Sunday, October 17th | 12 Heshvan 5782

March 12, 2019 8:55 am

When an Antisemite Openly Roams the Halls of Congress

avatar by Shmuley Boteach


Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) participates in a news conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, Feb. 7, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Jonathan Ernst / Files.

The Democrats leading the House of Representatives could not bring themselves to make a simple declaration condemning Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for her repeated antisemitic remarks — suggesting that Israel is hypnotizing members of Congress, that members are being bribed by Jews, that Jews are only concerned with money, and that they have dual loyalty to the United States and Israel.

Instead, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wilted under pressure from her far-left colleagues and not only refused to explicitly condemn Omar, but endorsed a milquetoast resolution condemning nearly every form of bigotry (anti-Christian prejudice was notably missing).

Pelosi listened to people like Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), who insisted that there must be “equity in our outrage,” that all forms of hate needed to be denounced, and that “there is no hierarchy of hurt.”

Indeed, many forms of intolerance exist; however, that does not excuse the failure to condemn a 2,000-year-old hatred that is unlike any other.

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Antisemitism is endemic in most of the world’s societies, and it is responsible for centuries of blood libels, pogroms, and terrorism directed only at Jews, and leading to the greatest genocide in world history — the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust.

But tragically, that was not the end of this ancient hatred. It continues to this day in the genocidal aspirations of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and extremists on the political right and left.

We see this scourge today in the form of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement — endorsed by Omar — which seeks the destruction of Israel. Its advocates have spread to college campuses, United Nations bodies, the women’s and Black Lives Matter movements, faculty and professional academic associations, and the entertainment industry.

Yes, hatred is hatred. But no form of bigotry is as pervasive in as many places as antisemitism.

And now purveyors of antisemitism are ensconced in the world’s greatest democratic institution — the US Congress. I use the plural because Omar’s colleague Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) is also a BDS supporter who has made her own antisemitic statements, such as raising the trope of Jews’ dual loyalty by suggesting that senators who supported anti-boycott legislation “forgot what country they represent.”

I gave Omar the benefit of the doubt at the outset of her tenure in Congress. I applauded her wearing traditional Muslim garb and openly expressing her faith. Now, however, it appears that she is consumed by hatred for Jews. Other bigots have tried to disguise their hatred, but Omar can’t contain her contempt, doubling down on her views even after being told they are antisemitic.

Listening to Omar’s defenders, I was reminded of the days of segregation — when racists roamed the halls of Congress, openly expressing their prejudices and fighting against civil rights legislation. I never thought I would see any members express antisemitic views with impunity and be appointed to positions of power — in Omar’s case, the House Foreign Affairs Committee — where they can try to adversely affect legislation affecting the Jewish people and their homeland. The Democrats’ inaction on Omar was in stark contrast to the deserved condemnation of the bigoted remarks of Congressman Steve King (R-IA), who was eventually  stripped of all his committee assignments.

Omar’s incendiary antisemitism is penetrating the broader body politic. She is challenging the morality of the Democratic Party, which failed the test last week to demonstrate its intolerance for Jew-hatred. The resolution they passed was meaningless, because any statement that condemns everything, condemns nothing.

So who will rise to oppose Omar?

Now that it’s clear her Democratic colleagues do not have the backbone to stand up to Omar, it’s up to her constituents to act. Just two months into her first term in office, instead of serving the needs of her constituents, Omar has decided to use the platform they have given her to attack Jews and Israel.

Is that what voters had in mind when they elected her?

“Representative Omar has used up the reservoir of good will generally granted to those who begin new jobs by repeatedly insulting the Jewish people even after being told that her words are dangerous and hurtful,” Minnesota Democratic State Senator Ron Latz said, urging her to “discuss policy without inflaming religious conflict.”

Constituents also have reason to be angry with her “bait-and-switch” position on BDS. During a primary debate in a Minnesota synagogue, Omar said that she did not support BDS. But after winning her seat, she admitted to being a proponent of the campaign that seeks the destruction of Israel. This seems less surprising now that she has been exposed as an antisemite.

In 2020, Omar will again face the voters, and it is up to them to send a message to Omar, the Democratic Party, and the rest of America that Jew-hatred has no place in American politics and that the people of Minnesota do not want to be represented by an antisemite.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the international best-selling author of 24 books. Newsweek calls him “the most famous rabbi in America.”

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