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Thank you, Ilhan Omar.

Dana Milbank mug

Milbank

The first-term Democratic representative from Minnesota did something ugly Sunday night. Responding to a tweet about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, the young Somali American suggested U.S. lawmakers defend Israel because “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”

And who is paying American officials these “Benjamins” — slang for $100 bills — to be pro-Israel? “AIPAC!” Omar tweeted, referring to the pro-Israel lobbying group.

Wealthy Jewish interests bribing U.S. lawmakers to sell out America? In addition to being false — the real power backing current Israel policy in the United States is evangelical Christianity — this is Protocols-of-the-Elders-of-Zion stuff.

What happened next, though, was as inspiring as Omar’s initial action was appalling. Denunciations rained, not just from Jews and opportunistic Republicans but from Democrats, almost as furiously as they did after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) acknowledged wearing blackface.

Monday, the Democratic House leadership issued a joint demand for an apology, saying “Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive.”

Ninety minutes later, Omar issued an “unequivocal” apology, saying “anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”

Contrast that with what happened when President Trump on Saturday appeared to joke about the genocide of Native Americans. Again referring to Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” Trump tweeted: “See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!”

And the outraged demands from Republican leaders for an apology? We’re still waiting.

The juxtaposition offers hope for those who believe the United States will reject Trump’s politics of racial, religious and gender grievances.

Those who believe in a tolerant, multicultural America need to speak with one voice against the scapegoating of minorities by the likes of Trump and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa — not quarrel among themselves.

A revival of anti-Semitism on the left threatens that coalition. The bigotry, mostly found in the BDS movement, is isolated in the Democratic Party, but it complicates the important work of uniting against Trump.

Omar’s apology, if genuine, is welcome. But more important is for Omar — and for Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), another Muslim Democratic freshman who has been in similar controversy — to understand that their recent actions hurt not just Jews but also Muslims, Democrats and ultimately all who support tolerance.

During her election campaign, Omar told a synagogue audience that the BDS movement is “not helpful” in reaching a two-state solution because its pressure “stops the dialogue.” But days after she was elected, Omar declared her support for BDS.

Last month, a 2012 tweet by Omar surfaced in which she said, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” She said her use of the anti-Semitic trope was unwitting.

Tlaib, meanwhile, tweeted last month that senators who supported the anti-BDS legislation “forgot what country they represent.”

Days later, a man who has equated Zionism and Nazism posted a photo with Tlaib, saying they just had a “private dinner.” It then emerged that a man who organized campaign events for Tlaib had posted a video in 2018 calling Jews “satanic” and questioning the Holocaust.

Tlaib has said she can’t be held responsible for supporters’ actions and called herself the victim of right-wing media, saying, “Yes, I am Muslim and Palestinian. Get over it.”

I understand the anger toward Israel. I have criticized the Israeli government’s “moves toward authoritarianism and away from negotiated peace” and warned against building “an ultranationalist apartheid state.”

But accusations that pro-Israel Americans are unpatriotic puppet-masters is vile. And though the BDS movement isn’t necessarily anti-Semitic, it attracts those who are — and many who favor Israel’s elimination. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti has said Zionism is based on “irredeemable racism” and “the current Zionist state of Israel” was “criminally built.”

As a Jew and an American, I’ve denounced Trump’s anti-Muslim conspiracy demagoguery, his proposed “Muslim ban” and resulting travel ban.

The Anti-Defamation League and Jewish leaders have fought anti-Muslim discrimination because they understand that, as religious or racial minorities, we are all in this together.

Many American Muslims feel this way, too. Remember the crowdfunding campaign by Muslim Americans for victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre?

There is nothing wrong with criticizing the Israeli government. There is something very wrong with alleging the corrupting influence of American Jews, and with joining those who seek the Jewish state’s destruction.

If Tlaib and Omar can see that distinction, we can together confront the real haters.

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Dana Milbank is a Washington Post columnist.

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(18) comments

johnnybragatti

The Trump-Humpers days are indeed numbered.
Don"t let an :"Omar", get in the way.
They won"t.

shameless

Like numbered in there will be an end to Drumpf's time in office soon? God bless us all.

crank

I wonder why all our trib-lib friends are curiously silent when it comes to calling out Ilhan Omar for her blatant anti-Semintism owing to her religion. Clearly, Mr. Milbank has fallen into line providing cover for her. If one of those Bible-bangin' Christian Republicans exhibited the same appalling behavior, the were literally be Hell to pay; no apology would be enough (if one can really consider Omar's statement and apology).

shameless

We won't know if an apology will be enough simply because the GOP and Republicans never call out their own for offensive behaviors. Their vitriol is encouraged, not frowned upon.

martian2

amen shameless. Crank should look for the GOP to get their own house in order first. Something they can learn do by watching the democrats.

oldhomey

And Amen, to you, too, shameless. Thanks.

crank

never...?

As far as encouraging vitriol? C'mon now. Who generally takes to the streets in violent protest, Republicans or Democrats? Shameless indeed.

oldhomey

Since you like to credit all left-wing fringies who get physical at their demonstrations as being avid, active members of the Democratic Party, crank, would you allow us Democrats, then, to label the White Supremacist, Nazi and Klan members who have killed people in their demonstrations as core members of the Republican Party? I mean, fair is fair. Right?

crank

Allow you? C'mon now, oldpompous. Fair or not, you know you already do this. [wink]

oldhomey

I would not be so quick to put a smiley face on to your 3:39pm post, crank. I don't recall ever accusing the Republican Party of being party of fascists, White Supremacists and the Klan. I have on many occasions suggested some of their most important members have espoused fascist and racist views and policies, but so far as I know these are not views and policies endorsed as a whole by the party. You better be on the alert, however. Have you been listening to what the leader of the Republican Party has been saying lately? Why do you endorse and support him?

johnnybragatti

@shameless ...exacto,correcto,perfecto.
Danke Schoen !!!

oldhomey

I just read this column not two minutes ago, crank, so this is my first opportunity to call out Ilhan Omar. I say "Amen!" completely to Mr. Milbank's column. Representative Omar is wrong, wrong, wrong. As is Trump. She has apologized. He has not. Is there a difference there? What would it be?

crank

Perhaps you could direct me to Mr. Trump's anti-semitic comments, oldhomey?

I know Cassandra insists Trump is a Nazi and compares him to Hitler. #reductioadhitlerum The pivoting from Omar's genuine hatred and derision directed at Jews is part of her religion. (You know...that peaceful one.), to Trump is predictable. You reflexively say, "hey, what about Trump."

It was also Omar who quickly took to social media to lie about the Covington Students in Washington D.C. She claimed that the teenage boys from Kentucky chanted “it’s not rape if you enjoy it,” taunted black men in the vicinity, and surrounded Native American elder Nathan Phillips while engaging in racist chants. #fakenews #lies #hatred

Come out of your echo chamber.

johnnybragatti

Trump IS a Nazi. If you are not aware of it ,ya"ll ain"t been paying attention.
Though you are absolutely right Cranker...Trump actually is spitten image of Bennie Mussolini. He looks just like "im too and has the same policies.

martian2

crank need to broaden his horizons. Its not just about antisemitism cranky. It about respecting all people. Something your dear leader hasn't learned to do by a long shot.

crank

*Our* dear leader certainly needs to work on his people skills. Omar has demonstrated she needs to work on hers too. You trib-libs don't want to talk about your own.

Based on your non-response, oldhomey/martian, Trump hasn't made any anti-semitic comments, right? Nobody called Trump a racist until he ran for president as a Republican. Fact is, he was pretty chummy will Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton (an actual anti-semite who got Jews killed) in the days before politics in NYC.

Hey shameless... Sharpton, a Democrat incited a riot against Jews in NYC which lead to fire-bombing and deaths. Vitriol? You keep deflecting to Trump because of your TDS but you're prepared to ignore ACTUAL anti-semitism by Omar. Is it because she's a Democrat. Of course it is. Get your own house in order.

martian2

well crank, when your dear leader said those white nationalists and klan members marching the street of Charlottesville "fine people", you can't get any more racist or anti semitic than that. As far as your charge about Sharpton inciting a riot in New York, if true why wasn't he arrested and tried in a court of law? It is illegal. Oh that's right, innocent till proven guilty in a court of law only applies to right wingers. Sorry I forgot about that.

oldhomey

crank, I was not limiting my critique to the subject of antisemitic remarks, which Omar was certainly guilty of, when I equated her terrible behavior with terrible behavior by Trump. And I would not let her off the hook for other faux pas on her part. I know you want to limit it to that, as you think it makes Trump look better by comparison, but Trump has been guilty of the worst behavior of any sitting president in the history of the republic. And he gets away with it because people like you do not stand up and say Enough! Instead, you support and defend him. It is hard to decide the most damaging thing he has done to our nation, but it might have been today, declaring a state of emergency on the border to illegally re-purpose money mandated for other uses to build a useless wall that has proven only to be a useful political tool for him. If he is not yanked back on this, many more of our time honored institutions of our governance will crumble, starting with the White House illegally taking over the allocation of funding from Congress. Echo chamber, indeed. I suffer from tinittus, which is annoying, but at least I am not totally tone deaf, like you seem to be.

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