Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Antisemitism rears it head in U.S. Democratic Party

As the U.S. Democratic Party continues its relentless march to the left it was perhaps inevitable that the ills which have infected that side of the political spectrum would reach its very heart – the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. How else does one explain antisemitic statements recently made Ilhan Omar, the newly-elected Congresswoman representing Minnesota’s 5th district, and rising star in the Democratic Party?

Omar supports the so-called Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement (BDS) which is intended to pressure Israel into ending its presence on the west bank of the Jordan River saying that she “almost chuckle[s]” when politicians use Israel as a democratic example. This statement was soon followed by a tweet suggesting that U.S. support for Israel is motivated by political donations from groups like AIPAC. (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee – AIPAC for short – is a non-partisan, pro-Israel advocacy group. It does not contribute to any political campaigns.)

“It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” Omar tweeted in response to criticism.

One could explain away these comments as little more than the product of ignorance (assuming that by “Benjamins” she meant American $100 bills with their portrait of Benjamin Franklin, not the children of Jacob, aka Jews…) but it's not so easy to dismiss her call – made during a recent town hall meeting – for a debate about “the political influence… that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country" in reference to congressional support for Israel. This latest position is clearly antisemitic.

Here’s why.

When American politicians support allies embroiled in international conflicts, are they accused of allegiance to a “foreign country”?

What about when America led a coalition to liberate Kuwait after it was invaded by its neighbour Iraq? Were politicians accused of allegiance to a “foreign country” then?

How about America's support for the U.K. during World War II, its liberation of France in 1944, or its ongoing commitment to the security of Europe – a commitment that has included decades of actual American troops posted to actual American military bases in European countries, all paid for by American taxpayers? Has any of this been predicated on allegiance to foreign countries?

What about support for the Palestinians – including financial aid – that America has provided for decades? Would Omar condemn this largess as stemming from allegiance to a foreign country? Granted, Palestine is not a country, but the principle is still the same, is it not?

This is the problem with the whole “allegiance to a foreign country” argument. The number of examples of America standing by its allies or providing moral and/or material support for besieged countries and oppressed populations around the world, is quite simply, too numerous to list here. Only in the case of Israel is such support criticized as “allegiance to a foreign country.” It is this selective application of the accusation – Jews and defenders of the Jewish State – that makes it antisemitism.

Accusing Jews and supporters of the Jewish State of “allegiance to a foreign country” is not new. The slander has been used to rationalize discrimination against Jews throughout history, including expulsion from their countries of residence. Pharaoh himself relies on the canard to justify enslaving Jews in ancient Egypt “lest they multiply, and it come to pass that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies and fight against us…” (Exodus 1:10, King James Version)

Raising the question of “allegiance to a foreign country” in reference to Jews and support for Israel is the first, and ultimate, “dog-whistle.” Leaders of the U.S. Democratic Party need to understand this and act accordingly.