Diagnosing Ilhan Omar’s Antisemitic Disease
British historian Paul Johnson has argued that antisemitism is a “disease of the mind,” a hatred so peculiar that it deserves a category of its own. It’s a disease of contradiction and irrationality. Simultaneously, Jews are covetous capitalists and conniving communists; Christ-killing religious fanatics and godless atheists; superhuman rulers of the world, and subhuman leeches of society. Currently, as the disease spreads in America, one of antisemitism’s most infectious carriers is a Democratic Congresswoman from Minnesota.
Rep. Ilhan Omar’s obsession with Jews and Israel doesn’t have any definite beginning, but it can be conjectured that she may have been acquainted with antisemitism having been raised in Somalia.
Human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, also a native of Somalia, explains how she grew up in similar circumstances as Omar, a product of a militant Islamist and unapologetic antisemitic society. Ultimately, Hirsi Ali managed to unlearn her antisemitism, becoming a champion for Jews upon immigrating, while Omar only diverted further from that path, becoming a public enemy of the Jews upon her Congressional election.
On CNN’s The Lead, host Jake Tapper gave Omar the opportunity to clarify her past statements about Israel that have garnered so much controversy and debate.
He specifically referenced her 2019 tweet in which she claimed that the American-Israeli alliance is “all about the Benjamins,” as well as her 2012 claim that Israel had “hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel,” asking if she understood why so many Jews, as well as some of her fellow House Democrats, felt her comments were antisemitic.
“I’ve welcomed, you know, anytime my colleagues have asked to have a conversation, to learn from them, for them to learn from me,” Omar responded. “I think it’s really important for these members to realize that they haven’t been partners in justice. They haven’t been, you know, equally engaging in seeking justice around the world.”
“And I think, you know, I will continue to do that,” she added. “It is important for me, as someone who knows what it feels like to experience injustice in ways that many of my colleagues don’t, to be a voice in finding accountability, asking for mechanisms for justice for those who are maligned, oppressed, and who have had injustice done to them.”
According to Omar and many other antisemites on the left, “they” — assuming she meant Jews — haven’t sufficiently contributed to fighting injustice.
As writer Bari Weiss notes about the methodology behind this type of claim, “Jews are transformed into whatever a given society hates the most” — and for contemporary progressives, that would be racism and whiteness.
If Omar’s aim is to delegitimize Israel as no longer the necessary and indigenous safe haven for persecuted world Jewry, but rather the final stand of colonialism that must be destroyed, then one must delegitimize Jewish victimhood altogether.
With that, it’s not only easier for Omar to isolate and cast Jews as white racists to conceal her antisemitic goals, but she can also effortlessly deflect the antisemitic label by in turn accusing Jews of being bigoted toward her, a Muslim woman of color.
And she does this over and over, without so much as a challenge from anyone in the Democratic Party, due to their fear of being called a bigot in return.
But even if Omar’s accusations were somehow remotely true, what else more can Jews do to pursue justice in this country? Jews have been committed at extraordinary levels to fighting injustice in America, whether it be Black civil rights and LGBT rights, or vehemently defending immigrants and Muslims — activism Omar has surely benefited from.
More than that, Omar argues that she experiences injustice in ways her Jewish colleagues have not — but every metric both historically and contemporarily points to her being colossally wrong.
Building on 3,000 years of barbaric hatred, if the dramatic rise in antisemitism in America prior to Israel’s recent war with Hamas wasn’t enough, then surely the aftermath where the countless examples of Jews being physically or verbally assaulted throughout the United States should pass muster for Omar.
It’s clear, however, that her comments are directed at the absence of Jews from a specific kind of movement. It’s what bridges the David Duke strain of antisemitism on the right, and the Louis Farrakhan strain of antisemitism on the left together: Omar is frustrated that Jews haven’t willingly participated in our national suicide by abandoning Israel, our ancestral homeland, or advocating for its destruction.
While expelling Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee or even defeating her in a future election may send a message to antisemites and declare a small victory, it won’t cure the antisemitic disease. It wouldn’t even make a dent.
But as it stands now, vaguely skirting around the issue and only condemning the things she says about Jews as antisemitic is a cop-out and an aberration of justice. Omar must be called out not only for what she says, but for who she is — what’s been proven time and time again to be her principal preoccupation in the halls of Congress. Like Duke and like Farrakhan, Omar is an antisemite — and we can start by unconditionally calling her one.
Aidan Segal is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and a former CAMERA on Campus fellow.