On March 7, Democrats in Congress, after much back and forth within their ranks, passed a resolution, which should have been addressed solely against anti-semitism, given the outrageous recent comments by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN), but was watered down to address “all forms of hate”, not just anti-semitism but Islamophobia and white supremacy. Twenty three Republicans voted against the resolution in protest against the whitewashing of Omar’s statements. Omar was not even mentioned in the resolution.
Also on the same day, Linda Sarsour, a notorious Palestinian-American anti-semite and so-called feminist, showed up on Capitol Hill. As she and her pals from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) walked into the office of Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), another Palestinian-American anti-semite, CAIR goons blocked off Muslim reformer Asra Nomani, who was attempting to pose questions to Sarsour. Also present at the incident was the CEO of CAIR, Nihad Awad.
Democrats in Congress showed extreme cowardice in the name of political correctness. Rather than issue a single focus resolution that was necessary because of anti-Jewish statements by one of their own, who happens to be a Somali-American Muslim, the Democrats chose to punt. The various minority caucuses within the Democratic party refused to support the resolution unless it included references to white supremacists and Islamophobia. Thus, the entire message was lost, and Ms Omar, who caused all this fuss to begin with, was not even mentioned.
Let us be clear: Had Congress been drafting a resolution in a response to the burning of a mosque or a massacre carried out against black people by the Ku Klux Klan, those issues should have been specifically and solely addressed. The idea of a resolution was only brought up because of the furor caused by Omar’s intolerant statements about American Jews having divided loyalties between the US and Israel. Those comments conjured up old tropes about American Jews that are untrue.
Too many times I have seen this scene play out. During my 18 years (1998-2016) teaching part-time at the University of California at Irvine, I saw first-hand the anti-Jewish activism disguised as human rights activism in the name of the Palestinians. One thing I have learned is that most anti-Jewish feeling in the world today, whether it be in the Middle East, Europe or America is driven by Islamic elements. That is not to accuse all Muslims; the aforementioned Ms Nomani is an example of a tolerant Muslim.
Yet there is a real reluctance on the left and even within parts of the American Jewish community to point the finger at the worst perpetrators of today’s anti-semitism. It is much more convenient for liberal Jews to single out fringe elements like the KKK or Neo-Nazis as being the main culprits when it comes to Jew hatred. Even Trump supporters are blamed for anti-semitism. For the record, I condemn the neo-Nazis and KKK, while at the same time I reject the accusation that Trump supporters represent any significant portion of American anti-semites if at all. Trump’s own support for Israel puts the lie to that.
But it is undeniable that the left refuses to address Islamic anti-semitism. I offer some personal examples.
In May of 2010, a radical Oakland imam, Amir Abdel Malik Ali, spoke at the University of California at Irvine, as he had for the previous several years on behalf of the UCI Muslim Student Union. I was present. During his talk, he accused Jewish members of the audience of being the “new Nazis.” For years, we had been pleading with the university administration to condemn anti-semitic speech on campus. Finally, the chancellor, Michael Drake, issued a campus-wide statement that stated that a speaker had made statements that did not reflect the values of the campus. Yet, Drake did not name the speaker, the offensive comments, the targeted group, the event, or the sponsoring student organization. What was the purpose?
Also, in January 2017, just after President Trump had taken office, I attended an event at the Jewish Temple Bat Yahm in Newport Beach, California that was dedicated to fighting anti-semitism and Islamophobia. All the usual suspects from the left were present including local imams, rabbis, the Jewish Federation of Orange County, and the Anti-Defamation League. It might be noted here that Temple Bat Yahm is located mere blocks away from UC Irvine, where anti-semitism in Orange County has seen its worst moments. Yet while speaker after speaker-including UCI officials-condemned Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and assorted white nationalists, not one word was said about Islamic anti-semitism.
Similarly, after years of complaints, the University of California Regents drafted a new Statement of Principles Against Intolerance that was supposed to specifically addresss anti-semitism on campus. It took months of attending regents’ working group meetings and making our case before the statement was finally passed in 2016. The original draft version would have simply condemned all forms of hate. Our side refused to accept such watered down language. Exactly as in the Omar case, the entire reason such a statement was needed was because of specific complaints of campus anti-semitism that had gone back years. The pro-Palestinian lobby fought us every step of the way. Has the statement been effective in stopping incidents of campus anti-semitism? Not in my view, unfortunately.
If anything positive has come out of the circus in Washington this week, anti-semitism is in the national spotlight. That in itself is an accomplishment considering the frustration so many of us have experienced just to get campus anti-semitism on University of California campuses to the attention of the respective Jewish communities. That is only half the battle, however. We have to be able to openly identify all purveyors of anti-semitism, not just some.