Louis Fine

I’m from Ilhan Omar’s district, but she doesn’t represent me

Her support of BDS legislation is anti-Semitic, which contradicts our national values of liberty and justice for all
Rep. Ilhan Omar is seen at a news conference on prescription drugs at the Capitol, in Washington, DC, on January 10, 2019. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Rep. Ilhan Omar is seen at a news conference on prescription drugs at the Capitol, in Washington, DC, on January 10, 2019. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Jewish community of Minnesota’s fifth congressional district (MNCD5), myself included, largely feels unfairly represented by US Representative Ilhan Omar, given her repeated anti-Semitic statements, her support for BDS, and the pro-BDS legislation which she has recently introduced to Congress. Due to a centuries-old, historical, and especially post-Holocaust mentality, however, many of us are afraid to speak up out of fear that there will ultimately be violent reprisals for daring to stand firm in opposition to anti-Semitism. And this silence allows loud, misguided fringe groups to mischaracterize how we truly feel. It also allows them to invoke the Holocaust to describe everything but anti-Semitism.

The Boycott Divestment Sanctions Movement (BDS) is a dishonest, hateful, anti-Semitic, ahistorical movement which seeks to internationally wage economic and diplomatic war on the Jewish state of Israel, while simultaneously promoting discrimination against all Jews everywhere. BDS has been condemned by many American leaders, including, but not limited to House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer; and many international leaders, including, but not limited to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Most recently, Congress overwhelmingly and bipartisanly passed a resolution condemning the BDS movement. Only 17 legislators voted against the resolution. US Representative Ilhan Omar was one of them.

Unfortunately there are some leaders who are more concerned with representing themselves and their personal politics than representing their people. US Representative Ilhan Omar has demonstrated that she is one of these leaders, and even if you wanted to make the case that she is creating representation for Somalis, Muslims, and or POC (a case which many Somalis, Muslims, and POC would take issue with), she clearly chooses to discriminate against Jews, all the while campaigning on the idea that she is standing up for “all” of her constituents, including minorities and the marginalized.

She runs ads to this effect. Even the “About” page of her congressional website says she “is committed to fighting for the shared values of the 5th district,” and that she plans to “resist attempts to divide us” and “build a more inclusive and compassionate culture.” Obviously none of that can be true when she falsely accuses American Jews of dual loyalty, pushing allegiance to a foreign country, buying out politicians, aiding an apartheid state and hypnotizing the world.

It cannot be true if, as a candidate, she tells her Jewish constituency about how she recognizes that “anti-Semitism is well and alive,” how she supports a two-state solution, and how BDS “isn’t helpful” toward that goal, and then as an elected official reaffirms her support for BDS, says she chuckles at the idea of a Jewish state, and pushes pro-BDS legislation that compares Israel, home to the world’s largest Jewish population, to Nazi Germany, and attempts to justify and legitimize the right to discriminate against Jews worldwide.

And it especially cannot be true if, after the national outcry against her clearly anti-Semitic statements, she says in an interview that she not only does not regret her words, but that she is grateful to learn how they make people feel. This is not an apology, but an affirmation of her bigoted positions against Jews and Israel.

I, a proud American Jew, have two words for US Representative Ilhan Omar and anyone else who seeks to normalize her anti-Semitic statements and legislation: “Never again.”

Many in MNCD5, across the political, cultural, and religious spectrum, share this perspective with me, but are discouraged to organize because of partisan, identity politics — rightfully frustrated because they shouldn’t have to choose between fighting anti-Semitism and getting the other policies they care about. For this reason, I am leading a peaceful, non-partisan protest rally outside the state capitol. Anti-Semitism is a much wider problem than partisan politics, and we need to correct the narrative. We are not represented by US Representative Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic statements and legislation.

US Representative Ilhan Omar should step up to the ideals of a leader that embraces the American values of liberty and justice for all. Fighting for shared values, resisting attempts at division, building an inclusive and compassionate culture, and representing all of her constituents, including minorities and the marginalized. The mainstream media needs to stop covering for her discriminatory behavior, and Congress needs to turn their simple, nonbinding, bipartisan resolution against BDS into an official bill that prohibits BDS from US policy while leaving the diplomatic solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict to be determined by the parties involved.

We have many pressing issues that we must work together to resolve, but we cannot do that if we tolerate leaders like US Representative Ilhan Omar, who promote bigotry and discrimination. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, we cannot satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. It will not put us on the path to a better America, nor a better world.

About the Author
Louis Fine is part of the Minnesota Jewish Coalition. A graduate from the University of Minnesota in journalism, he is a filmmaker and Chief Creative Officer of Elluette GBC.
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