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March 8, 2019 6:18 pm

Ilhan Omar and the Corbynization of the Democratic Party

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avatar by Thane Rosenbaum


British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Reuters / Pierre Albouy.

Don’t be surprised if any time soon, members of the Democratic Party start speaking with British accents. Yes, that’s right: Bernie Sanders drops his Brooklynese for something akin to British brogue. And when that happens, the final Corbynization of the halls of Congress will be complete.

Yes, by that I mean the leader of the UK’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who in his nearly four years at the helm, has taken an extreme left turn along the progressive highway. At times, Labour has bizarrely become apologists for Hamas and shown a shameless acceptance of antisemitism within its ranks. With the recent midterm elections in the United States, an American analog has been discovered within the Democratic Party.

Corbyn has countenanced, if not directly infected, Labour with old-school antisemitism, deploying modern-day anti-Zionism as a pretext for a more acceptable form of Jew-hatred that plays well at fashionable parties and governs like a twisted parliamentary parlor game.

Congress took an ominous step in the same direction this past week.

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The Progressives are Coming! The Progressives are Coming! Paul Revere would have surely taken to his horse to deliver the warning that a new British import was arriving, if it hasn’t already been dangerously underway.

Democrats are about to confront their very own Darkest Hour. It started with what to do with Ilhan Omar, a freshly minted Minnesota lawmaker whose views about Israel, and American Jewry, are medieval in outlook and antisemitic at their core. She’s also among the new wave of progressive candidates that now have seats in Congress.

Does this variant of progressivism, inspired by income equality and the demand for free tuition and universal healthcare, also include yet another plank—an antisemitic agenda masked, hypocritically, as anti-colonialism directed solely at the Jewish state?

The events of this week may have supplied the answer. Even President Trump declared that the Democratic Party was now both “anti-Israel” and “anti-Jewish.”

Congresswoman Omar, now one of three Muslims in the House, has already displayed an anti-Israel bias that barely conceals her antisemitic bigotry. On Twitter she wrote, “Israel has hypnotized the world”—back in 2012, long before she took federal office. Later she tweeted, “May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

Once assuming her new position in Congress, she almost instantly tweeted how American support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins baby”—a reference to the hundred-dollar bill. She later apologized for these missteps, even though she was quickly trading again in antisemitic tropes, yielding no time to fellow colleagues.

Yet, the true nature of her antisemitic attitudes was fast approaching. Before a live audience in Washington, D.C., she said, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is O.K. to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” In case her words were misconstrued, she added, “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.”

That’s right: the Jewish lobby pulls the strings in Congress; Jews have conflicted loyalties, with America of lesser importance to a people with eyes only for the Middle East; and Jewish money buys influence in ways that guns, teachers and tobacco could never possibly enjoy.

Congress decided to take action with a resolution condemning antisemitism and singling out Omar by name, much like Democrats were united, recently, in their insistence to censure Representative Steve King for his racist remarks. Of course, he was a Republican and a white male, a disfavored species of politics, gender and skin tone that is, nowadays, always deemed privileged, colonialist, and presumptively guilty.

In King’s case, given the grotesqueness of his past remarks, that presumption may have been deserved.

Omar is a dark-skinned Muslim woman. Among the new progressives, assisted by their intersectional compatriots on college campuses, marginalized people of color are, generally, excused from moral accountability—apologies are never necessary, ill-chosen words are never to be retracted, hatefulness is explained away, violence conveniently overlooked.

Progressivism of this sort is, ultimately, racist in its own right—the infantilizing of marginalized groups, treating them as if they are incapable of upholding standards. Which leads to a double standard: King was irredeemably demonic; Omar was merely mistaken, immune from censure or even a mild rebuke.

Congressional Majority Whip James Clyburn suggested that Omar had the moral authority to say almost anything—more so than children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors—since she spent part of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp after escaping with her family from war-torn Somalia.

Why that insulates her from charges of antisemitism was not explained.

Instead, her name was absent from a House resolution condemning hatred of all kinds, in general terms, completely ignoring why congressional action needed to be taken in the first place. There were so many objections raised by both the Progressive and Black Congressional Caucuses that there was thoughts of scrapping the resolution altogether. In the end, neither Omar nor Jew-hatred were given any special attention.

These very same leaders were surely appalled when others tried to make the Black Lives Matter Movement more inclusive by redefining it as All Lives Matter.

Special pleading, apparently, only works one way.

For his part, Corbyn has said that British Zionists are without “English irony”; he invited a Palestinian Islamist who claimed that Jews were absent from the World Trade Center on 9/11 to address Parliament; and in 2014, he participated in a ceremony honoring those Palestinians who massacred nearly the entire Israeli team during the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

Luciana Berger, a Jewish member of the British Parliament, has left the Labour Party and helped form another one. Eight other Labour MPs have abandoned their party in protest over Corbyn’s antics and excusal of fellow travelers in antisemitism.

Might there come a time when Democratic lawmakers find themselves increasingly uncomfortable sharing a party with progressives who have more in common with the Labour Party in the House of Commons then they do with more moderate Democrats and Republicans in Congress?

Thane Rosenbaum is an author of many works of fiction and nonfiction, an essayist and a Distinguished Fellow at NYU School of Law where he directs the Forum on Law, Culture & Society. He also serves as legal analyst for CBS News Radio.  His most recent book is the novel, “How Sweet It Is!” Visit:

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