Monday, January 21, 2019

More Than A Little Offensive

A fairly obscure fellow remarks

Thirty-seven year-old Ilhan Omar was born and raised in Somalia and was elected in November to replace Keith Ellison in Minnesota's fifth district. As a nutrition coordinator with Minnesota's Department of Education in 2012, Omar tweeted

The New York Times' Bari Weiss wrote Monday that Omar has been "dogged" by this sentence and

On Thursday, CNN’s Poppy Harlow pressed her again: “I wonder just what your message is this morning as the first on our Game Changer series to Jewish-Americans who find that deeply offensive.”

“That’s a really regrettable way of expressing that,” Ms. Omar said of the anchor’s question. “I don’t know how my comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans. My comments precisely are addressing what was happening during the Gaza War and I’m clearly speaking about the way the Israeli regime was conducting itself in that war.”

Well, first, as Omar (Weiss, also) doesn't understand, there is no such thing as "Jewish Americans" anymore than there are "Protestant Americans" or "Catholic Americans." Additionally, there is plenty of reason American Jews would not be amused. After briefly summarizing the history of "the myth of the wily Jewish manipulator of those in power," Weiss explains

the biggest “Jew” today in the demonology of modern anti-Semitism is the Jewish state, Israel. While there are perfectly legitimate criticisms that one can make of Israel or the actions of its government — and I have never been shy about making them — those criticisms cross the line into anti-Semitism when they ascribe evil, almost supernatural powers to Israel in a manner that replicates classic anti-Semitic slanders.

During the weeklong November 2012 war, which began when Hamas fired roughly 100 rockets at civilian targets, Israel “hypnotized” nobody. It was subject to the usual barrage of intense criticism in the news media and at the United Nations, and from the leaders of other nations, not to mention protesters across the world. That Israel continues to retain support in the United States among mainstream Democrats and Republicans is because — contrary to Ms. Omar’s tweet — the Jewish state is not engaged in “evil doings,” but defending itself against the enemies pressing on all of its borders, including Hamas, which has genocide of the Jews, and a belief in Jewish manipulative power, at the heart of its ideology. The original Hamas charter from 1988, only recently revised, claimed that the Jews orchestrated the French and Russian revolutions and both world wars.

Contrary to Mr. Elliot's implication, there is no suggestion from Ms. Weiss that Representative Omar stated or believes as she does because Omar is black.  Further, the suggestion that criticism of criticism of Israel as "evil" and duplicitous is contrary to the spirit of Dr. King is bizarre. Weiss notes

Those who call themselves anti-Zionists usually insist they are not anti-Semites. 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 empathetically insisting on the rights of self-determination for every other minority. Israeli Jews, descended in equal parts from people displaced from Europe and the Islamic world, are barely 6.5 million of the world’s 7.7 billion people. What is it about them, exactly, that puts them beyond the pale?

(In the interest of full disclosure: Weiss criticizes Omar also for having implied that Senator Graham is being blackmailed because he is gay. I'm unconvinced the congresswoman is wrong.)

Stupid- or rather grotesquely misleading- comments regarding Martin Luther King are the province of conservative Republicans and a few random twitters such as Mr. Elliot.  Oklahoma Senator James Lankford, a loyal follower of Donald Trump, reducing the message of social and economic justice activist King to a boy scout helping little old ladies across the street, when he comments "If there's anything we should have learned from Martin Luther King Jr., [it] is: Hate doesn't drive out hate; only love drives out hate." Vice President Pence equated President Trump with Dr. King because both "inspired us to change."

But distorting the message of Martin Luther King Jr. is what are conservative Republicans do. It's disconcerting when the Democratic Party now counts as one of its own a United States Representative who made a fairly disgusting remark a few years ago and now claims she does not understand "how my comments would be offensive to" Jews. In this case at least, inexperience is no excuse for ignorance.

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