Opinion | Anti-hate resolution overshadows anti-Semitism


Star Tribune | TNS

Ilhan Omar has been criticized and called anti-Semitic after she made an offensive tweet about Jewish money controlling foreign policy.

By Ana Altchek, Staff Columnist

The recent election of Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., as the first Muslim women to serve in Congress signifies a major stride toward inclusion and diversity for the U.S. government.

However, along with their elections came a series of anti-Semitic remarks from the two representatives. Both Congress members have made offensive comments on Twitter, and Tlaib has expressed support of Palestinian rights activists who used social media to share extreme views, such as equating Zionism with Nazism.

Yet it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that Omar gained attention for anti-Semitism when she made a particularly offensive tweet about Jewish money controlling foreign policy, implicitly supporting a bigoted stereotype about Jews and money.

“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she tweeted in response to a journalist condemning her criticism of Israel.

In the midst of the backlash she received from her tweet, Omar made another shocking anti-Semitic comment March 1 at a forum in a Washington, D.C. bookstore, suggesting Jews have “dual loyalty” between the United States and Israel.

After an outpour of criticism in response to the inflammatory comments, the Democratic party constructed a resolution to condemn the anti-Semitic comments. While the resolution began as a direct response to Omar’s anti-Semitism, it quickly transgressed into a wishy-washy general prerogative to abstain from all forms of hatred, and doesn’t do enough to acknowledge and denounce the anti-Semitic rhetoric that’s recently been used in Congress.

While enforcing a rejection of racism and discrimination in the government is commendable, it simultaneously overshadows anti-Semitism by not addressing the issue specifically and exclusively.

Furthermore, it has given space for Democratic representatives to link criticism of anti-Semitism with religious and gender inequality. Along with Tlaib rejecting critics and justifying her remarks as an act of free speech, U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights Executive Director Yousef Munayyer made similar comments that seemed to demonstrate gaslighting in response to initial anti-Semitism.

“I see this as an Islamophobic attack against two outspoken women of color who are shaking things up by boldly standing for crucial issues,” Munayyer told The New York Times.

These responses deflect anti-Semitic sentiment and use it as a way to advance notions of white supremacy and bigotry. While these forms of hate are equally harmful and destructive, focusing on these other forms of hatred covers up Omar’s errors and frames critics of her speech as the ones at fault for defending those targeted by the original statements.

By passing this resolution, Omar’s actions were put on the back burner, while Republicans who expressed disdain for the resolution’s motives were put in the limelight and criticized for failing to support equality and inclusion — raising more discussion over white supremacy rather than anti-Semitism, which should’ve been the focus.

“It’s not about her, it’s about these forms of hatred,” Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives said in a weekly press conference, addressing the resolution’s purpose.

Yet the resolution should be about her and the comments she made, and it should handle it independently, rather than construe a spineless and vague resolution for everyone.

The 23 Republicans who refused to sign the resolution were wrongly accused of being anti-Semitic and supportive of white supremacy.

“So far FOURTEEN House Republicans have voted against a bill condemning Anti-Semitism, Anti-Muslim and Other Hatred,” Michael Barbaro, host of The New York Times’ podcast “The Daily,” tweeted. “Wow. This is going to be hard to explain.”  

Meanwhile, all 23 of the representatives previously voted in favor a resolution in January condemning white supremacy. They expressed their recent abstention in voting as an affirmative demonstration of their intolerance of anti-Semitism, and the resolution as a inadequate response to dealing with it.

Pro-Israel and Jewish representative Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., explains he voted against the bill because of Democrats’ failure to unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism and explicitly denounce those who expressed it.

“If a Republican member was pushing the anti-Semitism that Representative Omar keeps peddling, this resolution would name names,” Zeldin said.

The media seems to accept the resolution’s effectiveness simply because it acknowledges anti-Semitism and was approved by Jewish representatives.

The New York Times said the resolution was composed by Jewish Representative Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., whose congressional district has the highest Jewish population, as well as leading Jewish progressive Representative Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Representative Cedric L. Richmond, D-La., a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Yet approval from a few far-left Jewish representatives should not suffice as justification of the resolution’s faults, and it doesn’t nullify what many Jews considered attacks against Israel and their religious group.

Not only does the resolution fail as a remedy of the issue, but considering Omar’s influential position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, it implies that future anti-Semitic and extreme or illegitimate anti-Israel comments and initiatives will be all too likely.

Rather than denounce anti-Semitism as a response to offensive rhetoric aimed at the Jewish people and Israel, this resolution takes an “all lives matter” sort of approach, and fails to firmly acknowledge the issue at stake.