By Qanta Ahmed, M.D.
Published March 08, 2019
According to polls, more than 75 percent of American Jewish voters cast ballots for Democratic candidates in the November midterm elections. But sadly, Democrats who control the U.S. House betrayed that loyal support Thursday when they failed to condemn Rep. Ilhan Omar for repeatedly engaging in hate-filled attacks on Jews and the Jewish state of Israel.
Thursday was – to borrow a phrase from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt when Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 – “a date which will live in infamy.”
Omar, a freshman Democrat representing a district in Minnesota, has engaged in ugly, explicit and repeated displays of anti-Semitism against Jews in the U.S. and around the world. She has demonized Israel with false accusations about its treatment of Palestinians. And she has clearly done all this deliberately.
While quick to call herself a victim of prejudice against Muslims – she is one of only two Muslim women ever elected to the House – Omar is even quicker to embrace anti-Semitic stereotypes that should be an embarrassment to all decent men and women.
And I say this as a Muslim woman myself. Nothing in Islam requires the faithful to hate Jews or the Jewish state. In fact, the Koran documents that Jerusalem belongs to the Jews.
There are 50 countries in the world with Muslim-majority populations. Surely there can be room on the planet for one small country with a Jewish majority.
In fact, I firmly believe that America’s support for a secure and sovereign homeland for the Jewish people is a moral imperative. Jews and non-Jews who support Israel should not be accused of dual loyalty to a foreign country and should not be accused of infringing on Palestinians rights.
The House had the opportunity Thursday to denounce Omar and denounce the anti-Semitism she preaches. It should have been a simple vote gaining wide bipartisan support.
And Democratic leaders should have by now removed Omar from her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which deals with U.S. relations with other nations, including Israel. Her clear hatred of Israel disqualifies her from fairly voting on foreign aid and other measures affecting the Jewish state.
But incompetent House Democratic leaders did none of these things. Instead, they amended a resolution originally drafted to condemn Omar and anti-Semitism to condemn prejudice against a whole slew of groups.
These groups are, the resolution states: “African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and others with verbal attacks, incitement, and violence.”
A list so long is meaningless.
Nevertheless, the meaningless resolution was approved on a vote of 407-23. The 23 Republicans who voted against it stood up courageously in favor of the original version of the resolution focused on anti-Semitism.
There’s no question that every group on Earth deserve protection from discrimination and violence.
But the evil of anti-Semitism is responsible for the murder of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust (referred to as the Shoah in Hebrew) and uncounted more murders throughout history. It must be singled out and condemned unequivocally when a member of Congress embraces hatred of Jews openly and aggressively.
The University of Southern California Shoah Foundation (where I serve with Jews and non-Jews) defines anti-Semitism as: “The negative beliefs and perceptions about Jews that manifest in intellectual, physical and rhetorical expressions of hatred towards Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, community institutions and religious facilities. When criticism of Israel demonizes, delegitimizes or holds Israel to a double standard, it is a manifestation of antisemitism. ”
Omar’s language and actions have more than exceeded this definition on numerous occasions, including before she was elected to the House.
The congresswoman’s tweets dating to 2012 are filled with anti-Jewish slurs. She has made a pseudo-apology followed by repeat offenses. She has openly embraced Islamic Relief – a Muslim Brotherhood front charity that has financed and romanticized terrorism and has been sanctioned by Sweden, Tunisia, Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates.
On top of this, Omar has supported the anti-Semitic BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign that seeks to cut off Israel from all trade, tourism, academic ties, military assistance, foreign aid and other contact with the rest of the world. The goal is to destroy Israel without firing a shot.
Racism and other forms of prejudice were once common in the halls of Congress. But no anti-Muslim xenophobia, no racism, no other bigotry against individuals of vulnerable status can ever equate to the moral burden that anti-Semitism has placed on humanity dating through the millennia.
Anti-Semitism is not merely the hatred of Jews, animus directed at Jews or prejudice. Unlike all other bigotries, which are indeed repugnant, anti-Semitism presents the Jews as an evil to be eradicated.
Before the Civil War, Southern senators and representatives defended the obscene institution of slavery. Afterward, many members of Congress openly expressed racist views about the supposed inferiority of African-Americans.
Other groups were targeted as well with hateful speech and discriminatory laws.
But this is 2019. We’ve come a long way from the days when racism, anti-Semitism and many other forms of prejudice are acceptable.
Democratic leaders in the House failed the test of true leadership Thursday when they let Omar escape condemnation for her anti-Semitism.
Jews and we who support them and their right to a homeland in Israel should remember the congressional day of infamy we witnessed on Thursday when another important date comes around: Nov. 3, 2020 – Election Day.
We need to elect courageous members of Congress who will stand up to anti-Semitism and denounce any member of Congress who embraces this cancer on the soul.
And hopefully, the good people of Omar’s Minnesota congressional district will reward her with retirement from the House.
Qanta A. Ahmed, M.D., is a councilor at the USC Shoah Foundation and member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is also an associate professor of medicine at the State University of New York. Follow her on Twitter @MissDiagnosis.