Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was forced to apologize last month for antisemitic remarks accusing pro-Israel politicians of being paid off by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Now she is in trouble again after she accused Americans who support Israel of showing “allegiance to a foreign country.”
Both remarks have antisemitic connotations. And both show that Omar refuses to acknowledge the truth: that Americans genuinely support Israel.
That truth persists despite the rights or wrongs of Israel’s conduct in any particular conflict, or indeed the case for Israel in general.
One reason is cultural. As historian Michael Oren (who later served as Israel’s ambassador to the U.S.) has shown, the Protestant roots of the American republic were nourished by a common reverence for Biblical Israel, and many Founding Fathers believed in the eventual restoration of a Jewish state. That translates into deep support for Israel today.
Americans also see Israel as a country with shared values: liberal democracy, religious tolerance, a free press. These are values that contrast sharply with those of Israel’s neighbors — including the Palestinians. Moreover, Americans respect Israel because of its amazing success — politically, militarily, economically, and especially technologically. And Americans also respect Israel as a haven for oppressed Jews worldwide: to support Israel is to support justice.
These reasons for supporting Israel are very difficult to dislodge. Opponents of Israel tend to seize on immediate controversies — most recently, Israel’s use of lethal force to stop Palestinian “protesters” at the Gaza border fence last spring. It turned out the vast majority of the “protesters” were members of the Hamas terrorist organization, and they were attempting to invade Israel, not protest the “occupation,” which ended in Gaza in 2005.
It is very difficult to generate sustained outrage against Israel when the conduct of Israel’s enemies is so outrageous. Last week, the Palestinian Authority rejected the tax revenues that Israel routinely collects for it because Israel had deducted, for the first time, the payments the Palestinian government gives to terrorists and their families. When you are willing to starve your own people for the sake of massmurderers, Americans tend not to have sympathy.
There is a broader case that Israel’s opponents wish to make — one that denies the legitimacy of Israel itself, arguing the Zionist enterprise is a settler-colonialist movement imposed on an indigenous people. That argument denies the Jewish connection to the land of Israel, which has continued for millennia, and which even the Qur’an accepts.
It also ignores the way Israel was established — not by conquest, nor as the agent of any foreign power, but by Jews themselves. And it ignores the fact that Israel sought peace and co-existence with its Arab neighbors from the start.
Omar told her audience last week — the one that applauded her remarks about “allegiance to a foreign country” — that she wanted a “debate of what is happening with Palestine.” But the last thing she wants is a real debate. That is why she resorts to conspiracy theories that suggest the other side of the debate is using nefarious methods to win.
The first-year representative from Minnesota, one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, rejects the idea they could be motivated by hate: “No, we know hate looks like! We experience it every single day!” There is truth to that — as a reprehensible poster by a Republican in the West Virginia state capitol, linking her to 9/11, shows.
But that does not excuse Omar’s use of hateful anti-Jewish themes to evade the truth, which is, plainly, that Americans love Israel.
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.