Daniel Mkpanam

The (latest) Ilhan Omar debacle – explained

The day: Thursday, February 2nd, 2023. The place: Capitol Hill, Washington DC. The occasion: the Republican-controlled House (gee, aren’t they doing a great job?) passes a resolution to remove Ilhan Omar from the very powerful Foreign Affairs Committee.

Pandemonium at the symposium of Democracy ensues, emotions run high and there are some waterworks (mostly from AOC & Tlaib). Republicans point to Omar’s antisemitic remarks (chiefly the ones from the mid to late 2010’s), Democrats accuse Republicans of revenge and targeting Ilhan Omar due to her being a Black Muslim woman, American and non-American Jews alike are reveling with the news on social media, Hakeem Jeffries is getting ratioed on Twitter for sticking up for Omar AND Black people are resurfacing Rashida Tlaib’s “I’ll boo [Hillary]” video.

Yeah I know, that’s… a LOT. So let’s delve into all this.

Let’s start with Representative Ilhan Abdullahi Omar, the “Democratic” congresswoman from Minnesota who’s aligned with the Democratic Socialists of America or DSA for short. One thing that’s very frustrating about this episode is the coverage on Omar’s antisemitism. The media keeps bringing up her comments from 2014-19 (which earned her praise from Mr. Racist himself, that darn tootin’ David Duke) and conveniently leaves out her more recent hits of the 2020s. Sure she apologized for seemingly equating the US and Israel to the Taliban and Hamas but when she does things like this all the time, “apologies” feel like a meaningless formality and a gesture she makes not because she’s genuinely sorry but rather because she’s caught and condemned. Remember when I said she’s aligned with the DSA? Well she supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS for short), like any true DSA stalwart would. I don’t know how else to stress that if you support a movement whose members falsely accuses Israel of practicing apartheid, denies the indisputable evidence of Israel’s Jewish history & demands the Israeli military completely disengage from their occupation of the West Bank (gee, if they did that, what could possibly go wrong?) but you’re against the sanctioning of actual pariah states like Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, Russia and Iran (hey I’ve been hearing a lot about those last two places, what’s goin’ on over there?), then you’re an antisemite. Hey Ilhan, pick a side would ya? You can’t say “I support BDS” and that we should stop relying on sanctions because they’re “part of a failed foreign policy playbook”, we can’t have it all! And whilst we’re here, if you’re surrounded by & supportive of people who spew left-wing antisemitic invective, you’re most likely an antisemite too!

Some would say her send off is due to her being Black, a Woman and a Muslim. Well…there is some truth to that. Omar has unfortunately been a target by Republicans for all sorts of bigotries and has received a host of threats (didn’t help when Trump was president and hurled all sorts of invective at her). But Hakeem Jeffries’ description of the removal as “political revenge” is also apt since House speaker Kevin McCarthy made it explicitly clear this was inspired by the Democratic-controlled House from the previous Congress removing Majorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from committees for using violent rhetoric.

So, okay, say Omar’s committee booting is naked performative politics (it is and I’ll get to that in a sec), this doesn’t erase the fact that Omar genuinely has no damn business serving in that committee (hey, can I say “damn” here?). Her track record is *checks note* voting against a Russian oil ban in 2022, “warned” about sending U.S. Military assistance to Ukraine – describing it as “unpredictable and likely disastrous”, using her platform to spread baseless conspiracies that the ousting of tinpot dictator Evo Morales was a “coup” insinuating it was done by the CIA (the “the CIA was behind it” line is basically leftists’ “my dog ate my homework”), refusing to back a vote on recognizing the Armenian genocide (gosh, she really loves sticking up for the Turkish government, wonder if it’s connected to that pic of her with Erdogan) – demanding the slave trade and Native Americans genocide also be acknowledged (as a Black person whose people and country were greatly affected by slavery, I detest this whataboutism immensely) and there’s also her standing up for Nicholas Maduro – blaming the U.S. for Venezuelan unrest. Believe me, I could go on, but I want to add that her spreading libelous claims about Iranian-American journalist and Women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad rubs me particularly as truly despicable.

Another frustrating thing to witness in this debacle is both sides pointing the finger at the each other, accusing the other party of condoning “real” antisemitism in their ranks. It’s frustrating because BOTH SIDES are trivializing antisemitism as either only a far-left or far-right trait, when in reality BOTH PARTIES are guilty of condoning antisemitism in their respective ranks. Democrats have to deal with a minority of their members who accuse Israel of inciting tensions when in reality the country is defending itself from terrorism and wail when their plans to defund the Iron Dome missile defense system blow up in their collective faces. Not only does accusing the other guys of “real” antisemitism not help, it also shows you irresponsibly partaking in the treatment of Jews as a political football. You’re the party that’s extremely supportive of minorities, you routinely win the Jewish vote, Jewish Americans are an immensely important part of the Democratic coalition, so you know damn well that there is no “worse” antisemitism – leftwing and rightwing antisemitism aid and abet each other – it’s a symbiotic relationship. These leftist antisemites infiltrating your ranks aren’t your friends, they’ve made it clear over the years their mission is to implode your party, they boo you, they have nothing but utter contempt for you, your Black base and your Jewish constituents. You better strategically and pragmatically get rid of them, not because you’ll benefit from it politically but rather because it’s the just and moral thing to do. I say this as a staunch liberal, do better.

But hey now! Looks like I’ve been picking on Democrats, now it’s time to pick on Republicans! If you think the GOP genuinely cares about scolding  antisemites and that this isn’t, as I’ve described, a naked political stunt…you’re dangerously naïve (we’re talking “taking food from strangers” naïve). Because if they suddenly cared about yeeting antisemites from committees then I guess we should expect Greene, Gosar and the man of a million stories – Brazilian bad boy George Santos to be jobless House members soon right? cuz they’re all guilty of some atrocious antisemitism ranging from spreading baseless conspiracy theories about disproportionate Jewish influence to lying about being a descendant of Holocaust survivors to palling around with white supremacist Nick Fuentes. And hey what about that new House majority leader Steve Scalise? I’ve heard all sorts-a stories about Stevey. Rumors bout how he might’ve attended a white supremacist meeting back in ‘02 that was organized by David Duke and what’s hilarious is that’s not the tea. The real tea was Duke threatening to  “name names” if Republicans kept attacking Scalise. I guess in Louisiana all skinhead-folk are kinfolk (or whatever the heck it is they say in New Orleans) cuz Duke’s just looking out for his homeboy Steve. Scalise is reported to have once said he was like Duke but without the baggage (nothing alarming about that at all).

House minority leader, Democratic star and staunch pro-Israel Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York has perhaps been the most blunt about the Omar affair – stating that whilst she had made antisemitic comments, she has been held to account by the Democratic Party where as the Republican Party has not done the same with its members.

Let me conclude my missive by saying we should appreciate the tradition of Congressional theater as our faithful friend Ilhan Omar has just joined a resolution recognizing Israel as a ‘legitimate and democratic ally’. I’m sure she really means it this time you guys!

About the Author
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Daniel attends the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. His interests are in social justice, politics, international relations/diplomacy, soccer and comic books.
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