In January and February of this year, two remarkable things occurred in the US. In January, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was appointed Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights for the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In February, Ms. Omar gave an interview to Al-Araby TV in Qatar in which she encouraged President Joe Biden to support the referral of Israeli officials to the International Criminal Court (ICC). A sitting member of the US Congress is calling for Israelis to be tried for war crimes, all while ignoring Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists who have instigated every war they have fought against Israel. And, while the US has rightly affirmed that the ICC has no jurisdiction in Israel or the Palestinian Territories, this development is still very concerning.
The Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel (IBSI) has no intention of launching personal attacks against Ilhan Omar or any other person for that matter. However, IBSI will not shy away from telling the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for some. Ilhan Omar, who has a history of blatant anti-Israel bias including support for BDS, is receiving very little pushback from the broader pro-Israel community. Omar has repeatedly engaged in long-standing disinformation campaigns against the Jewish State, campaigns that help fuel the global ideological war against Israel.
After the Durban Conference on Racism in 2001, very few people took the claims of Israeli apartheid and calls for BDS seriously. What was remarkable about that conference is that it took place in South Africa – ground zero for what is and what isn’t apartheid – and that it was the first conference of its kind on the African continent. What should have been a warning of the antisemitic nature of this conference, though subtle, was its focus on Israel. This focus, “not only damaged the Jewish State, it emboldened Mideast extremists, empowered anti-Semites, and stained the image of self-appointed caretakers of ‘Civil Society.’”
The US withdrew from the Durban Conference, a decision that very clearly had bipartisan support. Yet, today, BDS has become one of the greatest ideological threats against the Jewish State. Members of the US Congress alleging that Israelis are war criminals is unconscionable, yet here we are. Giving Ilhan Omar a pass for her recent utterances would be a grave mistake. If we have learned anything from 2001, it’s that what may seem preposterous today can easily become legislation and an Ethnic Studies Curriculum Model tomorrow.
IBSI is committed to helping foster strong Africa-Israel ties as well as Black-Jewish ties. This includes encouraging all nations to maintain good relations with free and democratic Israel, including Israel’s No. 1 ally, the United States. The continued bipartisan leadership by the US government in relations with Israel has encouraged African nations to strengthen their diplomatic ties with Israel. Following the move by the US of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Malawi and Equatorial Guinea announced their intention to do the same. The recent signing of the Abraham Accords ushered the normalization of relations with Israel by several countries in the Middle East and Africa, including Sudan, Morocco and Zimbabwe.
Ilhan Omar, a Somali immigrant to the US and the first African refugee to become a member of Congress, is the potential embodiment of much of what IBSI aspires. Sadly, an influential and successful Somali-American woman and elected official who constantly demonizes Israel is another example of Black anti-Zionism which has far too often negatively impacted the Black American community. This constant demonization and public support of BDS does not bode well for Africa’s well-being; the water fiasco in the South African city of Cape Town being just one example.
IBSI will not remain quiet while Rep. Omar uses her increasing influence in Washington, DC to attack and malign Israel. For Africa, Israel, and the world, history teaches us that there is simply too much at stake.