Ilhan Omar was right on all points, but still she had to surrender to the force majeure of Israel and its host of allies in the U.S. Congress.
It is interesting to observe that the many atrocities carried out by Israel and its surrogates in Lebanon and Palestine through the years, which have killed thousands of civilians, have not aroused the ire that is being witnessed as a result of the recent attack on Gaza, which killed less than 300. That many of the dead were children and infrastructure in the already devastated Strip was deliberately targeted explains part of the anger, but there is something more fundamental brewing. People, even in the brainwashed United States and Britain, are tired of Israel’s brutality and have become immune to the excuses made for it by those in power. How many times can Nancy Pelosi repeat “Israel has a right to defend itself” when television viewers can themselves see the disparity of the punishment that is being meted out to Palestinians who have virtually no means of defending themselves? And how can Joe Biden and his cast of foreign policy imposters continue to assert that Israel was attacked when it is clear to many that the Jewish state deliberately provoked the fighting by its encouragement of armed mobs of settlers marching through Palestinian neighborhoods and calling for “death to Arabs,” not to mention the home demolitions and expulsions taking place to make room for Jews and the deliberate disruption of religious services at the al-Aqsa mosque on one of Islam’s holiest days?
In truth, Israel’s track record since it was created is not good. More than 800,000 Palestinians were expelled during the state’s founding, still more since the West Bank and Golan Heights were “acquired” in a war of aggression in 1967, and an estimated 100,000 Palestinians and Arabs have been killed by its army and police since 1948. The attack on Gaza last month featured the deliberate targeting of homes that wiped out entire families. Meanwhile, the much reviled “terrorist group” Hamas was established in 1988 with the support of Israeli intelligence to undercut the authority of the PLO, but now its alleged “extremism” serves the Israeli government as a useful tool to discredit the entire Palestinian freedom movement. Ironically, of course, Hamas has now morphed into the national liberation movement for the Palestinian people.
There have been large demonstrations in Western cities demanding Palestinian rights and an end to the oppression, though little of that has been reported in the U.S. media in particular for the usual reason, i.e. organized Israel Lobby pressure combined with Jewish ownership and management of many media outlets. The uncritical relations that most Western capitals have with Jerusalem, based largely on fear of being labeled anti-Semitic, are being scrutinized more than ever. In the U.S., Harvard Professor of International Relations Stephen Walt has called for an end to the “special relationship” with Washington because “The benefits of U.S. support no longer outweigh the costs.” Actually Walt is wrong as the so-called benefits received from completely uncritical support of Israel NEVER outweighed the costs to the United States.
And ordinary working people are also beginning to share the outrage. Last week the longshoremen’s union in Oakland refused to unload a ship belonging to the Israeli Zim line while other unions have passed motions condemning the Israeli apartheid state. There have been calls to extend the boycott of Israeli products to include the businesses owned by those Jewish billionaires who are known to be major supporters of Israel and its lobby. Black spokesmen have observed that their tactical “alliance” with Jewish groups that excuse the brutal Israeli behavior towards the Palestinians is not any longer acceptable.
Even the national media took a step back as they covered the recent slaughter of Gazans. The new New York Times correspondent in Israel Patrick Kingsley has to everyone’s surprised delivered some remarkably honest reporting. In short, overall, the tide may be turning.
Perhaps the clearest indication that the love affair with Israel might be ending comes from the U.S. Congress, where the mudslinging over a foreign policy issue has reached an intensity not seen in many years. Israel’s surrogates and most Jewish groups have joined in the fray, responding fiercely to criticism of Israel that actually appears to have gained some traction. The latest smearing of critics of Israel began in response to a comment by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who questioned Secretary of State Tony Blinken during a June 7th House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting, asking what the State Department response would be to the International Criminal Court’s investigation of alleged crimes by the Taliban and the U.S. in Afghanistan as well as Hamas and Israel in the Gaza conflict.
Omar, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia, followed up with a tweet asserting that “We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.” She included the video of her questioning and stated that “I asked @SecBlinken where people are supposed to go for justice.” It was a good question, forcing Blinken to lie about how they could obtain accountability by resorting to Israeli and American rule-of-law in the courts.
The friends of Israel quickly struck back. A joint statement signed on by twelve Democratic Party congressmen who self-identified as Jewish, accused her of “Equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban is as offensive as it is misguided. Ignoring the differences between democracies governed by the rule of law and contemptible organizations that engage in terrorism at best discredits one’s intended argument and at worst reflects deep-seated prejudice. The United States and Israel are imperfect and, like all democracies, at times deserving of critique, but false equivalencies give cover to terrorist groups. We urge Congresswoman Omar to clarify her words placing the U.S. and Israel in the same category as Hamas and the Taliban.”
Congressman Brad Sherman, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, signed the joint statement and also issued one of his own: “It’s not news that Ilhan Omar would make outrageous and clearly false statements about America and Israel. What’s newsworthy is that she admits Hamas is guilty of ‘unthinkable atrocities.’ It’s time for all of Israel’s detractors to condemn Hamas. And it’s time for all those of good will to reject any moral equivalency between the U.S. and Israel on one hand, and Hamas and the Taliban on the other.”
Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also got into it, tweeting “Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitic & anti-American comments are abhorrent. Speaker Pelosi’s continued failure to address the issues in her caucus sends a message to the world that Democrats are tolerant of anti-Semitism and sympathizing with terrorists. It’s time for the Speaker to act.” The National Republican Congressional Committee also demanded that Omar be stripped of her House committee assignments due to her anti-Semitism and three GOP House members issued on Monday a press release condemning Omar and her associates for “trafficking in anti-Semitic rhetoric” and “inciting anti-Semitic attacks.” One of the three, Representative Michael Waltz of Florida, also dubbed the so-called Squad group consisting of Omar and her friends the “Hamas Caucus.”
Omar tweeted a response for her Democratic Party critics, writing that “It’s shameful for colleagues who call me when they need my support to now put out a statement asking for ‘clarification’ and not just call. The islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive. The constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable.” Omar was supported by Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American from Michigan, who tweeted “I am tired of colleagues (both D+R) demonizing @IlhanMN. Their obsession with policing her is sick. She has the courage to call out human rights abuses no matter who is responsible. That’s better than colleagues who look away if it serves their politics… Once again disappointed in my colleagues quicker to condemn @Ilhan than they are to condemn the human rights abuses of the apartheid state of Israel.”
Fellow progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez added that making Omar a target for genuine threats was not a way to resolve the issue. She tweeted “Pretty sick & tired of the constant vilification, intentional mischaracterization, and public targeting of @IlhanMN coming from our caucus. They have no concept for the danger they put her in by skipping private conversations & leaping to fueling targeted news cycles around her.”
Omar did in fact receive death threats. She described one of them in a tweet: “Every time I speak out on human rights I am inundated with death threats. Here is one we just got. ‘Muslims are terrorists. And she is a raghead n*****. And every anti-American communist piece of s*** that works for her, I hope you get what’s f***ing coming for you.’”
Nevertheless, something like an apology was forthcoming from the outnumbered Omar who surrendered to demands for clarification with an assertion that she was “not [making] a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel. I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.” This led too something like forgiveness from the upper echelons of the Democratic Party, led by Pelosi, who responded “Legitimate criticism of the policies of both the United States and Israel is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate. And indeed, such criticism is essential to the strength and health of our democracies. But drawing false equivalencies between democracies like the U.S. and Israel and groups that engage in terrorism like Hamas and the Taliban foments prejudice and undermines progress toward a future of peace and security for all.”
Omar has often been in trouble with powerful Jews in the Democratic Party as well as with her party’s senior management. The House even passed a resolution in 2019 that was aimed at her, condemning anti-Semitism, racism and Islamophobia after she described the Israel lobby as a “political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” She also was attacked for tweeting that American political support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins,” described as anti-Semitic because it implied that some Jewish oligarchs with names like Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson were using money to buy influence. Both of her comments were, of course, completely correct.
The back and forth over Gaza is revealing in that it shows how Israel’s real power operates in Congress, shamelessly with Jewish congressmen openly demonstrating their ultimate loyalty to Israel to include grossly misrepresenting the reality that exists currently in the Middle East. That reality is that Israel is essentially an invasive colonial power that has stolen identity and nationhood from the original inhabitants of the region, continues to regard them as chattels with no or limited rights, and uses its military might enhanced by the United States to mete out punishment directed against them as it sees fit. Israel is the only nation that commits war crimes on a regular basis as it frequently attacks its neighbors, most particularly Syria, without so much as a squeak coming from the United States.
When the occupied and abused Palestinians object and fight back to the best of their ability as they did from Gaza, which they are entitled to under international law, they are massacred and described conveniently as “terrorists.” No, Israel might be considered a form a democracy for Jews but the non-Jews ground down under its heel have a much different perception. Nor does its judiciary protect non-Jews as its rule of law is only designed to protect Jews. The United States is a similar faux democracy in that its politicians are so easily bought and manipulated, and it too had committed its share of war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. So Ilhan Omar was right on all points, but still she had to surrender to the force majeure of Israel and its host of allies in the U.S. Congress.