For the second time in less than a month, Democratic leaders have demanded an apology from freshman Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar for making anti-Semitic comments.
While defending herself against claims of anti-Semitism, the Minnesota congresswoman revived those very suspicions at a Washington forum on Wednesday by dredging up the baseless “dual loyalty” canard often used by anti-Semites.
Omar Does It Again
Previously, the Somali-born Muslim lawmaker was pressured by fellow Democrats into apologizing for suggesting that a pro-Israel group bribed members of Congress.
Now, Omar is under fire for accusing pro-Israel Americans of divided loyalty. “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” she said at the Wednesday forum.
Omar’s comment may not have raised alarm bells among her average constituents, but many Jews heard in her criticism the roaring sirens of anti-Semitic hate.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where Omar serves, demanded that she apologize for invoking a “vile anti-Semitic slur.” Engel said Friday that it is “unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the US-Israel relationship.”
Steve Hunegs, an executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Center of Minnesota and the Dakotas, was incensed by Omar’s accusation. “Our community is exasperated by Rep. Omar’s unfulfilled promises to listen and learn from Jewish constituents while seemingly simultaneously finding another opportunity to make an anti-Semitic remark and insult our community,” Hunegs said. “Our political discourse must quickly evolve to be able to hold these conversations without using age-old stereotypes about minority communities.”
Even literal writer Jonathan Chait, who has defended Democrats against the charge of anti-Semitism in the past, railed against Omar.
“Accusing Jews of ‘allegiance to a foreign country’ is a historically classic way of delegitimizing their participation in the political system,” Chait wrote in New York magazine. “Omar is directly invoking the hoary myth of dual loyalty, in which the Americanness of Jews is inherently suspect, and their political participation must be contingent upon proving their patriotism.”
In response to the outpouring of criticism, Omar’s spokesman Jeremy Slevin released a statement implying her words were misinterpreted.
“Rep. Omar reiterated the remorse she feels for her comments last month — and the pain she knows they caused. As she said in her apology, we must distinguish between criticism of a particular faith and fair critiques of lobbying groups. She has consistently spoken out about the undue influence of lobbying groups for foreign interests of all kinds and her comments were about just that.”
In addition, Omar has said she believes her words are often labeled anti-Semitic simply because she is a Muslim.
It’s true that a political attack on a particular racial group does not necessarily equal racism or hate — even if said attack is grossly unfair. However, there is poetic justice in watching the left — notorious for identity politics and knee-jerk racism accusations — eat itself alive while one minority Democrat, a Somali Muslim, faces off against another minority within her own party.