Rep. Omar’s critique of unchecked aid to Israel has incurred bipartisan condemnation.
United States Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has had a rough first three months in office. The first Somali-American, and one of the first two Muslim women, elected to Congress, she has been considered one of the rising stars in the Democratic Party since her entrance to the House of Representatives in the “Blue Wave.”
However, a recent tweet, “All about the Benjamins,” referring to Israeli right-wing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the exorbitant amount of money the United States gives to Israel, has led to bipartisan condemnation of her action as antisemitic. When Omar attempted to defend the comments as critiquing unconditional aid to Israel, she was blasted even further by both the left and right, leading to an eventual bipartisan resolution to condemn antisemitism and hate speech.
To be explicitly clear, the moderate Democratic Party and the Republican Party know that Omar’s comments were not antisemitic. However, Omar dared to question the policy of warrantless aid to Israel despite the nation’s apartheid practices, military aggression, continued illegal settlement of Palestinian territory and Netanyahu’s corruption. First, critiquing the nation of Israel’s policies is not the same as being antisemitic. Second, the attacks on Ilhan Omar are just another salvo in the ongoing civil war within the Democratic Party on the questions of foreign policy, race and religion.
To get the GOP out of the way, this is the same party that has continued to propose the expansion of gun access to perpetuate violence in communities of color; encouraged the era of mass incarceration; gerrymandered voting districts to rig elections; defended Donald Trump’s numerous racist comments concerning non-white nations and people; made bigoted comments themselves; supported anti-Islamic stereotypes including fabricating lies about America succumbing to Sharia law; supported Steve King until the very last moment; defended sexual abusers; slandered Anita Hill; held off on relief aid to Hurricane Katrina and Puerto Rico — all while pretending to be the “party of Lincoln.” They do not get take a stance on morality.
As for the Democratic Party, the condemnation of Ilhan Omar seems confusing. However, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) is a powerful lobbying group in the United States, donating ludicrous amounts of money to pro-Israel think tanks and politicians. AIPAC is also notorious for their massive influence over the foreign policy sphere and academia. This is outlined meticulously and more eloquently in “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” written by two of the greatest political scientists in American history, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Both have been labeled by AIPAC as antisemitic and Holocaust deniers following the book’s publication.
The Democratic establishment has long been backed by large lobbying groups and has therefore supported warrantless American aid to Israel to continue their international war crimes. Making a great deal of money from the military-industrial complex, the center of the Democratic Party has benefitted from this area of foreign policy. On the other hand, the progressive caucus within the legislative branch wants to reflect on unconditional support for Israel and reassess allies in the Middle East. This echoes President Obama’s actions when he moved further from growingly aggressive nations like Israel and Saudi Arabia and toward slowly liberalizing Iran and Turkey (before President Tayyip Erdogan effectively turned the latter into a dictatorship).
But there are still greater underlying issues, specifically that centrist Democrats are feeling left out of the enthusiasm. As the party grows more progressive, younger and more diverse, white DINOs (Democrat in Name Only) feel the need to lash back against criticism from the left for their years of consistent concessions to the Republican Party. Omar is an outspoken critic of Democratic appeasement and unfortunately finds herself at the center of the debate due to the color of her skin and her faith.
Members of Congress that represent people of different races, religions, orientations and genders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Kyrsten Sinema and Ilhan Omar are thrust into the spotlight because they espouse and embody a future that DINOs do not want to usher in under the Democratic banner.
This is not to say that centrist Democrats are equally culpable on the issue of race as Republicans. It just means that there are stages of progressivism that some Democrats are not willing to stomach and thus are willing to hand the Republicans a victory due to these centrists’ own reservations on the party’s direction.
Whether Ilhan Omar is antisemitic is not really a question; it’s a second-order issue that masks the real struggle for identity within the Democratic Party. Omar’s critiques of American support of Israel have divided the Democratic Party already into a contest between progressivism neoliberalism. The conflict will likely not be resolved until the presidential election, and Ilhan Omar and her character are probably the first casualties in the coming fight for the Democratic Party’s soul.