By Mairav Zonszein California @MairavZ
Omar is challenging decades-long unconditional American support for Israel while many American legislators are demanding loyalty oaths that enable Israel to continue doing as it pleases – with total impunity
While freshman Minnesota Congresswoman Omar’s alleged antisemitism has been dominating the headlines in the US in recent weeks, in Israel, the controversies have barely been reported on in Hebrew media, and you’d be hard-pressed to find many Israelis who even know who she is. Yet much of the attacks and condemnations she is facing originate in talking points and policies created by the Israeli right, specifically under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the last decade.
Omar has made repeated claims in recent weeks – some not too carefully crafted — that Israel (a country that holds millions of Palestinians under violent occupation) has outsized influence on American foreign policy and that its lobbyists use money to maintain that support.
Since Sunday, she has been defending herself against a barrage of attacks from both Democrats and Republicans for one sentence – arguably one word — she said at an event last week: “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” This has been slammed as a charge of dual loyalty (though she did not specify Jews directly in her comments), an antisemitic trope.
As this has been going on, Omar has been facing death threats and Islamophobic attacks herself, including a poster last week at a Republican Party event which likened her to 9/11 terrorists.
Omar is one of only two Muslim women ever elected to Congress, along with Rep. Rashida Tlaib from Michigan, and they are both the first members of Congress to openly support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. This has made them the targets of an incomparable onslaught of scrutiny and attacks.
The Israeli government has invested millions of dollars in its campaign to combat BDS around the world, and has worked hard (and largely succeeded) to equate BDS – a non-violent tactic to secure Palestinian rights — with antisemitism, arguing that it denies Israel the right to exist. As an Israeli and a Jew, I do not challenge Israel’s right to exist, but I do challenge its right to exist as the Jewish supremacist, undemocratic, violent state that it is. That does not make me an antisemite, and neither does solidarity with the call for BDS.