Profiles in Cowardice

Anti-Semitism is not a partisan issue. We are talking about the Democratic Party now because a Democratic Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar (D-MN), has made it a problem for her colleagues and provoked House leaders to propose a resolution condemning anti-Semitism.

Elsewhere I wrote a column asking whether Democrats would chose morality or political expediency in dealing with Omar. We got our answer when the resolution was neutered, first by condemning anti-Semitism without mentioning her and then by diluting it in a seven-page condemnation of all forms of bigotry. Identity politics triumphed over common sense and decency as the party that wants to be known for tolerance could not bring itself to simply condemn Jew-hatred.

The Democrats clearly want to move beyond the inconvenience their colleague created, but Jews and other people of good will should pound their members from now until 2020 for their weak response to the cancer of anti-Semitism that is growing in their party, in their House and in our nation. Democrats no doubt take Jewish votes for granted as we have reliably voted overwhelmingly for the party; nevertheless, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is not the only person who knows how to make lists.

Here is just a sample of the profiles in cowardice of members who deserve to feel the wrath of Jewish voters. Notice all the examples where a member says they are concerned with anti-Semitism followed by a “but” (emphasis added).

Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) told leadership that there must be “equity in our outrage” and falsely asserted Omar was being criticized because she was a Muslim. “We need to denounce all forms of hate,” she said. “There is no hierarchy of hurt.”

Yes, we can find many examples of bigotry, however, the only ones being hurt by Omar were Jews.

“We are all responsible for what we say, and there are consequences, whether it is this resolution or something else,” Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said. “But there is a double standard we have to be aware of. The level of condemnation on Ms. Omar has been really intense.”

Oh really? Was it too intense to point out her anti-Semitic views? Would you complain about the intensity of condemning other forms of bigotry? What is the appropriate level of intensity to address someone who repeatedly expresses her prejudice and supports a movement (BDS) that seeks the destruction of the only Jewish state?

Ignoring her support of BDS, and plainly anti-Semitic remarks, Steny Hoyer (D-MD) incredibly stated, “I don’t think she’s anti-Semitic.”

Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA) didn’t believe the House should bother condemning any form of prejudice, preferring instead to focus on what he considers more pressing matters, such as the treatment of young black men by the police.

Wait, isn’t that a form of bigotry too?

Unsurprisingly, Ocasio-Cortez offered this apologia on Twitter: “Unlike this President, Rep. @IlhanMN demonstrated a capacity to acknowledge pain & apologize, use the opportunity to learn abt history of antisemitism, +grow from it while clarifying her stance.”

True, then Omar made new incendiary remarks.

Even Eliot Engel (D-NY), who had forcefully condemned Omar, caved into the pressure. “I condemn all forms of hatred,” said Engel. “We’re talking about anti-Semitism because my colleague said some very hurtful things. But I think we need to be aware all attempts to demean any group of people, whether it’s Muslims or LGBT people. We have to be very strong and forceful in condemning it.”

Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) couldn’t bring himself to take a position on the original resolution. He said Omar’s statements were “obviously” wrong, but he needed to “evaluate the resolution” before committing to supporting it.

In addition to OAC, others took the position that the focus should be on the Republicans. “To craft a resolution based off of Ilhan to me is unfortunate when the Congress has yet to condemn Republican members who have a history of anti-Jewish sentiment,” remarked fellow Muslim Andre Carson (D-IN).

Not surprisingly, several of the Democratic candidates for president piped in. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) bought into the lie that Omar was being silenced for her views on Israel. “Branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic has a chilling effect on our public discourse and makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians,” she said in a statement.

Bernie Sanders chimed in on the same theme. “What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate.”

Here’s a guy who criticizes Israel with impunity who has the chutzpah to suggest debate on Israel is being somehow limited. Have you read the New York Times, watched TV or gone to a college campus Bernie?

“We all have a responsibility to speak out against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and all forms of hatred and bigotry, especially as we see a spike in hate crimes in America,” said Kamala Harris. “But, like some of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, I am concerned that the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk.”

Does she get a pass because criticizing her somehow puts her at risk? Risk of what exactly?

For me, the winning profile in cowardice goes to a Jewish member, Andy Levin (D-MI), who said, “I’ve been dealing with anti-Semitism since early grade school.” But it is just “part of the air and water in this country like racism and Islamophobia are.” He said he has no tolerance for anti-Semitism, but “I will not single out a new person who is just getting here.”

Why didn’t we all realize she’s new in town and doesn’t know better than to repeatedly make anti-Semitic remarks and support the delegitimization of Israel before she arrived?

Ultimately, the decision on the language was up to Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). She skillfully won her election to become Speaker and has now forfeited her power to appease extremists in her party. Pelosi made the mindboggling statement that she did not believe Omar’s intent was anti-Semitic; she simply didn’t understand the impact of her words. This was after Omar had already been rebuked for her anti-Semitic remarks and then doubled down on them. After being pounded by members of her identity politics coalition, however, Pelosi concluded “the resolution should enlarge the issue to anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacy.”

It is worth noting one exception to the spineless Democrats cited above. Ted Deutch (D-FL) said, “When a colleague invokes anti-Semitic lies three times, then this body must condemn anti-Semitism.” Responding to the push to expand the resolution, he added, “Anti-Semitism is worthy of being condemned on its own.”

Mark Mellman, who recently formed Democratic Majority for Israel, put it best. “As active, loyal Democrats, we find it sad, and frankly disconcerting, that House Democrats cannot agree to a resolution condemning anti-Semitism,” he said. “Let’s be very clear: the issue at stake here is anti-Semitism, not support for, or opposition to, any policy of the Israeli government. Congresswoman Omar’s remarks did not mention a single policy pursued by the Government of Israel.”

All of Omar’s defenders, and the chilling of free speech crowd, ignored that minor point.

Through their actions the Democrats have contributed to the normalization of anti-Semitism by reducing it to just another form of bigotry and providing an anti-Semite a home in a House full of enablers.

About the Author
Dr Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and a foreign policy analyst who lectures frequently on U.S.-Middle East policy. Dr. Bard is the director of the Jewish Virtual Library, the world's most comprehensive online encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture. He is also the author/editor of 24 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.
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