The struggle is over. At its highest levels, the Democratic Party is defending or excusing its newly minted superstar freshman anti-Semite.
Over the past week, the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives has been trying to find a way to deal with a third set of remarks by Rep. Ilhan Omar that expressed anti-Semitic sentiments—words that followed a clearly disingenuous apology she had offered for earlier anti-Semitic remarks. A resolution to condemn Omar by name was floated at first only to be supplanted by a resolution to condemn anti-Semitism, then a resolution to condemn anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, then a resolution denouncing all hate.
And then, suddenly, everything was all right. Because according to the Speaker of the House, the House Majority Leader, the House Whip, the Senate Minority Leader, and at least three Democratic presidential candidates, Ilhan Omar is not an anti-Semite—and, in the view of some, people are saying so dishonestly for the purpose of shutting down debate on legitimate matters.
Speaker Pelosi said Omar’s words were not “intentionally anti-Semitic.”
Majority Leader Hoyer: “I don’t think she’s anti-Semitic.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer—who has spent his career oleaginously assuring Jewish audiences his true purpose is to serve as a “shomer,” a guardian at the gates of Jerusalem, protecting and defending his people—said Omar had been “wrong and hurtful,” but then immediately sought to equalize her repeated offenses against his people with a poster someone hung up in the West Virginia statehouse—”and those who tried to connect 9/11 to all Muslims in West Virginia were wrong as well.”
He’s a shomer like I’m Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He’s Josephus, not Joseph.
More horrifying were the words of House Whip James Clyburn, who suggested—as my friend Seth Mandel says—that families of Holocaust survivors should check their white privilege in the face of Omar’s history as a Somali refugee: “There are people who tell me, ‘Well, my parents are Holocaust survivors.’ ‘My parents did this.’ It’s more personal with her.” Yes, more personal than the Holocaust. Thanks so much, Third Ranking Official in the House of Representatives.
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders said that the attacks on Omar were intended to make it impossible to have serious discussion of Israel and the Palestinians. Fellow candidate Kamala Harris suggested that Omar was the real victim here: “I am concerned that the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk….I also believe there is a difference between criticism of policy or political leaders, and anti-Semitism.”
Let’s be clear here. Nobody baited Ilhan Omar into saying Jews were hypnotizing the world, or that Jews were controlling American politics with their money, or that Jews were engaged in a conspiracy to force her to apologize for her words. She said these things herself, on her own, without prompting. They have nothing to do with “policy,” or with her pain as a Somali refugee, or anything else. They have to do with her idea that evil Jews are manipulating reality. This is as anti-Semitic as anti-Semitism gets.
People can play whataboutism games all they like, but not with me, people. I’ve attacked Donald Trump over Charlottesville. I’ve attacked Steve King for his racism. Ilhan Omar is a despicable anti-Semite and rather than trying to find a way to separate themselves from her, the grandees of the Democratic Party are actually, or effectively, or implicitly embracing her.
This could be an inflection point in American political history—the moment at which the Democratic Party decided that it had to choose between Jews and intersectionality and chose the latter.
The question is what American Jews are going to do about it.