An exciting new standard in congressional behavior, doubtless to be deployed again — probably more than once — in Ilhan Omar’s defense over the next two years.
PELOSI just told us she did not think @IlhanMN’s comments were “intentionally anti Semitic”
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) March 6, 2019
Three months from now: “Congresswoman Omar assured me that she knew nothing of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion before she began reading from it at that committee hearing and I take her at her word.”
This pitiful excuse would be *slightly* easier to take, as Joel Pollak notes, if Omar hadn’t been tweeting about the influence of AIPAC and “the Benjamins” over U.S. policy towards Israel just last month. At what point does she lose the benefit of the doubt that her comments are only “accidentally” anti-semitic?
And why is she getting a benefit of the doubt to begin with? A Twitter pal noticed a curious trend in media coverage of Omar’s remarks in which it’s repeatedly stressed that she doesn’t “understand” and has a lot to “learn,” as if she’s some developmentally disabled child who arrived in the United States yesterday. On the contrary:
Ilhan Omar is nearly 40, married twice, has 3 kids, was a policy fellow at the University of Minnesota, and serves in the U.S. Congress, and the best defense people can muster for her is to speak about her like she's a child. pic.twitter.com/gJjoSBDi36
— Noam Blum (@neontaster) March 6, 2019
There’s more. It should go without saying that treating Omar as a foreigner to American culture in literally any other context would be attacked as grossly racist, sexist, and “Islamophobic” — but in this singular unusual context where it benefits her to be graded on a curve about her sensitivity towards Jews, it’s perfectly fine. Pelosi’s own allusion to “unintentional” anti-semitism carries a whiff of the same garbage. Why should Omar be presumed to have not fully intended her dual-loyalty charge against supporters of Israel, unless we’re making some sort of allowance that she shouldn’t be expected to follow or understand American cultural norms the way, say, Nancy Pelosi does?
Bernie Sanders also chose to play dumb in commenting on Omar today, not in pretending that she didn’t intend what she said but by pretending that impugning the loyalty of supporters of Israel is some sort of comment on Netanyahu’s government, which it is not:
New: Bernie Sanders speaks out against Ilhan Omar treatment. "What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate. That's wrong.” pic.twitter.com/L9AWvwgbsz
— Daniel Marans (@danielmarans) March 6, 2019
Omar’s problem fundamentally isn’t with Netanyahu and Likud, it’s with the fact that any Israeli government will continue to defend the country’s sovereignty and oppose the right of return. That’s the crux of the left-wing complaint; dual-loyalty smears are just a way of making the grievance a bit more acidic.
By the way, congratulations to Pelosi on being humiliated by the ideologues in her own caucus sooner than Boehner was during his term as Speaker. According to the NYT, the resolution that began as a condemnation of Omar, mutated into a vaguer denunciation of anti-semitism, and at last check had been further watered down into a resolution against “hate” generally now may never see the light of day. The most significant achievement by the new House majority this year might be killing off a statement aimed at reassuring supporters of Israel that they don’t question their loyalty to the United States.
House Democratic leaders have put off a vote on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and bigotry after a backlash from rank-and-file lawmakers who said Representative Ilhan Omar, whose comments gave rise to the measure, was being unfairly singled out.
Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat, told reporters on Wednesday morning that the language of the resolution was still being drafted and no date for a vote had been set.
Pelosi complained a few days ago about moderates in her caucus voting with the GOP on an amendment to the gun-control bill over her wishes. That was embarrassing but ultimately inconsequential; the gun-control bill won’t pass the Senate. More consequential is having the progressives in her caucus rebel over something as basic as denouncing anti-semitic stereotypes and Pelosi and Hoyer being forced to cave to them on it. I don’t know who’ll succeed her as superintendent of this trash pile but it’s not too early to start thinking about it.
Since I mentioned Omar’s tweet about “the Benjamins” up top, I’ll leave you with this data from Gallup. To hear her talk, you’d think that Americans were anti-Israel on balance but that those opinions were being stifled by a Congress whose members had been bought off by AIPAC. The truth is different:
All ideological stripes, even liberal Democrats, sympathize more with Israel than with the Palestinians, and it’s assuredly true that *some* liberals will warm up further once Netanyahu’s government is replaced by something more centrist. Not Ilhan Omar, though.