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ilhan omar is not the problem

March 6, 2019
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If you feel like laughing with unhinged disbelief, or burning down establishment (probably depends where you are on humanity’s chaotic journey into oblivion), read Henry Olsen’s Washington Post column on how Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar is the “Left’s version of Steve King.” That’s Iowa Representative Steve King, who was removed from all his Congressional committees after years of brazenly bigoted statements, before making it official in January when he told that the New York Times, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Yes, that Steve King.

Omar first caught heat when she accused Republicans of only supporting Israel because they were being funded by Israeli interest lobbying group, the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The backlash Omar received from her own party over those statements, denouncing the remarks for playing into the anti-Semitic trope about the wealth of Jewish people, resulted in an apology for her words even as she stood behind her remarks on AIPAC’s role in the larger cesspool of politicians’ voting records being steered by special interest funds. (Hell, Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez broke it all down in less than three minutes, with pointed questions that reveal that staggering flaws in the election system that allow for it to happen.)

The newest outcry geared at Omar was initiated after the congresswoman stated that people support Israel because of  “allegiance to another country” — another trope with roots in anti-Semitism. Republicans want Omar to face the same penalty that King did, to which I and most thinking people have to ask, “Why?” Democrats are currently gearing up for a resolution in response to Omar’s remarks and while anti-Semitism should never be tolerated, in any context, why is this the fight and why is Rep. Ilhan Omar the enemy? Is it anti-Semitic to wonder why Israel — an apartheid state — is treated like America’s “51st state?” Currently, Isreali president Benjamin Netanyahu is facing corruption charges which have people ruminating over an Isreal without his leadership, especially considering that peace between Israel and Palestine has been a laughable concept while he’s been the country’s Prime Minister. Where does the line between critique and bigotry reside in such discussions, if they happen at all?

Olsen, one of the Post‘s conservative voices, even concedes this point when he writes, “Omar is right that it is entirely legitimate to criticize U.S. policy towards Israel, but that’s not the issue here.” No, Henry. That is the issue here. Omar isn’t the only person to grow weary and nervous about the continued sidelining of valid concerns (hello healthcare, taxation, student loans, etc, etc…) to ensure the interests of foreign entities. The President of the United States has been accused of being Putin’s own errand boy and he is going to gaslight an entire country into handing him a second term. The Cold War never ended in the icy abyss that is Russia, and it shows.

“Clearly, they hoped that they were aberrations, or that the congressman would come to his senses and keep whatever bigotry he harbored in his heart to himself,” Olsen remarks on King’s “fall from Republican grace.” My favorite line from the piece has to be “bigotry can be a deep-rooted plant.” If that’s the case, then America is the Amazon forest — and it is on fire. Democrats sacrifice themselves to that inferno by dedicating their resources to taking the fight inward, when Omar isn’t the enemy of the Jewish community that is she is framed as. She is the embodiment of everything white supremacy has fought since the Middle East became its new arch nemesis. She should not be that close to power because she is the other, and the partisan effort to entrench that is exactly what will get 45 re-elected.

Olsen ended his sensational reach of a column by recalling the case of Julius Caeser, who divorced his wife because she was accused of meeting a lover during an all-woman religious ceremony. Olsen’s argument was that Caeser’s wife should have been “beyond suspicion”. The issue with that analogy is that Omar will never be “beyond suspicion” as a Black, Muslim, former refugee, currently serving in one of the highest branches of national government. The false equivalence that Olsen clings to is how white supremacy lurks in shadows, creeping behind every corner of government, slithering into the hearts of policies that persecute her and people like her.

Omar is nothing like Steve King. She doesn’t wield nearly enough power or support within government (or society) for that to EVER be the case. Americans are able to support their country by calling out the heinous policies of its heinous leadership. The issue is when a heavy history is used to place leaders like Netanyahu beyond reproach for current actions. The Jewish community — like any other community — is more than the bad people that use it as a shield to protect them from accountability. We all still have so much to learn about how to respect each other and I believe we can do that while holding each other respectfully accountable. The Jewish community maintains that Omar did not do that and we can continue to have that conversation and not fall into the Republican logical cess-pool that seeks to place their bigotry on equal footing with anything Omar has said.

The fight against white supremacy is shared by Omar and the Jewish community. The president is a bigger threat to both than either could ever be to each other. But hey, here’s to four more years of Trump. If this is the state of affairs, then we can’t say we didn’t see it coming this time.