TEL AVIV — In defending Rep. Ilhan Omar’s antisemitic tropes suggesting pro-Israel interests pushed allegiance to a “foreign country” or that pro-Israel politicians are motivated by financial support, some progressive Democrats seem to be arguing against the State Department’s very definition of antisemitism.
Prominent among Omar defenders are Senators Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, each of whom are 2020 presidential contenders.
In attempting to explain away allegations of anti-Semitism, Omar trotted out the age-old antisemitic canard insinuating Jews are more loyal to Israel or to some larger Jewish conspiracy.
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Omar stated.
Earlier, Omar tweeted another antisemitic trope that American political leaders’ support for the Jewish state is “all about the Benjamins.”
Those hateful comments from the freshman Congresswoman resulted in an initiative from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California advocating for a basic resolution condemning antisemitism. The resolution plan, however, reportedly stalled after backlash from progressive Democrats.
Some prominent Democrats publicly defended Omar amid the outrage over her comments.
“Like some of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, I am concerned that the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk,” Harris told reporters yesterday.
She continued: “We should be having a sound, respectful discussion about policy. You can both support Israel and be loyal to our country. I also believe there is a difference between criticism of policy or political leaders, and antisemitism. At the end of the day, we need a two-state solution and a commitment to peace, human rights and democracy by all leaders in the region — and a commitment by our country to help achieve that.”
Sanders weighed in on the debate, arguing that criticism of Omar and campaigns seeking to have her removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee are really intended to stifle debate about Israel.
“What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate,” Sanders said in a statement. “That’s wrong.”
Warren came out in support for Omar, saying: “We have a moral duty to combat hateful ideologies in our own country and around the world — and that includes both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”
“In a democracy, we can and should have an open, respectful debate about the Middle East that focuses on policy. Branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic has a chilling effect on our public discourse and makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians. Threats of violence — like those made against Rep. Omar — are never acceptable.”
With their remarks, Harris, Sanders, and Warren seem to be legitimizing Omar’s antisemitic comments.
Omar’s charge about loyalty and her allegation that money is behind support for Israel both fall under the State Department’s public examples of antisemitism.
Drawing on its own previous definition, the State Department in 2016 adopted the “working definition” of anti-Semitism established by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, of which the State Department is a member.
The following non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism was adopted:
Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
Consistent with that definition, the State Department offers official “contemporary examples of antisemitism.”
Among those examples are these two, which Omar’s comments clearly exemplify:
- Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations.
- Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
Joshua Klein contributed research to this article.