As a Jewish rabbi, I feel compelled to address a political issue that I, and probably many if not most of you, find very disturbing. This past election, the Democratic Party made history with the addition of three new Congresswomen. Two of them are the first Muslim women elected to the House of Representatives along with a third woman who is the youngest person ever to serve. All three are considered rising stars in the Democratic party and they represent a new “progressive, socialist” point of view.
There is, unfortunately, a problem. All three of these women, one in particular, have been very vocal about how they Israel is oppressing the Palestinians, the indigent Arabs that also inhabit that area of the Middle East. They will profess that they are not anti-Semitic, mind you, but they are criticizing what they feel is the unfair treatment of a people by a repressive government. That’s all.
By now, almost everyone knows who Ilhan Omar is and what she’s said about Israel and Jews. She has been very prolific on twitter talking about how American Jews have dual loyalty to Israel to the point of preferring their policies over their own country’s best interests. She had accused politicians of caving in to AIPAC (American Israel Political Action Committee), an organization that stands up for Israel. When asked by a twitter follower why she believes they influence politicians, her response was “It’s all about the Benjamins”, a reference to politicians being bribed by $100 bills. This on the heels of other similar past posts that betrayed an anti-Semitic point of view.
While many might consider that she was confronting a lobby group that was seeking to unduly influence politicians, many of the references with which she criticized AIPAC were familiar anti-Semitic tropes. These were typical anti-Semitic comments that Jews control the world, hold most of the money, and seek to control governments for their own nefarious purposes.
The Democratic party sought to contain this damage. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, made a statement criticizing her comments and affirming that she does not represent the views of the Democratic Party. However, Ms. Pelosi also appointed Ms. Omar to one of the most important committees in House.
As Ms. Omar’s previous comments were discovered, she started pushing back and defended and justified her position that Israel is oppressing the Palestinian people. This prompted some Congresspeople to present a resolution condemning anti-Semitism with a veiled reference to Ms. Omar’s comments without actually naming her.
Supporters of Ms. Omar and her political point-of-view and detractors of Israel pushed back furiously. They drove the issue to the point where the resolution became a general condemnation of ALL forms of bigotry including Islamophobia, bigotry against the LGBTQ community, and others. At this point, many people are supporting her and her views denying that she in anti-Semitic. This has even got to the point in which some Jews have spoken out in her support.
So let’s take a look at reality. All someone has to do is read the news, any news, to see that Israel only attacks to defend its sovereign nation, something that is guaranteed in the UN Charter. Recently, people from Gaza have been staging protests at the Israel border. These so-called protests involving sending over balloons with incendiary devices that have ruined the farm land of innocent Israeli civilians. These people have also thrown rocks at Israeli soldiers on the Israel side of the border who were doing nothing more than standing guard.
Another issue that is not mentioned is that Hamas, the terrorist organization (labeled as such by the US and many other countries), launched 400 missiles at Israel during a time while they asked for peace talks. No one discusses how Palestinians have broke into Israel and some civilians’ homes and knifed people to death. These issues are either ignored or justified by people who claim that the Palestinian people are merely fighting for their rights.
Let’s continue looking at reality. Ilhan Omar is a Somali refugee. She and parents came over to this country to escape persecution by a hostile government. In her tweets, has she ever condemned the government of Somalia or called for uprising? Has she or her cohorts discussed human rights violations in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran or North Korea? How about Gaza? That’s right, Gaza, where any journalist who disagrees with the government of Hamas is beheaded and gay people are thrown off buildings?
As far as watering down this resolution. There have been organizations like “Black Lives Matter” that seeks to end persecution of people of African descent by police. When asked about black people attacking other black people in economically depressed areas, the response has been to dismiss that as another issue. Similarly, when people have expressed differences of opinion with the gay community about them getting married, the response was swift and aggressive.
Last month was Black History. There are also International Women’s Day and Hispanic History Month. What if someone were to propose that this is too narrow and we should have just a general “Minorities History Month”? Now don’t misunderstand me—I fully support having various groups be showcased to help instill pride in their culture.
Why, however, is there not a Jewish History Month? Consider that Jews represent, as of the last census, 1.7% of the population of the United States. The country of Israel is less than the size of New Jersey and yet receives the ire of practically the entire world. We have been persecuted and oppressed for 1800 years. We have been murdered by governments in various countries. We have been chased out of countries and had our possessions stolen. Why are we not considered a protected minority?
Despite all these hardships, we are some of the most successful people in the world, as a group. We are overrepresented in professions such as medicine and law and have won a disproportionate amount of Nobel prizes. So, no, no benefits.
There is an unfortunate pattern to this. When some of us were children, our parents, many of whom went through World War II and others that survived the Holocaust said that it can happen in this country. It is. This is the beginning. We have to fight this subtle prejudice. We have to confront these people that would justify and validate hatred and criticism against Israel for what it really is: yet another attack on Jews.
Many people criticize the government in Israel. In fact, there is an impending election with all the sniping that you’d expect when opposing parties seek power. Issues are being discussed. But they are discussed in a typical political fashion without talking about oppression and bigoted stereotypes. These people are using this to blur the lines.