MENKEN: ‘Broadening’ Is An Insult To Us All

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her Democratic colleagues failed to condemn and rebuke one of their own. Not only did they not remove a hateful woman from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but they could not even issue a straightforward condemnation. Instead, they included other forms of bias to create a resolution that was broad, multifaceted, and ultimately meaningless.

The same Democrats who said “all lives matter” is no response to Black Lives Matter, as it did not focus upon the underlying issue at hand, explicitly refused to focus upon the issue at hand. And those who said it was wrong for President Trump to “condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides” in Charlottesville refused to specifically denounce Ilhan Omar’s bigotry. This is not merely rank hypocrisy; it is both evil and dangerous.

In Charlottesville, there truly was hatred, bigotry and violence on both sides, despite Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)’s denial. Neo-Nazis embrace hate for Jews and blacks; Antifa embraces hate for Jews and the First Amendment; both came ready for a fight.

But in all of the federal government, there is no counterpart to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN)’s bold embrace of anti-Semitism, frivolous displays of “whataboutism” notwithstanding. Neither House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)’s “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election!” nor Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)’s assertion that Jerry Nadler “jumps to Tom $teyer’s conclusion—impeaching our President” (complete with a $ in Steyer’s name) was remotely anti-Semitic.

Steyer, the billionaire behind “Need to Impeach” and a host of Democratic campaigns, is Episcopalian — his father’s Jewish origins are only brought up to malign his critics. But furthermore, it is morally wrong to employ an individual billionaire’s Judaism — whether his name is Soros, Bloomberg or Adelson — to shield him from criticism that could equally be given to Foster Friess, Jeff Bezos or the Koch brothers.

And that brings us to the truly outrageous defense of Ilhan Omar: Using the fact that she is a Muslim, African-American woman to protect her from censure. Let there be no mistake: The House’s watered down resolution reinforced this perception.

Omar herself claimed to worry that people will think her comments are anti-Semitic simply because she is Muslim. Fellow congresswoman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) said recently that because she and Omar are both “firsts” (as Muslim women) and women of color, “people hear you differently.” She now says Omar is an “incredibly courageous woman” subjected to “ugly attacks.”

J Street claimed a condemnation of Omar would have been “singling out and focusing special condemnation on a Muslim woman of color.” And Charles Chamberlain, Chair of Democracy for America, said that rejecting her hateful comments would “tell a newly elected black, Muslim, refugee congresswoman to sit down and shut up.”

This is not a new tactic. The minority statuses of Louis Farrakhan, Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Marc Lamont Hill, and Alice Walker have all previously been used to not only shelter these individuals from criticism, but to suggest that those who condemn their bigotry are closet racists.

In reality, prejudice travels easily between ethnicities. Louis Farrakhan called Jews “termites,” the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter referred to a “kike infestation,” and Der Stürmer publisher Julius Streicher depicted Jews as parasites. Their hate is one and the same; the color of Farrakhan’s skin is irrelevant.

Just ask David Duke, who ardently defended Omar’s tweets and denied that they were anti-Semitic. He shares her sentiments, though he shares not one of the traits misused to defend her.

In this situation, “broadening” the resolution sent precisely the wrong message. It suggests that those who deplore her antipathy are somehow prejudiced themselves.

And as for the West Virginians who printed a poster of Omar with the 9/11 attacks — yes, it’s deplorable. But it is not at all comparable. Omar spoke alongside an explicit supporter of terrorism, on behalf of an organization with unmistakable ties to terrorist organizations, and openly condemned Israel for fighting terrorism. Tying her to terrorism is not an attack upon her religion.

To quote Mercy Morganfield, the black leader who left the D.C. chapter of the Women’s March in response to Linda Sarsour, “Jewish people asking you to condemn an anti-Semite and anti-Semitism is not an attack. Writing that Jewish people are waging war on black people is an attack. It is vicious. It is vile. And it is not true.” We can apply precisely the same sentiment to the misuse of Omar’s gender and religion.

We should be proud to stand together against bigotry, without regard for the race, color, religion, national origin, or other traits of the bigot. That House Democrats failed to do so should alarm anyone who values civil rights and tolerance.

Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the Managing Director of the Coalition for Jewish Values and a contributor to the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center.