Yitzhak Santis
The Santis Clause
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Was Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s apology sincere?

Omar's support for BDS undermines her apology
Ilhan Omar, then a candidate for US Congress, speaks at a Hillary for Minnesota event at the University of Minnesota in October 2016. (Lorie Shaull/Flickr/via JTA)
Ilhan Omar, then a candidate for US Congress, speaks at a Hillary for Minnesota event at the University of Minnesota in October 2016. (Lorie Shaull/Flickr/via JTA)

In 2012, now Congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted the following, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine #Israel.” Upon being elected to Congress last November, this tweet came back to haunt her. She justly received sharp criticism from Jews and non-Jews alike. On January 22, Omar tweeted a lengthy apology in response to an op-ed by Bari Weiss, a New York Times editor, who took Omar to task. Was this true contrition, or a politician’s deflection?

Weiss wrote, “The conspiracy theory of the Jew as the hypnotic conspirator, the duplicitous manipulator, the sinister puppeteer is one with ancient roots and a bloody history… Contrary to Ms. Omar’s tweet — the Jewish state is not engaged in ‘evil doings,’ but defending itself against the enemies pressing on all of its borders, including Hamas, which has genocide of the Jews, and a belief in Jewish manipulative power, at the heart of its ideology…”

Omar’s apology started with, “In all sincerity, it was after my CNN interview that I heard from Jewish orgs. that my use of the word ‘Hypnotize’ and the ugly sentiment it holds was offensive.” It then continued as a lengthy series of tweets explaining her views on war.

But, Omar also used the phrase “evil doings” in her 2012 tweet. The word “evil” has theological connotations. Ascribing “evil doings” to Jews (including the Jewish state) echoes the anti-Jewish theologies that attribute an essential trait to “the Jews,” such as being demonic, greedy, manipulative, conspiratorial. These essentialist themes are not confined to Christianity’s ancient Adversos Judeaos (literally “against the Jews”) polemics. Today all too many Muslim clerics utter these ideas using Qu’ranic references in their efforts to rile up support against Israel among their publics.

If this episode was the only incident, Omar’s apology could have been the start of a more honest dialogue. Unfortunately, there is much more since her apology does not address her bait-and-switch position on BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions).

During the election campaign Omar told an audience at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, Minnesota (watch the video) that BDS was “not helpful in getting that two-state solution… Because in order for us to have a process to getting to a two-state solution, people need to be willing to come to the table… I think that (BDS) stops the dialogue.”

After the election her tune changed entirely. Her campaign told MuslimGirl.com that “Ilhan believes in and supports the BDS movement.”

Then there is Omar’s tweet in May 2018, during the election campaign but before her synagogue appearance in August: “Drawing attention to the apartheid Israeli regime is far from hating Jews,” she wrote.

The “apartheid” smear is one of the BDS movement’s main thematic cognitive weapons deployed to delegitimize Israel and its main supporters, Jewish communities worldwide. This indicates that Omar is familiar with the language of BDS and is comfortable in using it as representative of her own beliefs.

Omar said in the synagogue that she supported “two-states.” But, does she? She supports BDS and BDS opposes two-states. It effectively calls for Israel’s dismantlement as a Jewish and democratic state with its demand for a “right of return” of all Palestinian refugees and their three generations of millions of descendants. BDS wants to destroy Israel by weaponizing demographics and transforming Israel into a Sunni Muslim Arab majority state where Jews will be a powerless minority.

Calling for Israel’s destruction is antisemitic. Why? Because BDS tells Jews, a historically oppressed and powerless people that suffered genocide in the 20th century and before, that peace can only come if they are once again rendered powerless. BDS says that Jews, once more, must become a vulnerable minority in all places in a world of resurgent antisemitism that includes marching white supremacists from Charlottesville to Germany, and radical Islamism, a global antisemitic and violent mass movement. BDS says that Jews must be a minority in an Arab Muslim majority state despite the total destruction of Jewish communities in ten other Arab states whose governments ethnically cleansed about 850,000 Jews between 1948-1970. That is antisemitic.

In this context, Omar’s post-election flip-flop on BDS, after lying to a Jewish audience in a Jewish space, makes her apology to Bari Weiss ring utterly hollow.

About the Author
Yitzhak Santis is a Senior Writer and Analyst at StandWithUs and a free-lance writer. He made Aliyah in 2011 from the San Francisco Bay Area where he was Middle East Affairs director at the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco. He lives on Kibbutz Hannaton in the Galilee.
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