The Growing Hate of Ilhan Omar
On the first day of the AIPAC Policy Conference, my organization, The World Values Network, took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post calling out Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for her antisemitic remarks. The title read: “Blah Blah, The Jews Control The World With Their Money, Blah Blah.”
We compared her claim that “Israel has hypnotized the world” to the claim made by the foundational text of modern antisemitism, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which explains that gentiles are blind to the evils of the Jew because he “hypnotizes [them] by his daring and strength of mind.”
We also took aim at Omar’s claim that America’s alliance with Israel is “all about the Benjamins [money],” which is as antisemitic as the sky is blue. In his prized compendium of Jew-hatred, The International Jew, frothing antisemite Henry Ford wrote something similar. “Money,” he claimed, “is the only means [the Jew] knows by which to gain position.” In quite the same vein, Omar implicitly assumes that America’s policy of supporting Israel has nothing to do with shared values, strategic interests, or common democratic objectives. No. For the antisemite, it’s all about the money.
Just as soon as our ad was published, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — who quite literally kicked off her Congressional career by accusing Israel advocates of “dual-loyalty” — attacked us for “incit[ing] violence toward a Black Muslim woman.”
“This type of hate,” she went on, “should not have a place in our newspapers or society.”
Accusations of Islamophobia and hate-speech have been the favored red-herring distractions employed to shield Omar from any sort of criticism.
Omar — Tlaib and her cohorts argue — should be allowed to attack the Jews in the most disgusting way, because any response constitutes an example of Islamophobia, and because she is a woman.
Such arguments are not only straw men, but are deeply misogynistic. They also grant Omar cover for her hate, and deny the Jewish people any right to defend themselves against glaring, rancid antisemitic attacks. And by invoking Omar’s Islamic faith in her condemnation, Tlaib abuses Islam, a great world religion, to justify the antisemitism of anyone claiming to be an adherent.
Omar has employed all three of the basic slurs that have defined modern antisemitism: hypnotic mind-control, economic manipulation, and dual-loyalties.
Moreover, there’s an old Jewish adage that three consecutive actions make a habit. Omar’s behavior indicates the same. In the aftermath of her first two slurs, Omar offered overtly inauthentic, yet formally acceptable apologies. But after her comment on how Jews “push for allegiance to a foreign nation,” Omar did not offer a clarification of any kind.
With the antisemitic tone of Omar’s remarks abundantly clear, we need only establish that the micro-aggressions of inflammatory rhetoric aren’t so micro after all. In fact, these small acts have led to terrible things in our history.
On the day before Easter in 1144, the body of a young boy was found in the city of Norwich, England. A monk named Thomas of Monmouth took advantage of the tragedy to write a book about how Jews filled their storehouses with blood for the Passover holiday. His words at first made little impact. But they hung in the air long enough to eventually catch on. Similar blood-libels would emerge surrounding incidents in Gloucester (1168), Bury St Edmunds (1181), and Bristol (1183).
All throughout, these libels were nothing more than gossip. For years, those words turned and gurgled like molten metals in a cauldron of hate, which eventually hit its tipping point in 1189. At the coronation of Richard the Lionheart, marauding crowds crashed down upon the Jewish delegation, with Jewish communities soon being massacred in York, London, and Norwich. The number of libels (and dead Jews) would continue to pile up until, in 1290, England expelled its Jewish community altogether for nearly 400 years. From there, blood libels would go global. Indeed, they still exist today.
This is one example of just how quickly antisemitic rhetoric incites antisemitic sentiment, which in turn ignites antisemitic policy.
Omar was elected to national office, which means that she too has a national platform. With Ilhan as the needle, antisemitic tropes can now be comfortably sewn into the seams of the national discourse. In the past, the introduction of antisemitic rhetoric on popular, national platforms has marked the start of dark times for the Jews.
One after another, Ilhan Omar is shattering taboos that have for years protected America’s Jews. What her words might mean in the future, no one can say for sure. This time, though, American Jews would be wise to determine the answer and not wait to find out.
The writer, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 32 books. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.