Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has spent two weeks proving that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made a big mistake promoting her to the House Foreign Affairs Committee — an error that is hurting her party and the country.
In the past several days, Omar has:
- Failed to apologize for an antisemitic tweet that, she says, she now realizes is “offensive,” but refuses to delete;
- Mocked the idea that Israel is a democracy, comparing it to Iran and saying it should not be accepted as a “Jewish state” — then doubled down; and
- Justified writing a letter to a judge in 2016 asking for a lenient sentence for nine Somali-Americans who were convicted of trying to join the so-called “Islamic State,” or ISIS.
(Omar has also defended the autocratic socialist regime of Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro, accusing the U.S. of a “coup” by supporting the opposition, which she falsely called “far right.”)
The result has been a public relations mess for Democratic Party leaders. They have been at pains this week to defend Omar as well as fellow first-year Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), as the Capitol Hill press corps has finally begun to ask whether their hostility to Israel goes too far.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters he did not accept the claim that Omar and Tlaib are antisemitic. House Democratic Caucus chair Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said they were “thoughtful colleagues.”
Democratic National Committee chair (DNC) Tom Perez dodged the question entirely, and tried to deflect scrutiny to President Donald Trump, whom he claimed (falsely) had failed to condemn neo-Nazis in Charlottesville in 2017.
But it was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who effectively endorsed Omar’s views when she elevated Omar to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where she will be able to carry out her anti-Israel policies.
When Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), the new ranking member on the committee, objected to Pelosi appointing Omar to the committee, Omar accused him of Islamophobia:
Was just selected as Ranking Member of the @HouseForeign Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations! Just learned Freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar was also put on this committee w oversight of US foreign policy. Crazy to watch what House Dems are empowering/elevating.
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) January 29, 2019
Don’t mind him, he is just waking up to the reality of having Muslim women as colleagues who know how to stand up to bullies!
It’s gonna be fun watching him lose his marbles https://t.co/FPEtcxW4GN
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) January 31, 2019
Zeldin responded by pointing out that he opposed her views and rhetoric — not her religion, or her gender:
Those poor innocent ISIS fighters & Palestinian terrorists right? Give me a break! That’s a problem no matter your religion or gender Ilhan. Your anti-Semitic & anti-Israel hate is strong & wrong & those terrorists have US blood on their hands as well. https://t.co/yVmS6Tdd8T
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) January 31, 2019
In response, Omar retweeted a number of supporters — including one who tried linking Zeldin to Nazis:
.@LeeZeldin defended Trump’s post-Charlottesville “both sides” comments and held fundraisers with Nazi sympathizers. His attacks on @IlhanMN are Islamophobic and sexist and they’re also wildly hypocritical
— Leah NO WALL, CALL NOW Greenberg (@Leahgreenb) January 31, 2019
Zeldin is Jewish.
Later, after Zeldin posted an antisemitic voice mail he had received and dared Omar to disagree, she did so — and offered to meet with him to “share notes on how to fight religious discrimination of all kinds.”
As if her anti-Israel views were not discriminatory.
In the midst of her battle with Zeldin, Omar retweeted a supporter who declared, “Israel is not a real democracy,” and compared the Jewish state to the Jim Crow South. She added: “Many of them truly know this, but don’t want to accept it.”
Many of them truly know this, but don’t want to accept it. In the same way many Americans knew separate yet equal was immoral but remained silent until brave few were silent no more.
They can attack, spin my words and vilify me, but they will not succeed in silencing me! https://t.co/JSwhoSQuGF
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 1, 2019
Omar’s claim is a vicious lie. Israel is a diverse society that guarantees equal rights for all. Arabs have the vote, and there is no segregation.
But to Omar, a “Jewish state” cannot be a democracy. That is the warped view of an antisemite.
On the Daily Show Thursday evening, host Trevor Noah claimed — incorrectly — that Omar had apologized for her tweet declaring, “Israel has hypnotized the world.”
She said that she would continue criticize Israel, regardless.
And the tweet remains live.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) November 16, 2012
Criticism of Israeli policies is not necessarily antisemitic — unless that criticism only applies to Israel.
Faced with criticism, Omar and Tlaib have claimed to be the victims of anti-Muslim prejudice. But it is not who they are, but rather the words they use and the policies they embrace, that have invited controversy.
If anything, the backlash to Omar and Tlaib’s views ought to provoke a long-overdue self-examination in the American Muslim community. Many Islamic societies have tolerated Jews (and Christians), but as second-class citizens. Worldwide, many Muslims remain hostile to the idea of a Jewish state. Some have even embraced old-style European antisemitism.
These attitudes persist among some Muslims in the U.S. — a population that has grown nearly 50% in the last decade. Certainly not all Muslims share these views, but some — too many — still do. The Daily Caller revealed this week, for example, that Tlaib belonged to a Palestinian-American Facebook group rife with antisemitic content.
The DNC recently broke with the Women’s March because of its ties with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who is both a racist and an antisemite. (Last year, he referred to Jews as “termites.”)
Still, Democrats are reluctant to criticize Omar and Tlaib because of the growing importance of Muslim voters to the Democratic coalition.
Democrats have also, independently, become hostile to Israel. That development began under Obama, who not only sought to create distance from Israel to appease the Arab and Muslim world, but also pushed the Iran deal through despite the protests of the Israeli government (and the existential fears of many Israelis).
On his way out of office, Obama also allowed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s presence in Jerusalem to pass. And not one elected Democrat attended the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, or the Washington, DC, party that the Israeli embassy threw to celebrate the occasion.
Until recently, however, Democrats at least tried to couch their policies as being in Israel’s best interest (presuming, both cynically and paternalistically, that Israelis did not know themselves what their interests were).
They argued that criticism of Israel would help it — that, in the words of then-Secretary of State John Kerry, they were “trying to preserve” Israel’s future as a democratic state as well as a Jewish one.
The difference now is that Omar, Tlaib and their cohort of anti-Israel “progressives” do not even pretend to care about protecting Israel. Omar calls Israel an “apartheid regime,” and wants to isolate it. Tlaib thinks Israel should be dismantled entirely.
Putting Omar on the House Foreign Affairs Committee gives her the power to disrupt the U.S. alliance with Israel.
It is alarming enough that people who hold anti-Israel views, and use antisemitic rhetoric, are elected to Congress — but that is up to the voters in their districts.
The decision to place Omar on the House Foreign Affairs Committee was Speaker Pelosi’s alone.
If she remains on the committee, there will no longer be any doubt that the Democratic Party has become an anti-Israel party — and that Democrats are not only prepared to tolerate and ignore antisemitism, but eager to promote it.
Republicans stripped Rep. Steve King (R-IA) of his committee assignments when he was alleged to have made a racist remark.
Democrats should do the same to Omar. Let her rant against Israel if she wants — from the back benches.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.