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The Dishonest Hacks Who Attack Ilhan Omar


The Islamophobic attacks on Ilhan Omar for daring to question American support of Israel’s policy toward Palestine are just incredibly dishonest and hacky. Paul Waldman has a good essay on this:

Now, back to Omar. Here’s the truth: The whole purpose of the Democrats’ resolution is to enforce dual loyalty not among Jews, but among members of Congress, to make sure that criticism of Israel is punished in the most visible way possible. This, of course, includes Omar. As it happens, this punishment of criticism of Israel is exactly what the freshman congresswoman was complaining about, and has on multiple occasions. The fact that no one seems to acknowledge that this is her complaint shows how spectacularly disingenuous Omar’s critics are being.

You may have noticed that almost no one uses “dual loyalty” as a way of questioning whether Jews are loyal to the United States anymore. Why has it almost disappeared as an anti-Semitic slur? Because, over the last three decades, support for Israel has become increasingly associated with conservative evangelicals and the Republican Party.

Not coincidentally, this happened at the same time as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the most prominent and influential pro-Israel lobby, went from supporting Israel generally to being the lobby in the United States for the Likud, Israel’s main right-wing party. While AIPAC works hard to keep Democrats in line, its greatest allies are in the GOP, where support for Israel and a rejection of any meaningful rights for Palestinians have become a central component of party ideology. When the most prominent advocates for Israel are people such as Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, “dual loyalty” loses any meaning as a slur against Jews.

The idea that taking issue with support of Israel means one is necessarily criticizing Jews as Jews ignores the last few decades of political developments around the United States’ relationship with Israel. “Supporters of Israel” hasn’t been a synonym for “Jews” since the 1980s. I have to repeat this: In the United States today, a “supporter of Israel” is much more likely to be an evangelical Christian Republican than a Jew.

Ilhan Omar certainly didn’t say that Jews have dual loyalty. For instance, in one of the tweets that got people so worked up, Omar said, “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.” You’ll notice she didn’t say or even imply anything at all about Jews. She said that she was being asked to support Israel in order to have the privilege of serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which was true. Many on the right have called for her to be removed from that committee (see here, or here, or here, or here). Her argument, to repeat, isn’t about how Jews feel about Israel, it’s about what is being demanded of her.

And look, AIPAC doesn’t just have the moral rot of the NRA, it is also starting to use the NRA’s language against its enemies:

I guess targeting women of color standing up for human rights does fit where AIPAC is these days.

The incredible bad faith and racism and Islamophobia behind all of this is pithily summed up in this tweet:

Yeah, funny how that works, ain’t it?

And it is just gross:

Hmmm…I’ll bet Liz Cheney is super concerned about anti-Semitic Nazi racists killed a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017? What, no?

Of course, in the contest for most craven bad-faith hack on Israel, no one can top Eli Lake. I’m not going to block quote, but if you want to read this garbage, you can. Evidently, Ilhan Omar is a “nativist” just like Donald Trump. Oh, OK. I’m glad the term has lost all meaning. I mean, really, what’s the difference between Omar, a Somali Muslim refugee, and the Know-Nothing Party or the Chinese Exclusion Act?

The good thing about Lake is that he is also thin-skinned so when I mentioned how awful he was, he decided to engage in some more classic bad-faith arguing, implying I was an anti-Semite. The thing about these arguments though is they are incredibly easy to swat away. If you believe that all people, Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, should have human rights, you just have to go back to that. There is no answer to it except for racism and Islamophobia.

Honestly, no one is doing more to cleave off large sections of the American electorate from support for Israeli policies than AIPAC and people such as Eli Lake, Liz Cheney, Donald Trump, and all the other craven hacks for Israel. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer very much do not understand what is happening here, but there is a real generational divide on this question and for lots of us, this is a basic question of human rights for people. Simply put, no people’s history gives them the moral right to treat people like Israel treats the people of Palestine. Palestinian human rights are going to be central to any left-leaning foreign policy platform. And they should be.

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