Republicans Miss the Problem With Ilhan Omar

Jonathan Tobin has written a commentary on how the congressional battle over whether Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) should remain on the House Foreign Relations Committee may be a “turning point for American Jews.”

By punishing Omar for her blatant antisemitism, the GOP majority is making an important statement about what is and is not acceptable political discourse in Congress,” Tobin writes. “But by rallying around Omar, as the Democrats have done, her party is sending an even louder message: that one of America’s two major parties now considers its allegiance to intersectional ideology and racial identity politics to outweigh any concerns many of them might still have about normalizing antisemitism on Capitol Hill.”

I’m glad Tobin left the headline of his column as an open question. I am not at all convinced that Jews on the Left will stream into the GOP because of what Ilhan Omar said about American supporters of Israel. Although her remarks were quite tasteless, just like everything else she and her pals in the squad tell us, they hardly qualify as shockingly antisemitic. In any case, there’s something clumsily staged about how Republicans are pushing back against the Minneapolis congresswoman.  House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has been trumpeting his intention to remove her from the Foreign Relations Committee ever since he addressed a Jewish Republican conference in Las Vegas in early December. Not at all surprisingly, McCarthy and the Republican media have been busily playing up Ilhan’s anti-Israeli outbursts as the main reason for removing her from an important congressional committee. 

This move seems transparently political, although it is the kind of action that the Democrats have unhesitatingly engaged in to please or enlarge their constituency, e.g., when they bounced Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.)  and other outspokenly conservative congressional representatives off committees, to the delight of the press. I’m not at all unhappy that the Republicans are practicing tit for tat, and I don’t mind seeing Ilhan Omar, who is a mouthy leftist partisan, sacrificed to this practice. But let’s not jump on her anti-Israeli remarks—which, after all, one might expect from someone of her background—as the equivalent of Nazi antisemitism! Omar hardly sounds like Julius Streicher or the verbally suicidal Kanye West. If we’re looking for bigotry, there’s a lot worse out there than Ilhan Omar—and almost all of it is found on the Left.

Am I the only one who noticed the nasty statements being emitted by Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and other black politicians who came to Omar’s defense?  It seems that just about every member of the Congressional Black Caucus was on hand last week to rally behind Omar and to throw tons of dirt at evil white America, including insufficiently indignant Democrats. Why has this behavior elicited less anger from Republicans than Ilhan’s complaint that support for Israel is purchased with “the Benjamins”? And why is Omar’s anti-Israeli utterances more of a reason to exclude her from the Foreign Relations Committee than her shocking unwillingness to condemn the 9/11 catastrophe? Although we may deplore her comparison of Israel as well as the United States to the Taliban and Hamas, it is not an Israeli, but an American foreign relations committee on which she wants to serve. 

Ilhan Omar’s ostentatious anti-Americanism more than would have justified her removal from the foreign relations committee. As in the cases of Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), McCarthy was entirely within his rights to remove these loose cannons from top committees because they pose a security threat. Ilhan Omar should have been excluded as someone who feels nothing but loathing for the country where she decided to settle. After all, no one forced her to come here. She could have stayed in a nonwhite Muslim country if she liked its population better.

Yes, I understand there is another side to this story. Politicians have historically represented the ethnic interests of their constituents. Therefore, I would not expect Omar, given the ethnicity of her constituency, to express the same views on Middle Eastern politics as, say, Chuck Schumer in New York. But this fact hardly justifies placing someone on a sensitive security committee in a country she fervently hates.

Contrary to Tobin’s fervent hope, however, I would expect Jewish liberals to go on voting imperturbably for the Left because of their social connections and because of how they interpret Jewish tribal loyalties. Their concerns are not those of poorer Jews, and especially not of Orthodox ones, who have been subject to black antisemitism and to the raging crime that Democratic administrations have encouraged through their tolerance of the intolerable.

Ilhan Omar’s indiscretions, unless I’m mistaken, will not become for more affluent, liberal Jews a game changer. But it may cause the GOP and its cheering gallery to flaunt their anti-antisemitism to the point of looking ridiculous. And Republican politicians may be making too much of a lesser scandal and not the bigger outrages that should be obvious in the case of Ilhan Omar and her America-hating supporters in Congress.

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About Paul Gottfried

Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.

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