Given the platform’s brevity, it can be difficult to convey a fleshed-out thought in the form of a tweet. Yet, when she misused the new medium of Twitter to peddle the oldest of anti-Semitic tropes, Representative Ilhan Omar managed to pack millennia of malignant hate within the confines of 280 characters.
Contrary to one of the most egregious fabrications that appears on the timeline of Representative Omar’s Twitter account – as well as the timeline of history – Israel does not “hypnotize” the world, it helps repair it. Omar need not look any further than the very countries which comprise her inspiring biography to find beneficiaries of Israel’s benevolence. In Somalia, from which Omar and her family fled amid a civil war, a “delegation of Israeli volunteers, masking their Jewish identities” discreetly arrived at a refugee camp on behalf of the Jerusalem AIDS Project to provide relief. IsraAID – an Israeli-based agency which has provided vital support to millions in nearly 50 countries worldwide – also led a mission to bring food and water to Somalians who crossed the border to escape the famine.
As part of its first initiative in Kenya, meanwhile, IsraAID sent “emergency relief teams to support those fleeing violence and famine” in the Dadaab refugee camp where Omar lived for four years. The Israeli organization currently supports the “physical and psychological needs of the 160,000 refugees living in Kakuma Camp” by providing medical equipment, food supplements for malnourished children, pediatric and emergency training, a dental clinic, as well as child resource centers. Elsewhere in the country, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) rescued survivors of the 1998 terrorist attack on the United States embassy and rushed a team to assist those trapped under the rubble of a collapsed Nairobi building – two of the IDF’s 27 humanitarian missions. Israel, as reports detail, also took “the leading role among foreign countries in aiding and advising Kenyan forces after al-Shabaab Islamist extremists attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.”
And right here in the U.S., where Omar made history to become the first Somali-American, Muslim legislator, IsraAID deploys emergency response teams to implement rescue and relief operations in the aftermath of natural disasters across America – from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, where the IDF also “coordinated the transfer of 80 tons of humanitarian aid supplies,” to Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey. All from a country smaller than the size of this state.
Indeed, the three backdrops of Omar’s own life story help tell the tale of Israel’s humanitarianism, which spans more than 140 countries around the world. Accordingly, Israel, as with Minnesota, can also be described as the “North Star State,” for its compassion illuminates the country as the brightest light in a Middle East region defined by darkness; in a Middle East region which can use as much of the “Human Dignity and Liberty” guaranteed by the very name of Israel’s Basic Laws – their equivalent of our Bill of Rights – as it can get.
For all of Israel’s contributions to our world, however, it is important to note that its government – which will be shaped by its citizens tomorrow as the Middle East’s only true democracy – is certainly not above reproach. But Omar seems to be within her own party. House Democratic leadership continues to provide Omar’s hate speech with nicer accommodations than guests receive at the King David Hotel – defying calls to remove her from the Foreign Affairs Committee and diluting a resolution to condemn her anti-Semitism. Only compounding Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s belief that Omar’s slurs were not “intended in an anti-Semitic way,” top-tier Democratic presidential candidates like Senator Bernie Sanders see in Omar’s words nothing more than “legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel.” These types of excuses are as inaccurate as they are immoral, for they utterly ignore the fact that Omar directed her most vile vitriol at the power of Jewish people’s money, not at the policies of the Jewish state’s prime minister; that Omar tweeted “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby” – not “It’s all about the Benjamin Netanyahus, baby.”
Given the recent revelation that far too many congressional Democrats are either unwilling or unable to hold their colleague accountable, Minnesota voters must assume that responsibility next November – for Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitism belongs in a history book, not in the Congressional Record.