Ilhan Omar faces racist backlash for calling Stephen Miller “a white nationalist”

A man holds sign with pictures of Ilhan Omar and Hitler

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has faced a sustained campaign of racist and Islamophobic smears, including death threats and false accusations of anti-Semitism.

Ronen Tivony SIPA

Despite death threats against her, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has named White House adviser Stephen Miller as a “white nationalist.”

“The fact that he still has influence on policy and political appointments is an outrage,” the Democrat tweeted on Monday.

Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin moved quickly to misrepresent Omar’s words, tweeting: “During my time in Congress before [Ilhan Omar] got here, I didn’t once witness another member target Jewish people like this with the name-calling and other personal attacks.”

Notably, Omar had said nothing about Miller being Jewish, but was simply making a statement characterizing Miller’s long history of racism and his hardline anti-immigrant positions.

Last year, the rabbi at Miller’s childhood synagogue joined the chorus of denunciations of the White House adviser for his key role in President Donald Trump’s extreme anti-immigrant policies.

The Electronic Intifada has previously documented Miller’s close connection at Duke University to white supremacist Richard Spencer who describes himself as promoting “white Zionism,” as well as Miller’s travels around the West Bank with Ben Packer, a former campus rabbi and a supporter of extreme anti-Arab racist Meir Kahane whose affiliated organizations are on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.

Mark Pocan, Omar’s Democratic colleague in the House, moved to correct Zeldin’s tweet by noting that he had earlier called Miller a white nationalist without the same vitriolic attacks being leveled at him.

Pocan has been a rare leader for Palestinian rights in the US Congress, expressing shock and dismay last year at the “lethal force used by Israeli troops against mostly unarmed protesters demonstrating in Gaza.”

He called on the Israeli government to “show utmost restraint, allow for unfettered medical attention for those who have been wounded and ease the 12-year blockade.”

Right-wing frenzy

Right-wing organizations and journalists went into a frenzy over Omar’s temerity in calling a racist – who was central to the Muslim travel ban – a white nationalist.

For months these journalists – and conservative activists – have sought to undercut Congresswomen Omar and Rashida Tlaib with misleading and false claims of anti-Semitism rather than acknowledging that they are, with occasional notable lapses in upholding Palestinian rights, at the forefront of Congressional calls for equal rights between Palestinians and Jews in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, where Israeli-imposed apartheid is the current reality.

There has been a clear conservative proclivity to target women of color in Congress rather than white men or women with false and misleading allegations of anti-Semitism.

The attacks are not letting up: An 8 April press release from the National Republican Congressional Committee targets Omar and Tlaib as “bigots.”

And an ad by the College Republicans in Ohio referred to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a “domestic terrorist.”

That held true even as Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke – a staunch supporter of Israel – came under fire for uncharacteristically labeling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “racist,” even while O’Rourke affirmed that “the US-Israel relationship is one of the most important relationships that we have on the planet.”

Conservatives hit back, but not with quite the vitriol reserved for Omar and Tlaib.

Texas Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw, who was recently photographed at a Young Jewish Conservatives event with the organization’s Kahanist co-founder Ben Packer, was one of the first to criticize O’Rourke.

Other conservatives also joined in, highlighting the divide between Democratic and Republican politicians and activists over Netanyahu’s policies.

Democrats, including O’Rourke, however, still seem unable to grasp that Netanyahu speaks for an overwhelming majority of Jewish Israelis who hold racist and anti-Palestinian viewpoints increasingly enshrined in law.

This week’s election in Israel may serve to make that clearer.

Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen also failed to recognize that Netanyahu’s policies – particularly his vow to annex parts of the occupied West Bank – are broadly reflective of Israeli political reality.

Yet at a Senate hearing, Van Hollen asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – who contends Trump may be on a mission from God – a rare question about the possibility of a one-state solution if Netanyahu makes good on that annexation vow and the US fails to oppose it.

“Would you agree that in a one-state solution, Palestinians should have full and equal political and legal rights with other citizens of that state?” Van Hollen asked.

Pompeo dodged the question, as he dodged Van Hollen’s other questions about whether the US still opposes unilateral Israeli annexation of the West Bank.

Democratic leaders are going to have to decide whether they simply view Netanyahu as an individual racist or if they recognize his views as representing much of the Israeli government and electorate – indeed the core values of Israel’s Zionist state ideology.

Grassroots Democrats are way ahead of them in considering sanctions as one possible response.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz, albeit demagogically, has raised apt questions for Democrats that could similarly have been posed to party leaders 40 years ago following elections in apartheid South Africa:

Democrats have a choice: Abandon Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib to media hatred and death threats or speak up against Islamophobia and take seriously their concerns about the denial of freedom and equal rights for Palestinians.

Tags

Comments

picture

Just him? Talk is cheap. Have seen this stuff before. Pardon the cynicism, but it somehow leads back to the same Republicrat dead end.

picture

This article is great, very right-on! Human Rights for ALL people in the Middle East, and around the world, no exceptions!

picture

The reaction of Ilham Omar truthful speech by certain American racists does give a bad reputation to USA abroad. Her crime in the mind of those US racists is that she a Muslim woman...
reflect

Add new comment

Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, TheNation.com, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.