Giving Ilhan Omar Her Due
By Bob Small
Some of my best Jewish friends are convinced Ilhan Omar is the Devil. Some others are convinced Benjamin Netanyahu is playing that role. Maybe it comes down to whose politics provide the best opportunity for Israel’s long-term existence: the unelected representatives of J Street and Jewish Currents, or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
For clarification, I’m a non-practicing person of Judaic heritage, who was Bar Mitzva’ed and considers himself most closely aligned with the politics of Jewish Currents.
Just as an African-American friend of mine used to say, “I didn’t vote for the NAACP to represent me,” I’ll opine that “I didn’t vote for AIPAC to represent me”.
To state my views very briefly, I feel that Israel is becoming a version of colonialist South Africa, which is not a good omen for that country’s continued life expectancy. My feeling is that Israel should be a democracy open to all its citizens, even the Arab ones.
Maybe we should start with what Ilhan Omar actually said. Not what she is alleged to have said, but the actual words she used.
Omar criticized AIPAC, and with good reason, saying that AIPAC was donating money to federal lawmakers for their votes, and Tweeted that “it’s all about the Benjamins.”
Now, the phrase “it’s all about the Benjamins” is from a Puff Daddy song.
The lyrics refer to people doing things for money. We can only assume that our congresspersons would never peddle their influence for money.
Another quote that got Omar into trouble was: “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan and the Taliban.
As great as this country can be, we have also committed a long list of atrocities: our treatment of the native Americans, Slavery, and the Japanese internment camps to name only a few. The difference between the U.S. and the others cited above is that we, at least, own up to our failings. Again, there was nothing wrong in what she said, though she could have added Great Britain, Germany, and all the 19th-century European colonial powers.
Peter Beinart, of Jewish Currents, quotes Ilhan Omar discussing “the moral authority the United States carries on the world stage when we stand up for human rights”.
Here are some pro- and anti-Omar articles, published in both Israel and the U.S. Read them and decide for yourself.