This week, the Democratic Party proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is willing to not only countenance but embrace anti-Semitism, so long as the anti-Semitism comes from members of their intersectional coalition. In less than two months, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has fallen under scrutiny for open anti-Semitism no less than three times. First, she came under scrutiny for an old tweet in which she stated that Israel had “hypnotized the world” – an old anti-Semitic canard attributing magical powers to the Jews. Then, she came under fire for suggesting that American support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins” – an old anti-Semitic canard that Jewish money lay at the root of America’s support for Israel. Finally, she came under scrutiny for stating that American supporters of Israel were exhibiting dual loyalty – a third old anti-Semitic canard suggesting that Jews are unified by clan, and are thus a nefarious force within the broader body politic.
To these open displays of anti-Semitism, the Democratic Party leadership has responded with excuse-making. To be sure, they condemned Omar’s first comments, drawing a reluctant half-assed apology from her. But there’s no apology forthcoming anymore – in fact, the Democratic leadership has been forced to bow before the intersectional power of Omar and her fellow anti-Semitic Congressional freshman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and their Jeremy Corbyn-loving enabler, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
This entire situation has placed Democrats in a rather uncomfortable situation. After all, Democrats have portrayed themselves as the party of tolerance, the party of anti-hate – and yet here they are, full-throatedly defending the world’s oldest and most durable hatred. This has led them to make a bevy of excuses for Omar’s commentary.
1. Omar Is A Benighted Child. This has been a common excuse made by Democratic leaders: Omar must not have known what she was saying. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has repeatedly said that Omar wasn’t “intentionally” anti-Semitic, and has added that she does not believe Omar “understands the full weight of the words” used. We’ve seen the same from many members of the media, who have turned themselves inside out to state that Omar’s longstanding anti-Semitism – anti-Semitism so brazen that it turned off even Jewish Democratic constituents in her district who met with her years ago – is actually just the result of her childlike naivete. If that’s the case, she should obviously be removed from the Foreign Affairs Committee. But it’s not the case. Omar knows precisely what she’s saying, which is why she keeps saying it.
2. She’s Not Anti-Semitic – She’s Just Anti-Israel! This is both the most common and the most dangerous excuse-making on Omar’s behalf. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) suggested that criticism of Omar was creating a “chilling effect on our public discourse” because it was actually “branding criticism of Israel as actually anti-Semitic.” Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) went even further and suggested that criticism of Omar put Omar at risk. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) suggested, “We must not…equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel…What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate.” But there is no debate. Omar didn’t make a single statement about Israel’s policies or government. She suggested that the Jewish State has hypnotic power, that Jewish money undergirds American support for Israel, and that Israel supporters have dual loyalty. This isn’t about Netanyahu or settlements or anything else Israel-related. It’s pure anti-Semitism.
This is a nefarious, evil trick. Anti-Israel commentators have for years stated that their commentary isn’t automatically anti-Semitic. They’re right – although calling for the destruction of the state of Israel or holding Israel to a double standard compared to other countries surely is. But now those same anti-Israel commentators are themselves conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Israel commentary. They’re stuffing open anti-Semitism into the anti-Israel box, then stating that those who criticize anti-Semitism are actually performing that conflation. If critics of Israel ever wonder why so many Israel supporters seem suspicious of their motives with regard to Jews, it’s because this trick has become so common.
It’s gaslighting, and it’s dangerous.
How dangerous? In 2014, a German court found that three Palestinian men who firebombed a synagogue in Germany weren’t anti-Semitic – they were merely anti-Israel. Anti-Israel criticism has become the easy way to mask anti-Semitism. Ask European Jews, who are targeted routinely – and whose targeting is then pooh-poohed by people who attribute the targeting to discontent with Israel.
3. TRUMP! This has also been a common response inside the Democratic caucus: why should we condemn anti-Semitism when Trump winked at the alt-right in Charlottesville? The answer: because you’re supposed to condemn anti-Semitism, you clods. This is peak whataboutism: Trump did something we don’t like, so we’re going to ignore our own side doing the same thing. And it’s worth noting that many on the Right, including me, excoriated Trump for Charlottesville, and for his 2016 flirtation with the alt-right (I earned the coveted Most Targeted Jew Award from the ADL that year for my trouble). Here’s the sad reality: for many on the Left, criticizing anti-Semitism is only worthwhile if you’re doing it in order to slap at perceived political enemies. If the anti-Semitism is coming from perceived allies, better to ignore it. The New York Times admitted as much back in October, when they acknowledged that they had undercovered hate crimes in the city because “bias stemming from longstanding ethnic tensions in the city presents complexities that many liberals have chosen simply to ignore.” In other words, minorities were committing hate crimes against Jews, and that simply wasn’t a story worth covering, since it “refuses to conform to an easy narrative with a single ideological enemy.”
4. Intersectionality Rules The Day. The only honest excuse we’ve seen thus far comes from House Minority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), who stated that Omar’s intersectional experiences are simply too important to criticize her for Jew-hatred. Holocaust survivors, their relatives, and Jews generally ought to check their privilege. “There are people who tell me, ‘Well, my parents are Holocaust survivors,’” Clyburn stated. “‘My parents did this.’ It’s more personal with her. I’ve talked to her, and I can tell you she is living through a lot of pain.”
This, in the end, is the real Democratic excuse: Jews are too financially, educationally, and politically successful to be considered victims of anti-Semitism, particularly when that anti-Semitism comes from those who rank higher on the intersectional hierarchy of victimhood. That’s been the underlying Democratic argument for years at this point. Intersectionality means that Jews are the odd group out, even if they’re still the most targeted group in terms of hate crimes.
The Democrats are banking on their new intersectional coalition. If that means ignoring, downplaying, or outright lying about anti-Semitism, they’re willing to do it. And everyone, particularly American Jews, should take note of that vile but clear fact.