ANTI-SEMITISM IN AMERICA

I believe it is always there, just below the surface, like a simmering teapot. It doesn’t take much to set it off. Am I being too sensitive? Am I overreacting to the comments and attitudes of a few outliers? Perhaps, but I have 5,000 years of history to guide my thinking.

History can be a pesky thing. It’s permanent, and its lessons are always available to those who care to learn them. Those who take the time and make the effort to learn from it are all the wiser; those who don’t will likely repeat the same mistakes.

Throughout history, Jews have, on occasion, been welcomed in various countries, in some cases for hundreds of years… until they were not. Rulers found the Jews to be useful for a while as they normally made strong contributions to society. But, then, they could also make handy scapegoats if things went bad, for instance, if there were crop failures or plague or if the rulers wanted to divert the attention of the masses from their miserable daily existence. Some of the more obvious and egregious examples of this occurred in Egypt (in Moses’ time), Spain (the Inquisition), Russia (19th century pogroms) and Poland and Germany (WWII). There are a plethora of other examples, if you care to, as Casey Stengel was fond of saying, “look it up.”

In the US Jews, for the most part, have been able to live their lives in peace and prosperity. What anti-Semitism has existed has been mostly covert (college quotas, hiring practices, closed club memberships, crude jokes and comments) rather than overt (pogroms and other physical violence). Fine and good, but history tells Jews not to be lulled into a false sense of security. It can all change in a “New York minute.” All it needs is a spark.

In evaluating Rep. Omar’s comments my concern is not just what she said last week or last month. I view them as part of her underlying belief system. In addition, I think it is important to view them through the lens of history, as described above.

Her apology not withstanding, I think it’s obvious she said what she meant, and she meant what she said. She has made similar comments before. For example, in 2012 she tweeted that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” The gist of her latest comments was to question the loyalty of those Americans who support Israel. In her opinion, they are demonstrating allegiance to a foreign country (Israel) rather than the US. This kind of comment is very dangerous. It actually reminds me of the concern by some when JFK ran for president in 1960 that, as a Catholic, he would be loyal to the pope, rather than the US. That line of reasoning turned out to be unfounded, and, in retrospect, it seems preposterous. Omar’s line of reasoning is equally so. Someone should remind her that one of, if not the, major reason why the US supports Israel is that it is our only reliable ally in the volatile and strategically-crucial Middle East and the only stable democracy.

Furthermore, she put out a tweet implying that lawmakers’ support for Israel was predicated on contributions from lobbyists, such as AIPAC, (“It’s all about the ‘Benjamins.’ “) as if there are not a plethora of pro-Muslim lobbyists as well. Lobbying is pervasive in DC. Every interest group does it. No one is defending the practice, but it is the way business is done. It’s not right to single out AIPAC.

Clearly, she is anti-Semitic. She’s entitled to her opinion. After all, this is America. I say this not because she is a Muslim. In my observation and experience, few Muslims in the US are anti-Semitic. Like the rest of us they just want to go about their business in peace, enjoy life, provide for themselves and their families. They don’t have the time or inclination to get embroiled in politics.

Moreover, I believe that criticism of Israel is very often “code” for anti-Semitism, not always, but very often. I compare it to some southern politicians of the 1950s championing “states’ rights” as code for segregation.

My primary concern is the wishy-washy language of the resolution condemning hate. It should have been specific to anti-Semitism and named Omar as the culprit, leaving no doubt on where the Dem Party stands on the issue. The original resolution condemning anti-Semitism was watered down to include practically every identity group in existence – Muslims, Asians, Hispanics, LGBT, etal. “It’s not [just] about her [Omar]” said Pelosi. “It’s about all forms of hatred.” No one is averse to condemning all forms of hatred, but the watered down version was so wishy-washy it was almost gratuitous and meaningless. As Rep Douglas Collins intoned, it was something “all of us should have learned in kindergarten.”

A sampling of other comments:

1. Rep. Mo Brooks (perhaps, tongue-in-check)- Why didn’t it include a condemnation of discrimination against “Caucasian Americans and Christians.”
2. Rep. Ted Deutsch (D-FL) “Why are we unable to singularly condemn anti-Semitism? Why can’t we call out anti-Semitism and show we’ve learned the lessons of history?”
3. Rep Liz Cheney (-WY) – Dems are “enabling anti-Semitism [by] failing to explicitly condemn” Omar’s comments. She added that refusing to name her “was really an effort to actually protect [Omar}, to cover up her bigotry and anti-Semitism.” She contrasted this with how Rep. Steve King was treated for his “white nationalist” comments.
4. Rep. Eliot Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, characterized Omar’s comments as a “vile, anti-Semitic slur.”

CONCLUSION

Where is the Dem leadership? Where are the moderates? Are there any left? Has “Chancy” abdicated their leadership roles? For the moment, Pelosi seems to be content to let the fringe elements of the Party run wild. Schumer has said not a peep. At the very least, Omar should be dismissed from the Foreign Affairs Committee, as some Reps have suggested. In the old days, LBJ or Sam Rayburn would have cracked down hard on her and other fringe members. They would have assigned her to a committee counting pencils, or some such. Instead, Pelosi defended Omar, saying “I do not believe that she understood the full weight of the words. I feel confident that her words were not based on any anti-Semitic attitude.” Yeah, right.

The serious Dem presidential candidates cannot be happy about this development. They will continually be made to answer questions about anti-Semitism and prejudice in their Party. Moderates, like Joe Biden, have to be concerned that their core beliefs are no longer in synch with the mainstream of the Dem Party.

Traditionally, Jews have been staunch supporters of Dems. In some instances, they have voted for Dems blindly and automatically. Perhaps, it is time to rethink that philosophy and be more selective.

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