Ilhan Omar is a blight on the Democratic Party

Rep. Ilhan Omar (Ilhan Omar by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

We have had enough of the self-righteous, ill-informed and antisemitic rhetoric of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Democratic leadership in Congress needs to take meaningful action in response to her relentless and wholly unsupported attacks on Israel and the Jewish people, similar to the decisive action Republicans took in response to the ravings of Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). Democrat inaction on Omar is inexcusable.

The history of Omar’s rants — complete with antisemitic tropes — is well known. But in response, Democrats have been hesitant to do much at all. That soft-gloved approach hasn’t worked. More forceful action is needed.

Omar’s personal history is a testament to the American dream. She is the first Somali American and the first naturalized citizen of African birth to serve in the U.S. Congress. In addition to her pursuit of a progressive domestic agenda, which we respect, she is unrelentingly critical of the state of Israel and supportive of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. And she regularly issues remarkably uninformed statements and accusatory pronouncements against Israel, American Jews and Jewish members of Congress, only to walk them back and invite “dialogue” when challenged.

In her latest outburst, Omar lumped the United States, Israel, Hamas and the Taliban together, claiming each has committed atrocities and should be held accountable for their “crimes against humanity.” A group of Jewish House members criticized her for “equating the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban.” Then, on CNN, Jake Tapper asked Omar if she understands why some of her Democratic House colleagues, “especially Jews,” find some of her statements antisemitic. Her response was outrageous. She said: “I’ve welcomed, you know, anytime my colleagues have asked to have a conversation, to learn from them, for them to learn from me. I think it’s really important for these members to realize that they haven’t been partners in justice. They haven’t been, you know, equally engaging in seeking justice around the world.”

Is Omar really that ignorant?

Writing in Newsweek, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee pointed to a pattern that has followed similar offensive statements by Omar. “First, she (or someone on her behalf) insists she was misunderstood or her comments taken out of context…. Then, rather than debate the merits of the issue, she and her defenders resort to belittling anyone who would question her as a ‘right-winger,’ ‘racist,’ ‘misogynist,’ or ‘Islamophobe.’ Next, she offers vague assurances that she really wants to listen, learn and grow from any possible incidents, offering those who want to move on as swiftly as possible the hope that perhaps this won’t happen again — until, of course, it does.”

We say “Dayenu.” In 2019, Omar was to be censured by Congress for remarks suggesting Jews had dual loyalty to the United States and Israel. Instead, her colleagues blunted the criticism by approving a watered down resolution condemning “anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and other forms of bigotry,” but carefully avoided any mention of Omar by name. That didn’t work.

We call on Democratic leadership to censure Omar for the bigoted, unrepentant antisemite she is, and to sanction her accordingly.

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