What we should not abide is the silence of Democrats to antisemites in their midst, just as we should not abide Republicans who might turn a blind eye to white supremacists.
Consider Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Both women are advocates of the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Like some BDS proponents, they portray it as a human rights campaign, but they have been told by their Jewish constituents, among others, that the goal is the destruction of Israel. This is why 134 international Jewish organizations from across the political and religious spectrum signed a statement opposing BDS.
Their support for BDS alone should merit censure, but both have made incendiary remarks that cannot be excused as “legitimate criticism of Israel.” Omar has repeated the slur comparing Israel to Afrikaner South Africa, and in 2012 tweeted: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” As New York Times columnist Bari Weiss noted, “The conspiracy theory of the Jews as the hypnotic conspirator, the duplicitous manipulator, the sinister puppeteer is one with ancient roots and a bloody history.”
On her first day in office, Tlaib displayed a map with a note posted over Israel that reads “Palestine.” She also expressed the popular antisemitic canard that Jews have dual loyalty and care more about Israel than the United States. Referring to supporters of antiboycott legislation, she said in a tweet, “They forgot what country they represent. This is the US where boycotting is a right & part of our historical fight for freedom & equality.” Later, she claimed the comments were not directed at Jewish members.
Both women are shockingly ignorant when they talk about Israel. Omar, for example, said, “When I see Israel institute a law that recognizes it as a Jewish state and does not recognize the other religions that are living in it, and we still uphold it as a democracy in the Middle East, I almost chuckle, because I know that if we see that in any other society we would criticize it, we would call it out.”
Israel is the only country in the Middle East that guarantees freedom of religion. She supports Palestinian rights but does not seem to care that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority deny their people not only religious freedom but freedom of speech, press and assembly. It bothers her that Israel is the one Jewish state in the world, but does not “call out” the nations where Islam is the state religion.
As Weiss rightly observed, “Those who call themselves anti-Zionists usually insist they are not antisemites. But I struggle to see what else to call an ideology that seeks to eradicate only one state in the world – the one that happens to be the Jewish one – while emphatically insisting on the rights of self-determination for every other minority.”
As in the Ralph Northam case, a bipartisan uproar was heard when another white male, Steve King, made outrageously bigoted remarks. The entire House censured him, and the Republicans went further by stripping him of his committee assignments. Contrast that with the silence of most Democrats following the antisemitic statements by Omar and Tlaib. It took Omar writing that Jews and AIPAC buy politicians before we heard any strong condemnation of her words.
Democrats also took an additional step – they gave both women assignments on key committees and defended them and have yet to rescind them.
House Democratic Caucus chairman Hakeem Jeffries said, “I’ve found those two new freshmen members to be thoughtful colleagues on a wide variety of issues.” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said, “I don’t accept the premise” that the members are antisemitic.
It was disconcerting when Speaker Nancy Pelosi put Omar on the Foreign Affairs Committee, where she will now have a platform to attack Israel whenever Middle East policy is discussed. Omar and Tlaib are both out of step with the bipartisan consensus on the importance of the US-Israel relationship, and it boggles the mind that Omar would be put in a position to undermine it.
Democratic friends of Israel try to make us feel better by saying they are just two members out of the entire Congress who support BDS. I agree. But consider what Rep. Lee Zeldin said: “Instead of the Dems supporting Israel & combating BDS & antisemitism on college campuses & elsewhere, they’re now empowering it.”