Terry H. Schwadron
March 6, 2019
Dear Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-MN,
With the crowd around you jumping all over you for being anti-Semitic, you’re probably too busy to listen to me. But here’s some advice: Stop tweeting. Stop making general comments about who supports Israel and why.
You’re a member of Congress, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. If you have something specific to say about U.S.-Israeli policies, or if you want to alter the budget for support of Israel, or if you think Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking undue American aid, write a bill and get it adopted.
Given the vehemence of the responses around you to fairly mild criticism, I’d say good luck with that, but that’s why you ran for office.
If you wanted to tweet generalized tweets about Israeli lobbying efforts, you could have just stayed home in Minnesota and lobbed opinions without fear of retribution. But you decided to run — and win — and so, I say the same thing to you that I say to Donald Trump. Don’t tweet, act. And if you have something to say about policy X affecting Israel, figure out what it is, and speak specifically to that question.
If you want to sound like an anti-Semite, don’t make us have to sort through the layers of language to interpret your remarks as attacking the ancient tropes of anti-Semitism. In the latest round of controversy, you said during a town hall, regarding U.S. policy toward Israel, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
Overly sensitive Jewish brethren have taken that to be critical of Jews, apparently linking up with outdated thinking about international influence-seeking. And so, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is buying into the idea that you need to be gently but firmly put in your place by a generalized resolution calling for an all-out agreed upon stand against anti-Semitism, whatever that might look like.
This is to say nothing of politicians named O’Neill celebrating Irish holidays and supporting economic policies aftecting Ireland, or Chinese ancestry legislators feeling that they might be knowledgeable about bills affecting Chinese trade.
I find myself agreeing with Washington Post opinion writer Paul Waldmanwho said that in the process, Pelosi and other Democrats are helping propagate a series of misconceptions about anti-Semitism, Israel, and U.S. political debate by rebuking you for things you may have said or didn’t actually say.
“So let’s talk about this idea of ‘dual loyalty,’ and how it does and doesn’t relate to (your) comments. For many years, Jews were routinely accused of having dual loyalty, to both the United States and Israel, as a way of questioning whether they were truly American and could be trusted to do things such as serve in sensitive national security positions,” said Waldman.
But “The whole purpose of the Democrats’ resolution is to enforce dual loyalty not among Jews, but among members of Congress, to make sure that criticism of Israel is punished in the most visible way possible. This, of course, includes
In fact, as I have noted repeatedly, American Jews increasingly find themselves at odds with a right-wing Israeli government. We may support the idea of Israel, but not their specific government actions, particularly under Netanyahu, who is coming under indictment for bribery and other ethics charges, and who is rapidly moving even more to the political right. The settlements policies alone make wholesale support of Israel questionable. Waldman and ?I agree that in the United States today, a “supporter of Israel” is much more likely to be an evangelical Christian Republican than a Jew.
Nevertheless, you’ve chosen a few times now to speak out against AIPAC, the major Israeli political lobby, which, shockingly, spends its money to persuade legislators to support Israeli policies and needs. Fine. Refuse their money. Vote against their recommendations. Just don’t tweet or talk about it in a way that seems to bring all American Jews into your criticism.
Is that so hard?
You yourself were ridiculed in West Virginia this week when your photo appeared at a GOP headquarters next to an image from 9/11. It was awful. It was hurtful. Yet, we all believe we can speak about U.S. policies towards various Muslim nations without stepping all over Islam.
I wonder if you’re being attacked because you are Muslim, because you are new to Congress and too outspoken to sit quietly by, or because you simply are un-careful about using language in an over-sensitive environment.
My advice: Vote. Act. Don’t talk.