Writing in The Atlantic on Thursday, former Chicago mayor and Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, unlike some of the leading presidential candidates of his own Democratic party who have posited that Rep. Ilhan Omar’s remarks were a criticism of Israel but were not anti-Semitic, was not reluctant to slam Omar for her consistent stream of anti-Semitic invective, saying bluntly, “Her remarks are not anti-Israel; they are anti-Semitic.”
Emanuel began by mentioning Omar and claiming her remarks had been condemned by “most of her fellow Democrats.” He then documented a little of her anti-Semitic stream, from her saying that congressional support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins, baby” to questioning the allegiance of supporters of Israel, insinuating a dual loyalty on their part.
Emanuel continued, “No one is questioning the right of members of Congress and others to criticize Israeli policies. But Omar is crossing a line that should not be crossed in political discourse. Her remarks are not anti-Israel; they are anti-Semitic.”
Emanuel surmised that perhaps Omar’s behavior was not deliberate, opining, “Whether consciously or not, Representative Omar is repeating some of the ugliest stereotypes about Jews—tropes that have been unleashed by anti-Semites throughout history. She is casting Jewish Americans as the other, suggesting a dual loyalty that calls our devotion to America into question.”
After a passage illustrating criticism that was once leveled at him for dual loyalty, Emanuel expanded the problem to include other Jews who have been targeted by that ancient vicious trope:
But it’s not just me who’s been subject to questions of dual loyalty. For centuries, this trope has been aimed at Jews in countries around the world. In embracing it, Omar is associating herself with calamities from the Spanish Inquisition to the Russian pogroms to the Holocaust. That’s not historical company that any American should want to keep.
Emanuel defended Israel:
One doesn’t have to be Jewish to recognize the deep and abiding relationship between the United States and Israel. Yes, there might be serious problems with Israel’s democracy—just as we’re currently experiencing our own. But Israel shares fundamental values with the United States that most of its neighbors have never embraced. In Israel, women can vote and serve in the armed forces. So can members of the LGBTQ community. Its Arab citizens can vote, form political parties, and serve in the Israeli Parliament. And Israeli women can drive—just as badly as the rest of the population.
He pointed out that many Jewish Americans support Israel “because we recognize the commonality of our values and national interests. And many of us don’t hesitate to criticize Israel when its policies are wrong—or to champion American interests when they come into tension with Israeli goals.”
Emanuel concluded that Muslim-American political candidates may have to face charges of dual loyalties in the future, and he will come to their defense, ending, “And when they face such claims, Jewish Americans like me will come to their defense—because we know the pain and potential damage of these bigoted stereotypes. It’s time for Omar to learn that lesson.”