We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity.
We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) June 7, 2021
Ilhan Omar asked a pungent question of Secretary of State Antony Blinken after he offered bland assurances to the House Foreign Affairs Committee about US policy on Israel-Palestine and denounced the International Criminal Court, which has opened a war crimes investigation against Israel. Where did he advise Palestinians to go to seek justice if they could not approach the ICC? Blinken’s answer was shocking in its empty-headedness: go to the Israeli court system, he said. The same legal system which routinely rejects Palestinian claims of injury at the hands of Israeli security forces. The same court system which routinely ignores crimes by security forces up to and including murder.
How Aipac and its Congressional Water-Carriers Transformed a Far-Right Media Smear into a Mainstream Assault
Blinken’s testimony and Omar’s question might have ended there were it not for the right wing social media storm generated by FoxNews, Ben Shapiro’s DailyWire and other far-right outlets. As a new Atlantic Council Digital Forensic Research Lab report noted (tweet thread here), there is a deliberate media strategy used to generate controversy among Democrats. It begins with right-wing social media provocation. All it takes from there is someone on the Democratic side to take the bait and turn it into a genuine scandal.
In this case, it was 13 Jewish Congressional Democrats who got lathered up with the help of the Israel Lobby, which exploits every opportunity to bring down progressive House members of color like Omar. Aipac rang Pavlov’s Bell and they began salivating like hungry hounds. They falsely claimed that Omar was equating “democratic” Israel and the US, with the Islamist terrorist Taliban and Hamas. The only thing equated was the war crimes each has clearly committed.
Though Americans hate the idea of being accused of being war criminals, there is no other way of describing the mayhem we have caused the world going back to the Indian Wars of the second half of the 19th century. Israel too is guilty of such crimes, though not quite on the scale the US has “achieved.” Calling each of these groups and countries war criminals is neither anti-Semitic nor even anti-Israel. It is a fact. Of course, it is a fact that needs to be tested in a court of law. But Israel and the US are doing their best to frustrate that possibility because they know they are both liable to be found guilty.
The charges of anti-Semittism flew through the halls of Congress. Republicans demanded she be made persona non grata as one of their own, Marjorie Taylor Greene has been. But a funny thing happened on the way to the guillotine: Omar’s progressive Democratic colleagues jumped to her defense after which Nancy Pelosi declared the case closed.
But not one to give up so easily, Jake Tapper, one of Aipac’s water carriers in the mainstream media, decided to drag out the hoary old chestnuts and force Omar to explain herself all over again. The colloquy is incredibly dreary. And I only bring it up to illustrate the absolute perfidy with which Tapper and his fellow Israel Lobby mouthpieces ape the Aipac line.
Here is Tapper questioning Omar:
Jewish anchor Jake Tapper asked Omar on air Tuesday if she understood “why some of your fellow House Democrats, especially Jews,” have found some of her past comments antisemitic [sic]. Tapper cited a 2012 tweet in which the Minnesota lawmaker said Israel had “hypnotized the world” and her 2019 comment that AIPAC, the prominent Israel lobby, is “all about the Benjamins.”
Of course, Omar dealt with this issue over two years ago and apologized to the Jewish community, though personally I felt she had no need to do so in moral terms since the underlying premise of her critique was absolutely sound.
Her response to Tapper was once again right on the money and could even have been expanded from a critique of her Jewish Democratic colleagues to the entire Israel Lobby:
In response, Omar said she has welcomed opportunities to engage with her critics, but added: “I think it’s important for these members to realize that they haven’t been partners in justice, they haven’t been equally engaging in seeking justice around the world.”
This elicited howls of rage from the Lobby’s Congressional water-carriers. And one of its most prolific journalistic voices, Ron Kampeas of JTA offered this tweet:
Auchincloss and Luria are veterans, Schrier is a pediatrician and children’s health advocate, Manning has led multiple philanthropies, Nadler has shepherded major civil rights leg. through Congress.
I honestly don’t know what Omar was getting at here, but man, this is not a take. https://t.co/eTfW35Wal2
— (((Ron Kampeas))) (@kampeas) June 30, 2021
In its perfect cluelessness, the Lobby and its acolytes respond to criticism of their lack of engagement with Black Lives Matter and related social justice issues by claiming being a military veteran, a doctor, a philanthropist or someone who passed a bill ticks off a box confirming their progressive bona fides.
The only thing correct in Kampeas’ tweet is that he “doesn’t know what she’s getting at.” That’s because Jewish communal factotums fear this movement. They and their Congressional representatives are suspicious of the BLM. They view it as anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. Not because it actually is.
Many in the BLM movement see intersectionality between the campaigns for justice in the US and Palestine. They want to make the two struggles one. This is the threat to the Lobby. This is why Aipac and other Lobby groups like the Democratic Majority for Israel have made Omar Jewish Public Enemy No. 1. It is why Jake Tapper drags out these charges time and again, making Omar answer the Jewish version of “when did you stop beating your wife.”
As American Jews, we must demand that our leaders cease and desist from this racist, misogynist campaign against Omar. We must also demand that Jewish Congress members stop these attacks against her, and stop serving as the conduit to turn such attacks concocted by the far-right, mainstream. Jews should be making progressive alliances with Omar, Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez and other like-minded House members. Not driving a wedge between us.
We Jews, especially the younger generation, increasingly see the validity of charges of apartheid, racism, and even genocide against Israel. Our leaders who refuse to see these crimes aren’t leading us. Or if they are, they are leading down a dead-end street. And we refuse to follow.