Identity Politics

Calling Out Anti-Semitism Isn’t ‘Islamophobic’


- May 30th, 2019
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A protestor waves a Palestinian flag while standing atop a truck during rally in Times Square, May 18, 2018, in New York City.

Virginia State Delegate Ibraheem Samirah is the poster child for a new crop of Democratic politicians. He’s young, charismatic, and very progressive, with a history of activism that began in his student days on the campuses of Boston University and American University. Samirah has spent his brief time as a Virginia delegate hawking a “Green New Deal” for Virginia in the Washington Post.

But Samirah also has a history of shockingly antisemitic and virulently anti-Israel statements and troubling associations, and he doesn’t take kindly to those who point it out.

A story by Mikhael Smits in the Washington Free Beacon detailed Samirah’s long-running association with the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions group formed out of the Hamas-linked Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP). Samirah’s ties are both historic—including his father’s time as Chairman of the IAP and role as a Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood spokesman—and ongoing. He received funds from AMP donors in his delegate campaign this year, and spoke at AMP’s 2018 national convention.

Smits’ piece builds upon reporting during the February 2019 special election that highlighted Samirah’s anti-Semitic Facebook posts, which were condemned by both Republicans and Democrats but didn’t prevent him from winning the race by a comfortable margin.

Samirah responded to the new wave of criticism by tweeting an unsourced list of “statistics” claiming large numbers of Republicans, and a significant minority of Americans generally, hate or fear Muslims involved in politics.

Samirah also labeled his critics “Far-Right,” even though the “Far-Right” of Samirah’s imagination would seem to encapsulate the entire Virginia Republican Party, which responded to the Free Beacon report by labeling Samirah’s behavior “rabid anti-Semitism.”

The delegate only has himself to blame for the latest round of media attention, since it was Samirah who rushed to the news media to paint himself as a victim after a local Republican activist used a town hall session to ask him to explain his views on Shariah law. Many U.S. Islamist groups, after all, seek the imposition of a theocratic Islamic state.

Samirah even sparred publicly with Dr. Zhudi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, a noted Muslim reformer and opponent of U.S. Islamist groups, who noted the connection between support for Islamist groups and support for Shariah in a tweet which led Samirah to denounce the Arizona-based medical doctor and U.S. Navy veteran as “a bigot & grifter” with ties to the “alt-right.”

Samirah’s efforts to demonize anyone who deigns to notice his troubling statements and associations come from the same playbook as those of Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who both have repeatedly faced scrutiny for vile and anti-Semitic remarks, as well as associations with groups with ties to Islamic extremism and support for terrorism. Both freshman congresswomen have blamed “Islamophobia” and “white nationalism” for fomenting the criticism of their public statements and associations.

Ultimately, it remains to be seen whether this “cry racism” strategy will be successful in distracting the voting public from these elected officials’ actual records of anti-Semitic statements and associations with groups and individuals with ties to terrorism.

In the short term, Samirah—like Tlaib and Omar—might expect to get away with labeling his critics “far right” or “islamophobic,” the point of diminishing returns on this tactic is fast approaching, as new information on his terror-tied donors and associates is made public.

Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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