A Tale of Two Warrens

A Tale of Two Warrens

By Warren S. Hecht

Asked about Biden’s “decent man” comment on Vice President Pence, Senator Elizabeth Warren says, “I’m sorry. I followed Pence’s history on LGBTQ Americans, and I don’t think that is a decent position. I disagree.”

Reporter: “You don’t think the vice president is a decent man?”

Warren: “No.” (March 2, 2019)

In other words, since she did not agree with Pence’s position on LGBTQ Americans, that means he is not a decent person. It doesn’t matter that his opinion is based on religious values. It does not matter to Warren that Pence, throughout his career in politics whether as a senator or vice president, has treated those who disagreed with him with respect and has tried to stay above the cesspool of comments that come from his boss and his opponents in Washington. In Warren’s world, since he does not agree with her beliefs as to LGBTQ, he is not a decent man.

The senator has a different take when it comes to addressing Omar.

Senator Warren, in defending Representative Omar, put out a statement that “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.”

Warren is defending Omar’s right to make statements that she claims are not anti-Semitic. Warren blames those who are critical of Omar and says they are at fault for being overly sensitive.

Similar comments were made by Bernie Sanders, a progressive first and a Jew second, and other progressives.

The Congressional Black Caucus also came to Omar’s defense, claiming that it was not done in malice but because of ignorance. “And again, we took the opportunity to make this a learning experience, and I think it was a learning experience for Representative Omar. And I think it was a learning experience for many members in the caucus who maybe understood that that wasn’t the proper thing to say, but didn’t understand the full depth, impact, and history of that kind of statement.” [Karen Bass, Head of Black Caucus, NPR Interview March 7]

If this was Omar’s first comment, then it can be chalked up to inexperience. However, she has a history of similar comments, having made one just a few weeks earlier, for which she had to apologize.

In 2012, Omar tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil-doings of Israel.”

Right after she started her position in the House of Representatives, she made a comment concerning AIPAC that “it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” Jewish representatives from Congress, including Elliot Engel and Jerry Nadler, criticized her for engaging in the old anti-Semitic canards of Jewish money. Nadler also pointed out that her 2012 tweet is consistent with the claims of Jewish domination in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Nadler called her comments “hurtful and insulting.” Omar then apologized but nothing changed.

Not a month later, she said:

“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

Fellow House of Representatives member Nita Lowey then responded in a tweet: “Lawmakers must be able to debate w/o prejudice or bigotry. I am saddened that Rep. Omar continues to mischaracterize support for Israel. I urge her to retract this statement and engage in further dialogue with the Jewish community on why these comments are so hurtful.”

Omar, instead of apologizing, doubled down and responded: “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.”

The progressives cannot admit that one of their own is regressive in their thinking and is an anti-Semite. Likewise, the African American community cannot admit that an elected official who is African American is anti-Semitic.

So they pretend that it does not exist and give rationales for Omar’s conduct that are ridiculous and nonsensical.

There have been calls for Jews to abandon the Democratic Party and switch to the Republican Party. To believe that anti-Semitism is only found in one party or one group is being naive.

One thing we have learned throughout Jewish history is that there have been people from all groups, political persuasions, or religious dominations who have been anti-Semitic.

For example, during the 1968 and 1969 New York City teachers’ strike, anti-Semitic comments were made by blacks. The Nation of Islam, led by Louis Farrakhan, has used anti-Semitic rhetoric. Progressives who support BDS have made anti-Semitic comments. On the right, there was the march in Charlottesville, which had anti-Semitic chants.

Looking at it from a macro view, the various Inquisitions and other pogroms were inspired and/or called for by the church. The Holocaust was perpetrated by Fascists, while the communists in the USSR systematically went about trying to destroy the Jewish community.

What is happening with Omar is just another example of the increase of anti-Semitism in this country and how it is becoming mainstream. It feels like we are returning to pre-World War II America when the likes of Henry Ford, the most important industrialist in the country, and Father Coughlin, a radio show host with millions of listeners, were spewing anti-Semitic statements.

Thus, it is important for all Jews to put aside our religious and political differences and stick together to combat anti-Semitism. On March 17, at 1 p.m., in front of the Kew Gardens Hills Library on Vleigh Place, there will be a rally co-sponsored by the Queens Jewish Community Council and the Vaad of Queens to show our unity in opposition to all forms of anti-Semitism.

Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld and I have many political disagreements. However, we will come together and will both be at the rally. I hope you will be there too.

Warren S. Hecht is a local attorney. He can be reached at whecht@aol.com