Anti-Semitism Must Not Infiltrate Congress

Anti-Semitism Must Not Infiltrate Congress

By Cynthia Zalisky

Anti-Semitism (sometimes excused as “merely” anti-Israel) has been rearing its ugly head all over the world, including here in the US. But the place where we have been insulated from it until now was in the US Congress. Ever since President Harry Truman recognized the State of Israel, the United States government has been favorably aligned with her. As the Democrat Party has now become more radically progressive, its members are supporting the Palestinian cause and turned their backs on America’s only true democratic ally in the Middle East.

Case in point has been the brouhaha over tweets made by US Representative Ilhan Omar. The latest insensitive tweet from Omar of Minnesota was when she asserted that support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins, baby ($100-bills).” She suggested that pro-Israel Members of Congress are simply motivated by funding from AIPAC.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders strong-armed Omar to apologize for using anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters. Forced to do so, Ms. Omar made a mea culpa about an hour after Pelosi and the entire Democratic leadership publically admonished her for engaging in “deeply offensive” anti-Semitic allegations. Omar responded by saying, “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. I unequivocally apologize.”

Rep. Omar’s comments, linking money from AIPAC to political support in Washington for Israel, played into anti-Semitic inaccuracies that have their roots historically in the Middle Ages when Jews were barred from entering most professions and thus became moneylenders, a task Christians could not take on because it was considered usury, which was prohibited for them. That fueled centuries of stereotypical claims that Jews used money to control the world.

In her lame apology (as President Trump put it), Omar did not back away from her contention that AIPAC has too much power in Washington. She said, “At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA, or the fossil fuel industry.” What she conveniently did not include in her list was CAIR and other militant Islamic Arab organizations in her diatribe.

Omar is an open supporter of the BDS movement and seeks to harm Israel at every opportunity, which makes her appointment to the House Foreign Affairs Committee very problematic and dangerous.

The ZOA (Zionist Organization of America) issued a statement denouncing Omar’s anti-Semitic statement and calling for her to be removed from her committee assignments in the House.

President Trump reacted to Rep. Omar by saying, “I think she should be ashamed of herself. I think it was a terrible statement and I don’t think her apology was adequate.”

Vice President Mike Pence stated, “Anti-Semitism has no place in the United States Congress, much less the Foreign Affairs Committee. Those who engage in anti-Semitic tropes should not just be denounced; they should have consequences for their words. I think she should either resign from Congress or she should certainly resign from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”

While I am very fond of our Vice President, I disagree with his assertion that Rep. Omar should resign. I do not believe that she should be given the option to quit voluntarily; she should be censured and removed from participating in the Foreign Affairs Committee. I am quite fed up with those who give Omar excuses for her actions. They say she is young and inexperienced in Congress. Nonsense! This woman has a history of being toxic and evil.

In 2012, Omar accused Israel of hypnotizing the world to mask its evil deeds. She went on to say, “May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evildoings of Israel.”

She compared Israel to Iran and said she “almost chuckled” when the Jewish state is described as a democracy.

In 2016, Omar, then a Minnesota state representative, asked a judge to show leniency toward a group of nine who were accused of trying to join ISIS.

More recently, Omar came under fire for accusing the Covington High School students even as video footage had already exonerated the kids from the claim that they harassed Nathan Phillips, a Native American elder. She totally lied when she tweeted, “The boys were protesting a woman’s right to choose and yelled it’s not rape if you enjoy it. She went on to misrepresent the facts by saying that they (the boys) were taunting five black men before they surrounded Mr. Phillips and led racist chants.

Another outrageous statement was her assertion that Senator Lindsey Graham is somehow being blackmailed into supporting President Trump.

Furthermore, Rep. Omar is scheduled to speak at an anti-Israel fundraiser that is focused on raising funds for the Palestinians of Gaza.

Proving how insincere her apology was, Rep. Omar ripped into US diplomat Elliott Abrams during a hearing of the Foreign Affairs Committee the next day that was supposed to be dealing with his current role as US envoy to Venezuela.

Abrams was treated in such a hostile, caustic manner that one could infer that she did that because he is Jewish. She had the audacity to question his trustworthiness: “I fail to understand why members of this committee of the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.” She brought up Iran-Contra, which occurred in the 1980s. She wouldn’t let him respond and cut him off.

Yali Nunez, a spokesperson of Hispanic media, said, “For Rep. Ilhan Omar to attack the character of US Special Envoy to Venezuela, Mr. Elliott Abrams, a public servant and patriot, is simply un-American. In less than a week, she has managed to offend both the Jewish and Hispanic communities in the US.”

Regrettably, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has defended Omar‘s behavior. She cannot seem to acknowledge that she made a mistake with Ilhan Omar. Nancy Pelosi should cut her losses and set Omar straight.

We Jews must react to Representative Omar. We must bombard Speaker Pelosi and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and demand that she be dealt with punitively. Congress has been good to us and we don’t want that to change. Anti-Semitism has no place in Congress.

Cynthia Zalisky is the Executive Director of the Queens Jewish Community. She can be contacted at czalisky@qjcc.org

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