Anti-Semitism Resolution Reveals Deep Divide on Israel

This week, House Democrats planned to introduce a resolution on anti-Semitism that was seen as a rebuke of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). The idea of Omar’s party reprimanding one of its own would have been wondrous for conservatives who seemingly want to label Omar as an anti-Semite for her opinions on Israel’s foreign and domestic policies, while at the same time fracturing the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

The working text of the resolution called for a rejection of “anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States” and also condemns “accusing Jews of dual loyalty because they support Israel.” The resolution comes less than a month after the House passed another motion — also an indirect swipe at Omar — condemning anti-Semitism using similar language, according to NPR.

There were a lot of reasons to think that a passive-aggressive rebuke of Omar would be pointless. But there certainly are members of Congress who should be reminded that anti-Semitism shouldn’t be tolerated. They happen to be Republicans. A link between Jews and Israel as one cohesive unit is beneficial for Republicans because being “pro-Israel” is an effective deflection of a remarkable history of anti-Jewish statements and dog whistles. The Washington Times, a conservative publication, said plainly that she used “anti-Semitic tropes.” Conservative Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen called Omar “the Steve King of the left.”

Invoking Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) could be a wonderful thing for the GOP, which wants to distance itself from the Iowa Republican. Sure, King has long held racist and anti-Latino beliefs — he's someone who came too close to paraphrasing the “14-word” white supremacist mantra when he tweeted in March 2017, “We can't restore our civilization with someone else's babies.” But labeling Omar an anti-Semite because she is vocal about Israel’s domestic and foreign policies allows conservatives to claim that there are bad actors on both sides of the spectrum. When King went on a trip funded by a Holocaust memorial group, he complained about diversity in an interview with a publication associated with Austria’s Freedom Party, which was founded by a Nazi SS officer, according to The Washington Post.

It's not just King — who avoided censure but was removed from his committee assignments after wondering why “white nationalist, white supremacist” was considered bad language to use — who should be examined for his views on race and anti-Semitism. California’s Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, charged that three Jewish Democratic donors — George Soros, Tom Steyer, and Michael Bloomberg — were trying to “buy” the 2018 midterm election. In an even more glaring display of anti-Semitism, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), one of the president’s biggest Republican defenders, literally tweeted a dollar sign in front of the name of Tom Steyer, a Jewish Democratic donor, and critic of President Donald Trump. While Omar was criticized for saying that AIPAC — a pro-Israel lobbying group — had an outsized influence in American politics, Jordan said that one man was buying an election.

Republicans have been silent about that tweet. It’s also ironic. Republicans have been given generous financial support from Sheldon Adelson — a Jewish casino mogul who financed Trump and the GOP in 2016 with $82 million of his own funds, according to The Guardian. In exchange, Adelson has had an outsized influence in the president’s foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. He’s also a major donor to AIPAC, the lobbying group Omar has criticized.

In 2015, Trump told the Republican Jewish Coalition, “I know why you're not going to support me. It's because I don't want your money.” Decades earlier, Trump was quoted in a book saying, “The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” Bernard-Henri Lévy, the French philosopher and author of The Genius of Judaism, warned in 2017 that one could be pro-Israel and still be an anti-Semite, and argued that one's feelings toward Jews should be divorced from their attitudes toward Israel.

It’s also a stretch to say that Omar’s critique of Israel is anti-Semitic because there's a long list of Christians who have expressed an “unwavering pledge to support” Israel. Vice President Mike Pence's religious beliefs hold that “with the establishment of Israel in 1948, 'a prophecy literally came to pass,'” an October 2017 Washington Post article stated. According to the Post, Pence told American Israel Public Affairs Committee leaders at the time that he has a religious obligation to Israel.

As with many countries, Israel has foreign policy and humanitarian issues that need to be resolved. Its long-standing treatment of ethnic minorities — from Palestinians to Ethiopian Jews — has sparked concern among human rights watchdogs and journalists. And even if Omar was to say that the United States has a duty to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel (as it has done for nearly three-quarters of a century), must she also turn a blind eye to the fact that the country is run by a man who may face corruption charges and who has been criticized by Jews across the world for teaming up with a party that has bordered on anti-Arab racism in order to keep his grasp on control?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a supporter in Adelson. The New York Times notes that Adelson started a newspaper “that many Israelis consider a mouthpiece” for Netanyahu.

There is, perhaps, a silver lining buried deep within the resolution. The document slams the idea that anyone saying any group has a “dual loyalty” is promoting “an insidious, bigoted history, including . . . the post-9/11 conditions faced by Muslim-Americans in the United States, including unfounded, vicious attacks on and threats to Muslim-American Members of Congress.” This comes just days after Omar herself was targeted by a smear campaign from the West Virginia Republican Party, whose inflammatory displays at the Capitol showed a photo of Omar alongside the text “I am the proof – you have forgotten,” referring to the September 11, 2001 attacks. The GOP later claimed that an “exhibitor” made the poster.

That same day, a top Republican in the state resigned after a Democrat claimed she said, “all Muslims are terrorists,” according to NBC News.

About the Author

Jeremy Binckes is an experienced writer and editor who has reported on news, politics, culture and sports. He was most recently a news editor at Salon, and he has written articles for a number of publications.