Democrats Failed on Anti-Semitism and Ilhan Omar. Do Most Jews Care?
By Jonathan S.
March 7, 2019
in November, I wrote that the
election of radicals like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.),
Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) wouldn’t have much impact on
the U.S.-Israel relationship. I reasoned that the trio of newly elected radicals
would be backbenchers without power or influence, while the Democratic
leadership of the House remained solidly pro-Israel and friends of the Jewish
as the events of the last week have shown, I was wrong about that, especially in
thinking that Democrats would speak out specifically against anti-Semitism if a
member of their caucus acted as Omar has done.
now that it has happened, I wouldn’t be surprised if their faithful Jewish
Democratic supporters simply shrug it off.
Democratic Party as a whole is shifting to the left. But with the bulk of
Democrats, especially officeholders, still reliably pro-Israel, there could be
no comparison between it and Britain’s Labour Party, which under the
leadership of Jeremy Corbyn has been captured by anti-Semitic radicals.
while the Democrats are not yet the moral equivalent of Labour, there can no
longer be any doubt that AOC, Omar and Tlaib are far from powerless. Indeed,
they have not only intimidated the Democratic leadership, but also demonstrated
their ability to rally much of the party, including leading presidential
candidates, around the cause of defending Omar from facing any consequences for
her anti-Semitic hate. This feat calls into question not only the future of a
bipartisan consensus on behalf of Israel, but also the future of the Democratic
Party as a political home for centrist Americans.
above and beyond the political implications of Omar’s evading consequences for
her spreading of hate, this should shock American Jews out of any remaining
complacency they might have had about the willingness of the Democrats to stand
with them against anti-Jewish bias.
may be even more depressing is that most of American Jewry won’t take any of
this seriously or draw any conclusions about it. That’s because history has
taught us that liberal Jews will do nothing to hold the Democrats accountable
for their shocking failure.
had twice before issued anti-Semitic statements, one of which she had been
forced to apologize for by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic
leadership. But her apology and disingenuous claim that she was unaware of the
meaning of the anti-Semitic tropes about Jews controlling the world or
attempting to buy off members of Congress were meaningless. Last week, she
doubled down on her hate by spouting off about supporters of Israel being guilty
of dual loyalty, another classic anti-Semitic trope.
when some demanded action, what the Democrats did was worse than inaction. Much
of the House Democratic caucus revolted at the idea of a resolution condemning
anti-Semitism, even if it didn’t name Omar. They embraced Omar’s claim that
she was the victim in this drama. Omar had singled out “Jewish colleagues”
as being guilty of targeting her and Tlaib—another serial purveyor of
anti-Semitism—for discrimination because they were Muslims. Three of the
leading Democratic candidates for president—Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and
Elizabeth Warren—supported these claims when, while condemning anti-Semitism
out of one side of their mouths, they also defended Omar and opposed any
specific condemnation of her hate.
Democrats backed down in the face of support for Omar from much of the party.
Pelosi, who knew very well how insincere Omar’s previous apology had been,
exonerated her of any intentional anti-Semitism. Democrats ignored the fact that
as supporters of an anti-Semitic BDS movement, there was no doubt that the hate
espoused by Omar and Tlaib was intentional and purposeful. The claim that their
goal was to start a conversation about U.S. foreign policy or to speak up for
Palestinian human rights is a blatant lie. As BDS supporters, their goal is
Israel’s destruction and to delegitimize its Jewish supporters, not to merely
initiate a debate about the peace process. The claim that supporters of Israel
are guilty of Islamophobia is another brazen falsehood.
disingenuous is the claim that the right is as guilty of anti-Semitism as the
left. The claims that U.S. President Donald Trump and Republican members of
Congress are also guilty anti-Semitism are bogus. There is simply no comparison
to what the Democrats are enabling and even supporting from Omar and anything
that GOP officeholders have done or said with respect to anti-Semitism.
resolution that did pass was a joke. It not only avoided mentioning Omar, but
was also turned into a laundry list of every conceivable sort of hatred (with
the sole exception of bias against Catholics and evangelical Christians that has
been demonstrated by many liberal Democrats in recent years). It was the moral
equivalent of the response to the Black Lives Matter movement by some, who spoke
instead of all lives mattering—a stand that most Democrats had condemned.
and her leftist pals are setting the agenda for Democrats. This will have a
genuine impact on the 2020 presidential race, which has already appeared to show
that Democrats have been shifting to the left, and make it easier for attacks on
Israel and Jews to become part of the campaign.
ought to horrify the majority of American Jews who remain loyal supporters of
the Democrats. But don’t expect many of them to take action or do anything to
hold their party accountable. In this hyper-partisan era, most liberal Jews are
more interested in defeating Trump than in confronting anti-Semitism.
the truth about the state of the Democratic Party would force them to choose
between their partisan interests and defense of the Jewish community. And that
is not a choice that most American Jews are prepared to make, even if means
supporting a party that treats anti-Semites and their enablers as rock stars.
Along with the direction of a Democratic Party that just took another step
towards being Corbynized, that is the sorriest aspect of this dismal chapter of
American Jewish history.