By Susan Shapiro
As a liberal writer and teacher, I applauded the House vote to condemn President Donald Trump’s comments that Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar should “go back” to where they came from.
I was outraged by the nasty language Trump used to encourage a mostly white Republican crowd at a North Carolina campaign rally to chant “Send her back!” It seemed ignorant because three of the congresswomen were born in this country; Omar was a Somali refugee who became a U.S. citizen in 2000. The racist words sickened me, and Omar had my solidarity and sympathy — until she reacted to the rare show of Democratic unity in repudiation of Trump by ramping up her own racism.
A day after supporters cheered her at her hometown airport in Minnesota, Omar told CBS’ Gayle King she had no regrets for her past anti-Semitic slurs. She’d tweeted that Israel “has hypnotized the world. May Allah awaken the People and help them see the evil doings of Israel,” and that congressional support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins, baby,” perpetuating stereotypes about Jews, money and influence. She stepped up her position, pushing a pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions bill against Israel.
As a left-wing Jew, I know it’s possible to be pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, for peace and for a two-state solution, as I am. You can criticize Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s settlement policies and not hate everything Hebrew. I’ve denounced Trump’s slander against black, Latino, gay and trans people, immigrants and Islamic countries, and co-authored a book on the horrific Muslim genocide in Bosnia. Yet I’m stunned that blatant bigotry against Jewish people somehow gets a pass.
“The BDS movement is, at its heart, intent on the destruction of Israel,” said Deborah E. Lipstadt in her book Antisemitism: Here and Now. Indeed, BDS co-founder and Palestinian Omar Barghouti is opposed to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. You can’t get more racist than saying an entire people should cease to exist. After I published an op-ed against NYU’s involvement with BDS, I received a threatening postcard in the mail at home. Someone had cut a picture of my head and pasted it onto a pro-Palestinian protester. The Anti-Defamation League was not surprised by the intimidation tactics, common for BDS. The United States and Europe have shut down 30 BDS accounts with links to terror groups.
While I understand college students taken in by the underdog myth, older leftists seem indifferent to BDS propaganda that pretends to be about Israeli government. BDS masks the kind of Jew-hatred that fueled Adolf Hitler’s murdering crusade — one reason we needed a safe Jewish haven to begin with.
If you doubt BDS’ bias against Jews, consider why it denies the existence of the one Jewish state in the world while ignoring human rights violations in 50 Muslim-majority nations without challenging any Islamic country’s right to exist. I don’t see Omar boycotting Saudi Arabia’s honor killings, beheadings or the lashing of rape victims for adultery.
Omar has denied being anti-Semitic, but her ongoing vendetta against Jews seems irrational. When I read Ayaan Hirsi Ali, another Muslim Somalian who was elected to Dutch Parliament, explain how she was raised in Somalia to be a virulent anti-Semite, indoctrinated with anti-Zionism that she is only slowly learning to overcome, I wished Omar would follow suit.
The answer to hatred and race baiting is not more hate and racial division. By pushing her intolerance and bias against Jews, Omar is alienating obvious allies and further splintering her own party. Paradoxically, she’s only helping bolster the real enemy against her: Trump’s white nationalism.
Susan Shapiro, a New School professor, is co-author of The Bosnia List and author of The Byline Bible. This article originally appeared in Newsday.