailed the election of “the first Muslim women elected to Congress” as a milestone for America, with many outlets taking particular interest in Omar being the first Congresswoman to wear a hijab.
In fact, until the recent row over Omar’s tweets, the fact that both Tlaib and Omar are pro-BDS, and that Tlaib is even more radical in rejecting the continued existence of a Jewish state within any borders, were downplayed or ignored. Further, Omar’s February 1 tweet, which absurdly compared the situation in Israel to segregation under the Jim Crow South, received little mainstream media coverage.
The glowing press coverage of Omar and Tlaib, and the obfuscation (until the recent controversy) of their radical views is consistent with a media that often accepts intersectionality and identity politics, imputing value to individuals based solely on desired racial, ethnic, or gender characteristics. This ideology implicitly rejects the classic liberal view that people should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. We say “desired” characteristics, because the intersectionality calculus prioritizes (perceived) race, gender, and sexual orientation, yet doesn’t give much “minority” value to Jews.
For Guardian editors, being a Muslim woman of color and anti-Israel almost guarantees you sympathetic coverage. But even for serious media outlets, the likes of Ilhan Omar, at the very least, are all but guaranteed to receive a fair hearing, which is a good thing given America’s racial history.
However, many of Omar’s defenders aren’t merely asking that she be treated fairly. Rather, they often seem to demand that such preferred minorities be granted a priori victimhood status regardless of their personal histories, and the presumption of moral virtue regardless of their behavior. While Omar’s story as a Somali immigrant elected to Congress is inspiring, the excusing, obfuscating, or erasing of her use of antisemitic tropes based on an illiberal reflex in which her immutable traits trump reasoned discussion and universal moral standards represents the very worst of the modern Left.
Adam Levick has served as managing editor of UK Media Watch, a CAMERA affiliate, since 2010.