🗯️ ✡ Musings on Antisemitism, Rep. Ilhan Omar, and the Response Thereto

All the news today about the resolution in the House in response to Rep. Omar has gotten me thinking, and that can be dangerous:

  • First and foremost, it is “antisemitism” (one word), not “Anti-Semitism”. The latter is a construct that plays on the word Semite, which could be used to refer to anyone from the mideast. The former is a term specifically referring to the hatred of Jews.
  • Here is a good explanation of the controversy, from Vox. It makes clear that the incident in question made use of a well-known antisemitic trope — that Jews have specific loyalty to the State of Israel, and are not truly loyal Americans. Similar tropes were used against Catholics when Kennedy ran for President — that they had more loyalty to the Pope than America. That same trope is what led to our putting Japanese Americans in Concentration Camps (yes, that’s what they were), claiming they had more loyalty to Japan than to America. And, by the way, the same trope is what leads Trump to mistreat Muslims, believing them to be more loyal to ISIS than America. It is all the same, vile, trope.
  • I do not believe that Rep. Omar was being intentionally antisemitic (or at least I choose not to believe that, for now). I believe that, in the environment she was raised, these tropes were present and internalized. There are many others that make similar statements. That doesn’t make it right — it means we need to do a better job about teaching about antisemitism and racism — and how to identify it.
  • I have a big problem with those who claim it wasn’t an antisemitic statement. Why is it that people believe women when they call a behavior sexist, and why they believe minorities when they call a behavior racist .. but they do not believe Jews when we call out a particular trope as antisemitic? What does that say about those people who are denying the ability of Jews to recognize an attack on their religion?
  • What should be the response? It should be a blanket condemnation of the use of any racist tropes (as it appears the House is about to do), and (ideally) a session — just as we have sessions on recognizing sexual harassment —  to educate people what common tropes are so that they don’t use them. That should include any sexist, racist, and broad anti-religion (e.g., antisemitism, anti-catholicism, etc.) tropes. It should also include anti-Muslim attacks.
  • But what about … in the past? We can’t change the past, and the fact that miscreants who used such language in the past weren’t called out doesn’t make such behavior acceptable today. It is wrong no matter who is doing it, no matter what party is doing it. Yes, Mr. President, that includes you: you can’t call out a Rep. for retweeting an antisemitic tweet when you’ve done the same thing. Both are wrong.
  • Do I think Rep. Omar should be removed from Foreign Affairs? No, because even if I don’t agree with her, she has the right to express her view on the committee. She is one voice among many. I don’t agree with the views of many in our government. She does, however, have to answer to her district. If they disagree with what she is saying, it is their prerogative to recall her, or to not reelect her. How she behaves reflects on her district. By the way, the same is true for any Congresscritter, Senator, or even the President — the racist and hateful views they express reflect on the people they represent, and their constituents should take that into consideration come 2020.
  • You can criticize Israel and the behavior of her government without using antisemitic tropes. You can also criticize AIPAC, but be aware that there are many organizations that lobby more or have larger lobbying budgets.  Everyone should do their research and find out the facts, draw their own conclusions, and speak out where there is wrong doing — just as you should always speak out against governments that do wrong, and the lobbying groups that support them. Here’s a good guide on how to do so without falling into the tropes.
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