Why Is a Jewish Democrat Defending Ilhan Omar?
As a stalwart of the modern-day progressive movement, it would make sense for Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) to take her young Democratic colleague, Ilhan Omar (D-MN), under her maternal wing.
Defending Omar against accusations of antisemitism last week on MSNBC, Schakowsky explained that as a refugee from Somalia, Omar “comes from a different culture. She has things to learn.”
But Omar is not “just off the boat.” She came to the United States in the 1990s, according to her website: “Before running for office, she worked as a community educator at the University of Minnesota, was a Policy Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and served as a Senior Policy Aide for the Minneapolis City Council.” She is also a former state representative.
It’s safe to say that she understands American culture very well, and knows exactly what she is saying.
Just as the anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace uses its name as cover for antisemites who share its far-left agenda, the Jewish congresswoman from Illinois conveniently played the “Jew card” to excuse Omar’s antisemitism.
As a former constituent of Schakowsky’s, I was overwhelmed by a sense of déjà vu, having experienced her use of antisemitism as a political tool before. It’s been over 12 years since I first opined about it. Back in February 2007, Schakowsky led the criticism against Walmart for selling a T-shirt bearing the Nazi Totenkopf (German for “death’s head”), the emblem adopted by Adolf Hitler’s personal guards. When Walmart learned what the symbol meant, they immediately pulled the shirts off the shelf.
I applauded Schakowsky’s efforts to educate Walmart about their offensive mistake. But at the same time, she had been conveniently silent over hate stemming from her own party.
In February 2007, I wrote:
When the president of Iran is threatening to cause a second Holocaust and hatred toward Jews is growing in epidemic proportions, why is Congresswoman Schakowsky, who is Jewish and represents a large Jewish constituency, only fighting Walmart? Why is it that whenever anti-Semitism shows its ugly face amongst her political allies within the Democratic Party or Progressive movement, her voice is silent?
Back then, Walmart was the perfect target for the Illinois Democrat. But leftist antisemitism, often referred to as the “New Antisemitism,” has been brewing for decades, gaining prominence during the Iraq War.
“If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this,” said Virginia Democratic representative Jim Moran in 2003, invoking the old stereotype of Jewish control. Where was Schakowsky back then? Where was her suggestion that Moran apologize for his antisemitic remarks, let alone demand his resignation? Nowhere to be found.
Two years later, Schakowsky attended a mock Judiciary Committee hearing. In plain view of a C-SPAN audience, Schakowsky sat behind Congressman Moran as he questioned former intelligence analyst Ray McGovern, who claimed that the US went to war for oil, military bases, and Israel. Moran thanked McGovern for his “candid answer,” which included claims that the war was conducted so the “US and Israel could dominate that part of the world.” Schakowsky just sat there and didn’t raise an eyebrow.
Full disclosure: I served as a senior adviser for a political campaign opposing Congresswoman Schakowsky in 2010. At that time, we raised the issue of Schakowsky honoring Helen Thomas, the late UPI journalist notorious for her disdain for the Jewish state.
Schakowsky’s embrace of a blatant antisemite like Rasmea Odeh is of a piece with her defense of Ilhan Omar. With her actions, she betrays her constituency and her own heritage, indeed Judaism itself.
Paul Miller is president and executive director of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on Twitter @pauliespoint.
A version of this article was originally published in The Daily Wire.