Trump and Democrats unite to smear Ilhan Omar

A woman faces straight ahead

President Donald Trump is promoting a letter against Ilhan Omar signed by anti-Muslim hate groups.

Alex Edelman CNP

Ilhan Omar has come under renewed attack for speaking about the outsize influence of the Israel lobby, and simply for being a Black Muslim woman.

A poster that appeared in the West Virginia state capitol, for instance, implicitly blamed Omar, who came to the US as a refugee from Somalia, for the 9/11 attacks.

But instead of defending the Minnesota congresswoman, her own Democratic colleagues are piling on – continuing to falsely accuse her of anti-Semitism for legitimate comments about the Israel lobby.

“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Omar said at a town hall meeting last week.

As if to prove Omar’s point, her Democratic colleague Congressman Juan Vargas declared in response that “questioning support for the US-Israel relationship is unacceptable.” In other words, Vargas – who like Omar sits on the foreign affairs committee – clearly insists on unquestioning allegiance to Israel.

And just as she did before, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a top Democrat who is content to use Omar in photo-ops, is leading the charge against her.

Politico reported Monday that Democratic leaders are planning to bring a resolution in the House condemning anti-Semitism.

Although the draft text does not name Omar, it is seen as a direct rebuke and public shaming.

Moreover, the draft cites the so-called IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

That definition, promoted by the Israel lobby, deliberately conflates criticism of Israel and its racist Zionist ideology on the one hand, with hatred of Jews, on the other.

By contrast, in January, Democratic leaders moved to quash a censure vote against Steve King, a Republican lawmaker widely reviled for his racism and advocacy of white supremacism.

Taking his cue from the Democrats, President Donald Trump is amplifying the attacks on Omar and using them to partisan advantage:

Trump noted in a tweet that “Jewish groups have just sent a petition to Speaker Pelosi asking her to remove Omar from [the] Foreign Relations Committee,” adding that Omar’s comments represented a “dark day for Israel.”

This appears to be a reference to a letter signed by about a dozen extreme pro-Israel and neoconservative groups.

They include the Center for Security Policy which used to sponsor a satirical Israeli TV show that produced a cartoon depicting refugees from African states as apes.

Another signatory is an organization run by Charles Jacobs, a key player in the Islamophobia industry who has founded several anti-Palestinian groups.

Also on the list is Noah Pollak’s Committee for Israel. Pollak was recently caught in Al Jazeera’s leaked undercover documentary on the Israel lobby using paid interns to stage an anti-Palestinian protest.

The astroturfed protest was aimed at disrupting the 2016 Students for Justice in Palestine conference.

One of the groups on the letter apparently promoted by Trump is actually listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors extremism.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, ACT For America, led by Brigitte Gabrielle, “is listed as an anti-Muslim hate group because it pushes wild anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, denigrates American Muslims and deliberately conflates mainstream and radical Islam.”

We have come to the absurd situation where actual hate groups get to pose as anti-racists, while someone who made history as the first Black Muslim woman to enter Congress is smeared, defamed and threatened with assassination because she is prepared to stand up against a powerful lobby promoting Israel, an apartheid state.

We did not arrive at this situation just because of right-wing attacks.

Liberals, Democrats and even progressives continue to enable the attacks on Omar by playing to the lie that her truthful comments about the Israel lobby caused “hurt” by invoking “anti-Semitic tropes.”

Such pandering to bad-faith claims of anti-Semitism only ensure that the smears will continue – just as bogus claims of anti-Semitism have been used in the UK for years to attack and silence members of the Labour Party, whose leader Jeremy Corbyn has supported Palestinian rights for decades.

These smear campaigns also serve another function: to suck up all the attention and energy from what is actually happening in Palestine. Last week, an independent UN commission of inquiry published its preliminary report documenting extensive evidence of Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Great March of Return protests in Gaza.

“[Israeli forces] have intentionally shot children, they’ve intentionally shot people with disabilities, they’ve intentionally shot journalists, knowing them to be children, people with disabilities and journalists,” Sara Hossain, one of the investigators, said.

These crimes are committed with American-made weapons. Yet instead of taking this up, Congress is apparently busy with a resolution targeting Ilhan Omar.

Corbyn and Omar represent a transatlantic change of the guard, a challenge to the Israel lobby’s grip. And as we have seen, the lobby and its acolytes will not loosen that grip without an all-out, dirty fight.

In the US, Omar is the first target of this reinvigorated bipartisan assault on critics of Israel. She is unlikely to be the last.

Michael F. Brown contributed research.

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Comments

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I admire and support Ilhan Omar: a brave soul. We need more people of conscience like her.
Someone on CNN spoke vehemently against her because she support BDS! I say VIVA BDS AND PALESTINE. And hats off to people who work for JUSTICE.

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It's my strong hope that Ilhan Omar never issues another apology and never takes a backward step in defending Palestinian rights. Someone in public life has to take on this role. We need a figure around whom to rally in the U.S. She's currently the best candidate for the job, and she appears well suited. Of course they'll try to silence her, defame her, deprive her of committee assignments and ensure she's defeated for reelection. But this is a fight that has to be joined- now- at a time when Israel is exerting all of its fading might to smear, ban and intimidate opponents of apartheid. Whatever happens, Ilhan Omar has a chance to make a real difference.

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How much do such comments and attacks actually disturb her? Do not see her resigning from the ONE WAR PARTY WITH TWO NAMES and going independent.

Yet another cheap publicity stunt to give the illusion of choice, when in fact at present there is none.

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Revised: Very well written article while really hitting on the truth of the Israel/Palestine conflict and the peoples who defend the Palestinians...Job well done! In addition to which, pertaining to where most of our politicians stand on this conflict—and race—is unfortunate to say the least. The American political scene, and the American public in general, must come to realize the sufferings of the Palestinian peoples as well as people of color.

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Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.