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Amidst the ongoing, breathtaking hypocrisy of rabid charges of anti-Semitism – aka daring to criticize America’s toxic complicity with Israeli war crimes – heedlessly leveled against her, often from down-and-dirty bigots, Ilhan Omar is all done apologizing. And well she should be. Even as the outrage machinery grinds on, African-Americans, progressive Jews and many others have rallied to support her. The House reportedly still plans to issue its hollow, ugly rebuke of “anti-Semitism,” but pushback has grown, it’s been delayed, and thanks to the Congressional Black and Progressive Caucuses it may also condemn anti-Muslim sentiments, because today we evidently have to say these things. The Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of over 50 organizations, have charged that criticisms of Omar, Angela Davis and other black progressives speaking out for Palestinian rights seek “to regulate behavior (and) mute independent Black political voices.” Others have called out the willful inaccuracies of Omar’s critics, noting that AIPAC is of course a Zionist, not Jewish lobby whose politics are abhorrent to many Jews. From Deadspin‘s David Roth, “Pay attention to who the people are pretending not to understand that.”
Above all, argues Phylllis Bennen, the criticisms are “a travesty” because they are unsupported by fact. To understand that, we have only to listen to what Omar said, first defending herself to colleagues – “I am told everyday that I am anti-American if I am not pro-Israel. I find that to be problematic and I am not alone. I just happen to be willing to speak up on it” – and at a progressive town hall at D.C.’s Busboys and Poets, where she was joined by Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan to “represent the voice of the people who have been silenced for many decades.” As a Muslim, a refugee, a black woman, Omar stresses, “I know what intolerance looks like.” She describes death threats, mosque bombings, gas stations in her state where the bathroom walls read, “Assassinate Ilhan Omar.” “I know what it means to be someone whose ethnicity is vilified. And so, when people say, ‘You are bringing hate,’ I know what their intention is. Their intention is to make sure that our lights are dimmed…That we lower our face and our voice…What people are afraid of is that there are two Muslims in Congress that have their eyes wide open, that have their feet to the ground, that know what they’re talking about, that are fearless.”
First published in Common Dreams.