The world’s “longest hatred,” anti-Semitism, is on the rise in the United States — and elected officials in our highest offices are giving it continued breath.
Before and after taking office, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., has employed a laundry list of anti-Semitic rhetoric and tropes, cloaked as disapproval of the Israeli state. The representative has apologized for some of her remarks, including a Tweet, now deleted, from 2012 in which she stated Israel had “hypnotized the world,” and a February 10 Tweet, also deleted, in which she implied Jewish money controlled American congressmen.
She has yet to apologize for utilizing the anti-Semitic trope that Jews have dual loyalty to Israel when, on February 28, Jewish Insider reported that Omar stated before a crowd in D.C., “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
After Omar’s latest remark, House Democrats set about creating a proposal to condemn anti-Semitism. By March 7, when their resolution was passed, not only did it fail to identify Omar, but its initial focus on anti-Semitism had grown, according to NBC News, “to include language against Islamophobia…and hatred of many minority groups.”
Because the Democrats’ resolution took the conversation far off course of its original purpose, on March 14, House Republicans put forward their own resolution to explicitly censure Omar for her rhetoric.
In the past week alone, statements made by Omar’s fellow freshman congresswoman, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., as well as highly-publicized attacks on Americans who bravely spoke out against Omar, have shown why it is imperative to pass the Republican resolution, and demonstrate that language promoting the scourge of anti-Semitism will be rebuked in the House, and the United States.
Changing the Subject from America’s Worrisome Increase in Anti-Semitism
In a March 17 CNN interview, Tlaib was asked whether she believed those “who took issue with” Omar’s anti-Semitic remarks “did so because of anti-Muslim bias.” “I think that’s part of it,” the representative replied, explaining that, “because [Omar is] Muslim and because she’s black, she’s an easier target.” While she failed to address the dangers of anti-Semitism, Tlaib did manage to throw in a barb about “human rights violations from the state of Israel.”
Tlaib, whose personal anti-Semitic rhetoric and ties I have addressed in the past, needs to pay closer attention. Denouncing Omar’s anti-Semitism has nothing to do with her color or religion. Moreover, the very urgent reasons to be concerned about anti-Semitism in America have little to do with the state of Israel the Palestinian congresswoman is so wont to abuse.
The vital need to address America’s anti-Semitism problem became clear in late 2018. Just weeks after a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27 left 11 Jewish Americans dead, FBI hate crime statistics were released, revealing that about 58 percent of religiously motivated attacks in the U.S. in 2017 were perpetrated against Jews, with 938 anti-Semitic incidents recorded.
The Anti-Defamation League’s HEAT map, shown below, recorded more than double that number, finding that there were 1,986 incidents of anti-Semitic hate in America in 2017.
According to a 2013 Pew Research Center study, just 2.2 percent of U.S. adults are Jewish. With such a small minority of the country being targeted with the majority of its religious hate, it is clear that anti-Semitism is alive and well in America.
As I have written before, this despicable hatred is perpetuated by people from a variety of political, racial, and religious backgrounds. Though it often exists in the hidden shadows of society, whenever and wherever anti-Semitism does raise its ugly head, we must absolutely address and condemn it.
Attacks on Those Who Condemn Anti-Semitism
In a follow up Twitter exchange, in which Clinton expressed concern about “anti-Semitic language and tropes on all sides,” Omar, alluding that the interest in her own words was an attempted GOP “smear,” stated that she would love to talk with Clinton.
While attending a New York University vigil for the victims of the horrific shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, Clinton was confronted by an NYU student, who referenced the above Tweet while thrusting her fingers at Clinton and forcefully claiming the massacre was “stoked by people like you.” According to the student, “49 people died because of the rhetoric [Clinton] put out there.”
During her Sunday CNN interview, when Tlaib was asked about the confrontation of Clinton, and whether the massacre was, in fact, “partly [Clinton’s] fault.” The representative responded by talking about how she and Omar have gotten “so many death threats,” and stated that “when we disagree publicly…we have to be very careful in the language that we use,” so that we are “not feeding into the Islamophobia that is growing in our country.”
Implying that the sober condemnation of anti-Semitism foments Islamophobia is despicable.
Death threats, of course, are equally so. However, Omar and Tlaib are far from alone in experiencing them. In the climate of rampant political hatred, many officials have received religious-based threats, or have been the targets of death threats. But by focusing only on her own and Omar’s victimization, Tlaib seeks once again to divert the topic from anti-Semitism.
Standing up courageously for what is right, as Clinton did, does not create hatred. Rather the verbal attack she withstood, and the failure to condemn that misplaced attack, are symptoms of the hate that has taken root in our discourse; hate which alone is responsible for the rise in American hate crimes, and anti-Semitism.
The Imperative of Passing the Republican Resolution
In the wake of the horrific Christchurch mosque attacks, in which at least 50 Muslims were killed and 50 more were wounded, the importance of the Democrats’ resolution condemning hate is undeniable. In 2017, Muslims, who make up 1.1 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Pew Research center, were the target of 18.6 percent of religiously motivated hate crimes, as reported by the FBI.
However, the Republican resolution condemning Omar’s anti-Semitism does not minimize the Democrats’ resolution. Nor does it minimize, or promote, Islamophobia.
Even Democratic representatives found the previous resolution incomplete, including Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. As reported by NBC News, Engel “wish[ed] we had a separate resolution about anti-Semitism,” and explained he “want[ed] to say this very clearly and loudly: anti-Semitism will never be tolerated by me, never tolerated by this body, and no member of Congress should be making anti-Semitic statements.”
As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s former chief rabbi, explained before the House of Lords on September 2018, “anti-Semitism, or any hate, becomes dangerous when three things happen. First: when it moves from the fringes of politics to a mainstream party and its leadership. Second: when the party sees that its popularity with the general public is not harmed thereby. And three: when those who stand up and protest are vilified and abused for doing so.”
Each of these factors is occurring in the United States.
The House must pass the Republican resolution, to show Americans that they stand united against rising anti-Semitism, and are unafraid to censure those who utilize its insidious tropes.