Anti-Semitism is one of the most insidious, destructive forms of evil in the world, right? It has one of the most repugnant, soulless, vicious histories of any form of racism. So, it stands to reason that the Democratic Party should not only apologize but also remove Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from office immediately if they are anti-Semites. Right?
NOPE. Because the Republicans’ claim that these two Democrats are anti-Semites is absolute bullshit.
The whole thing started with Ilhan Omar criticizing the Israeli government for human rights violations in 2012. She, and Rashida Tlaib, have stated unequivocally that they support the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement”, a.k.a. “BDS” against the State of Israel. Many Republicans have claimed that their support of this form of protest is, just by itself, overwhelming evidence of anti-Semitism. Nearly all Fox News contributors, and nearly all Republicans, have said so.
The only problem? Support for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” is a movement that originated with Jewish Anti-Zionist groups, and is fought for, and funded by, thousands upon thousands of Jews in the United States and around the world. In fact, 20,000 rabbis gathered in New York City just this past April to support boycotting as a valid form of protest against the Israeli Government.
That’s right: Jewish People support the BDS movement and these two Democratic Representatives just happen to agree with these Jews. Why? Because, like our own Democratic Republic in the United States, The Israeli GOVERNMENT and the Israeli PEOPLE are two different things.
We are a Democratic Republic and Israel is a Democratic Republic. In the U.S. there is “The People” (us) and “The Government” (the people we elect). In Israel? It is “The People” (mostly Jewish people) and “The Government” (the people they elect).
So, if you criticize the Government of Israel, does that mean you are criticizing Jewish People? NO.
Who conveniently leaves this fact out of the conversation every single time? Republicans.
Why? Because if Republicans mention the distinction between the Government of Israel and the Jewish People, then their entire accusation of anti-Semitism against Omar, Tlaib, and the Democrats completely falls apart.
That’s right. Republicans accusing these two representatives of anti-Semitism is a huge con game. And it’s being performed on the graves of those innocent Jewish People butchered in concentration camps in World War II.
I mean…what else can I say? It simply doesn’t get too much more manipulative, craven, and disgusting than that; wielding “anti-Semitism” as a means of getting votes and sustaining political power. One withers in revulsion in the face of it.
And yet, it is the truth.
Resistance, by Jews, to the establishment of a Jewish State actually predates the creation of the Jewish State by nearly eighty years! Such groups of Jews who support the Jewish People and yet are opposed to the interests of The Israeli Government are referred to as “Anti-Zionists”. Their claim is pretty straightforward: if the focus of the Jewish People becomes their Government, then “Jewishness” no longer becomes about the strength and well-being of the Jewish People, nor is it about the Jewish Faith. Instead, everything becomes about serving the Government. As Americans, we should all be able to relate to how important it is that the People are the priority and not the Government.
Anti-Zionist Jews also point out that the idea of “Zionism” (support of establishing a Jewish State) wasn’t really important to Jewish People for much of human history. It was not until Christian Zionists (also known as “Evangelical Christians” in the United States) began to insist that Jews start a Jewish State that the Zionist Movement really became a priority to Jewish people. Such a push by Evangelicals was designed to fulfill a series of Bible prophecies (where the End of the World can only come about by creating the Jewish State) and usher in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
If that doesn’t sound particularly “Semitic” to you, you’d be right! This prophecy not only includes the incineration of everyone on planet Earth but it also includes the mass conversion of every single Jew to Christianity.
So, if Zionism was never really an authentically Jewish movement to begin with, and Jews still debate among one another as to how much power the Jewish State should have, then why is Zionism such a hot topic for Conservatives and Republicans? Simple: because Dan and Farris Wilks of Rising Star, Texas, two multi-billionaire fracking tycoons and church pastors, responsible for funding the campaigns of several major Republicans including Ted Cruz (R-TX), firmly believe that Jesus must come down to Earth and land in Israel to fulfill that Bible prophecy. They have several major media outlets and over a dozen podcasts spanning the country, all of which repeat the talking points that:
1.) Opposition to the State of Israel is fundamentally anti-Semitic.
2.) Democrats oppose the State of Israel and therefore…
3.) anti-Semitism among Democrats is a serious problem.
That’s it. And not a single one of those claims is true.
Dan and Farris Wilks are also the ones making sure no one in the Republican Party talks about the aforementioned history of Zionism. If more people focused on the complexity, and the reality, of protesting the Government of Israel, then Republicans would look pretty horrible.
It behooves every Jewish person around the world to remember:
During World War II (with encouragement from powerful American Evangelicals) some Jews advocated for Zionism as a means of placating Nazi Germany, and they let the Nazis know, in effect, that Jews had no problem leaving Germany as long as they had their own nation to escape to.
These more extreme Zionists (although a small minority among the Zionist movement) were not only eager to help the Nazis remove Jewish People from their homes, but also earned the nickname “Kapo” from those Jews who were shipped off to concentration camps.
“Kapo” basically meant “sold people out to get special treatment”.
Today, largely in response to those Zionists from World War II, literally dozens of Jewish-led Anti-Zionist groups have sprung up worldwide, with members numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Suffice it to say, these groups are not at all pleased that Conservatives are claiming that criticism of Israel’s Government is equivalent to hating Jewish People and their Faith. From their perspective, it was bad enough that the Jewish State came to fruition after World War II to begin with. But the idea of not even being able to mount a protest against a Jewish Government? That is simply immoral and unacceptable to these Jews.
One such group, “True Torah Jews” in New York City, express their Mission Statement thusly:
“We seek to disassociate Jews and traditional Judaism from the Zionist ideology by:
1. Providing historical and supporting documentation that Zionism is totally contrary to the teachings of traditional Judaism through the words of our Rabbis, Sages, and Holy Scriptures which oppose the creation of a state called Israel.”
That’s right: Orthodox Jewish Rabbis are not only critical of Israel, they oppose having any sort of Israeli Government at all.
Did I mention that there are dozens of such groups worldwide?
Compare the teachings of these Rabbis with the words of Ihan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, and the Democrats look like they just came from a blow-out Bar Mitzvah and speak fluent Hebrew.
Additionally, there is a long, running list of prominent Rabbis and Israeli scholars who have gone on record to support BDS and to support the creation of a separate Palestinian State. One needs only to Google “Norman Finkelstein” to learn the painstakingly thorough scholarship he has undertaken – interviewing and quoting the most renowned scholars of The Holocaust and Judaism – to learn just how flimsy the notion is that criticism of Israel’s Government is the same as hating the Jewish People. In fact, Finkelstein, whose family perished in the Holocaust, made it a finely reasoned point to prove how BDS is, more often than not, a reasonable and moral form of protest.
Finkelstein, and his fellow world-renowned Holocaust scholars, have cited a litany of human rights violations committed by the Israeli Government, including but not limited to: unlawful killings; forced displacement; abusive detention; the closure of the Gaza Strip and other unjustified restrictions on movement; and the development of settlements, along with the accompanying discriminatory policies that disadvantage Palestinians.
Meanwhile, as the Palestinians face what is arguably a form of racial and religious persecution (likened by Finkelstein, True Torah Jews, Democrats and others as a new form of “apartheid”), the United Nations recognizes that the claims of the Palestinian People to have an official State are entirely reasonable. Even more telling, their claims are recognized and supported by International Law.
Of the hundreds of countries worldwide, only the United States does not support this effort.
One has to admit this is a pretty damning account of the Republicans take on “anti-Semitism”.
So, with all of this laid bare, what evidence could the Republican Party and Conservative pundits possibly have to support such a claim that Omar and Tlaib are anti-Semites?
Is there any credence whatsoever to their accusations?
Short answer: sort of, but not really.
To begin with, the BDS Movement mot assuredly has anti-Semites among its ranks. In 2004, it was officially labeled “BDS” by the leadership of the pro-Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. That group has had some choice words, and violent actions, leveled at Jewish People in general. In fact, they’ve been throwing every single anti-Semitic invective and trope at them since their founding in 1987. On top of that, the BDS Movement, although having roots in Jewish anti-Zionism, has a much different purpose under Hamas.
Unlike Jews protesting the State of Israel through boycotts, etc., much of Hamas and its leadership uses BDS as a means to totally destroy Israel. Many simply use it as a means of advancing the interest of establishing an independent State for the Palestinian people. Many others, however, use BDS out of sheer hatred of the Jewish People.
So BDS, under those circumstances, is most definitely anti-Semitic and evil.
One can how see a support of BDS, then, can quickly (and conveniently) be associated with anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews. It does skirt a line.
Given the different objectives for which BDS is wielded, Ilhan Omar really stepped in it in February of this year when Representative Kevin McCarthy (R) condemned both Omar and Tlaib for supporting BDS and accused them of being anti-Semitic.
Where McCarthy produced at least a scrap of evidence of anti-Semitism is when he focused on Omar’s 2012 tweet stating “Israel has hypnotized the world.” Omar was referencing Israel’s demonstrable global influence. The problem with her word choice, of course, is that the imagery of a Jewish person “hypnotizing” someone is an anti-Semitic trope. This trope was made famous by the 1895 novel “Trilby”, in which the evil, petty thief and hypnotist Svengali destroys a young woman’s singing career by hypnotizing her. A movie adaptation in 1927 and 1931 followed.
McCarthy made the case that use of this anti-Semitic trope, when paired with Omar’s and Tlaib’s support of BDS, served as the ultimate “smoking gun” proving that the two of them are out to destroy the Jewish People. From there, McCarthy reasoned that their anti-Semitism should be met with just as much, if not more, condemnation from Democrats as had been leveled at Steve King (R), when he was removed from his position as Representative of Iowa after making overtly racist, White Supremacist statements in 2018.
Adding to the Omar’s controversy, Glen Greewald of “The Intercept” news site reported how surprised he was McCarthy stated a desire to take “action” against Omar and Omar retweeted his message with the reply “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby!”. Omar arguably touched upon two anti-Semitic tropes at once: that Jewish people hoard money and the conspiracy that Jewish people control world politics. When asked online where the “Benajmins” were coming from, Omar replied “AIPAC”, which is the largest Israeli lobby involved in U.S. politics.
Once the Democratic Party called out Omar’s stereotypes, she apologized profusely in person and via Social Media, condemned her word choices, condemned all forms of Anti-Semitism, and pledged she would educate herself about those stereotypes. She chased her apology, however, with the statement “At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be from AIPAC, the NRA, or the fossil fuel industry.”
Republicans almost universally demanded that Omar be removed from office after that, similar to the removal of Steve King.
The problem with their outrage, of course, was that Omar had apologized multiple times, and her’s and Tlaib’s position was not at all “anti-Semitic”. They were agreeing with members of the Jewish Community that Israel was committing human rights violations against Palestinians and that BDS is necessary. This was not only a valid justification for protest but also supported by the Jewish people.
In comparison, Steve King’s commentary was far worse, expressing outright hatred toward non-White racial groups, supporting his claim that Whites were “superior” by saying “This whole business does get a little tired. I would ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people you are talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”
Unlike Omar, King’s was not criticism of a government. His was criticism of any non-White race.
Also unlike Omar, Steve King’s responses were deliberate. Omar’s responses were accidental, made in the broader context of criticizing the Israeli Government and in support of the Jewish community wishing to protest Israel.
Regardless, Republican Reps and a phalanx of Conservative pundits continue to equate the protest of the Israeli Government as being the same as wishing to destroy all Jews; and no matter how many Jews support BDS, Conservatives hammer away at the talking point that both Omar and Tlaib are rabid anti-Semites and Democrats are blatant hypocrites.
It is a maneuver that is, at best, disingenuous. At worst, it is morally grotesque.
But all of this, sadly, is not rock-bottom: Jewish Conservative pundits such as Ben Shapiro have even gone so far as to call Jewish critics of Israel’s Government “JINOs” or “Jews In Name Only” – a comment he tried unsuccessfully to distance himself from in an interview with Conservative BBC commentator Andrew Neil. The YouTube video is pretty choice. Neil lays bare Shapiro’s spectacular double-standard. Rather than answer Neil’s questions about calling other Jews “JINOs”, Shapiro accused Neil of being “Liberal” and stormed off of the show.
Shapiro’s comments have also been met with frequent references to the “Kapos” of World War II. The founder of Vox Media Company, Joshua Topolsky, referred to Shapiro as “that Jew who helped other Jews onto the train”. Topolsky later apologized.
All of this back-and-forth is alarming, but it pales in comparison to Conservatives like Ben Shapiro literally sacrificing their own Faith, and their own People, in the vain attempt to score cheap political points and level false charges of anti-Semitism against Omar, Tlaib, True Torah Jews, Jews for Peace, The United Nations, Palestinian groups, and other legitimate critics of Israel’s Government.
Imagine having relatives perish in Auschwitz only to have Ben Shapiro call you and your family members “Jews In Name Only” for protesting Israel. Again, it is sickening on a level we can scarcely process.
Does Israel have a right to defend itself against attacks by Palestinian terrorist organizations? Of course.
But implementing additional measures that have nothing to do with defense – such as plowing people’s homes under the streets because they aren’t Jewish or murdering civilians – would garner a critical response no matter what country did it.
So, as you can see, the Republicans and almost the entirety of Conservative Media have marched pretty much in lock-step to the tune of calling Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib anti-Semites.
But if those Representatives are anti-Semites, along with the rest of the Democratic Party, then so are the hundreds of thousands of Jews and Rabbis who adamantly agree with them.
And, whether you call them “JINOs” or not, it will not erase the blood of their ancestors from the pages of history, and it will not prevent these brave Jews from protesting to stop the atrocities of tomorrow.