As the mother of the modern-day Progressive movement, it would make sense for Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) to take her young Democratic colleague Rep. Ilhan Omar under her maternal wing in loco parentis.
Defending Omar against accusations of anti-Semitism last week on MSNBC, Schakowsky explained that as a refugee from Somalia, Omar “comes from a different culture. She has things to learn.” Rather than acknowledge that Omar is a bigot, Schakowsky thus invokes the doctrine of unconditional love.
But Omar is not “just off the boat.” She came to the United States in the 1990s, according to her official House website. “Before running for office, she worked as a community educator at the University of Minnesota, was a Policy Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and served as a Senior Policy Aide for the Minneapolis City Council.” She is also a former state representative.
It’s safe to say she understands American culture very well and knows exactly what she is saying.
Just as the anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace uses its name as cover for anti-Semites who share its far-Left agenda, the Jewish congresswoman from Illinois — known in the pro-Israel community as “J Street Jan” — conveniently played the “Jew card” to excuse Omar’s anti-Semitism. Maybe a mazel tov is in order here. For decades, Schakowsky remained silent when it came to leftist anti-Semitism. Now she is speaking up — to defend that very hate.
As a former constituent of Schakowsky’s, I was overwhelmed by a sense of déjà vu, having experienced her use of anti-Semitism as a political tool before. It’s been over twelve years since I first opined about it. Back in February 2007, Schakowsky led the criticism against Walmart for selling a T-shirt bearing the Nazi Totenkopf (German for “death’s head”), the emblem adopted by Adolf Hitler’s personal guards. When Walmart learned what the symbol meant, they immediately pulled the shirts off the shelf.
I applauded Schakowsky’s efforts to educate Walmart about their offensive mistake. But at the same time, she had been conveniently silent over hate stemming from her own party.
In February 2007, I wrote:
When the president of Iran is threatening to cause a second Holocaust and hatred toward Jews is growing in epidemic proportions, why is Congresswoman Schakowsky, who is Jewish and represents a large Jewish constituency, only fighting Walmart? Why is it that whenever anti-Semitism shows its ugly face amongst her political allies within the Democratic Party or Progressive movement, her voice is silent?
Back then, Walmart was the perfect target for the Illinois Democrat. “[Schakowsky] despises the fact that the retail chain is the largest employer in America and is non-union. Any opportunity to label Walmart as anti-Semitic, or at minimum insensitive to the Jewish community, is a golden opportunity for a politician with an agenda such as hers.”
Leftist anti-Semitism, often referred to as the “New Anti-Semitism,” has been brewing for decades, gaining prominence during the second Gulf War. “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this,” said then-congressman Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) in 2003, invoking the old stereotype of Jewish control.
Moran also claimed that Jews had the power to stop the country from going to war. Where was Schakowsky back then? Where was her suggestion that Moran apologize for his anti-Semitic remarks, let alone demand his resignation? Nowhere to be found.
Two years later, Schakowsky attended a mock House Judiciary Committee hearing. In plain view of a C-SPAN audience, Schakowsky sat behind Congressman Moran as he questioned former intelligence analyst Ray McGovern — who claimed that the U.S. went to war in Iraq for oil, military bases, and Israel. Moran thanked McGovern for his “candid answer,” which included claims that the war was conducted so the “U.S. and Israel could dominate that part of the world.” Schakowsky just sat there and didn’t raise an eyebrow.
Full disclosure: I served as a senior adviser for a political campaign opposing Rep. Schakowsky in 2010. At that time, we raised the issue of Schakowsky honoring Helen Thomas, the late UPI journalist notorious for her disdain for the Jewish state.
In 2006, Thomas badgered the late White House press secretary Tony Snow regarding Israeli military action in Lebanon. Snow thanked Thomas for “the Hezbollah view.”
This is who Schakowsky considered worthy of honoring.
In January 2017, Schakowsky spoke at a Chicago rally protesting President Trump’s travel ban. Standing on the same stage, right behind the congresswoman, was Rasmea Odeh.
Sharing my emotions publicly, I wrote:
So, you’ll understand my anger and revulsion when I saw the convicted mastermind of the terror attack, Rasmea Odeh, standing with Rep. Jan Schakowsky. I could never have imagined that the congresswoman, who represents one of the largest Jewish constituencies in the country, would be willing to share the stage with a killer.
Schakowsky’s embrace of a blatant anti-Semite like Rasmea Odeh is of a piece with her defense of Ilhan Omar. If today’s Democratic Party is now the party of refuge for bigots, Schakowsky deserves credit for the transformation. Tantamount to a religious conversion, she betrays her constituency and her own heritage — indeed Judaism itself — worshiping instead at the altar of political expediency.
To all Jewish supporters of Jan Schakowsky: Know before whom you stand.
Paul Miller is president and executive director of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on Twitter @pauliespoint.