Kamala Harris: Focusing on Ilhan Omar's anti-semitism is dangerous to her

It ain’t every day that a congresswoman pushes stereotypes implicating a famously persecuted minority group and we’re told that she’s the one being put in danger in the uproar. Jews are a clear majority of the victims of religious-based hate crimes in America and their lead in that category has grown in the last few years. It was less than six months ago that a white nationalist massacred 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. A politician openly questioning the patriotic allegiance of supporters of the Jewish state isn’t typically seen as a victim.

But Omar is a progressive and a Muslim and a woman of color, and so in any controversy in which she’s involved she enjoys victim status irrespective of the facts. Harris is just following the rules of the Woke Olympics here.

Needless to say, the trash that marched through Charlottesville would not have persuaded critics by arguing, “Your spotlight on my anti-semitism is dangerous to me.”

“By criticizing the people criticizing Rep. Omar, isn’t Kamala Harris putting them at risk?,” asks Ken White, only half-jokingly extending Harris’s reasoning. Note the line in her statement too about the “difference between criticism of policy and political leaders, and anti-Semitism.” That’s true, there is a difference. But no matter how much she and Bernie Sanders want to pretend that Omar is being attacked for saying something mean about Benjamin Netanyahu or the settlements, it just ain’t true. It was her claim about divided allegiances among Israel’s supporters that set all of this off, not anything about policy. She and Sanders are using that as a fig leaf because they’re terrified of criticizing her. Too much progressive detritus in this country supports her right now for a Democratic presidential candidate to risk pissing them off.

Dave Weigel made a smart point yesterday about what the Omar matter is really about, although maybe not the one he intended:

What Weigel’s getting at, I assume, is that a white midwesterner with a name like “Betty McCollum” can get away with all sorts of anti-Israel rhetoric that a black Muslim born in Somalia named “Ilhan Omar” can’t. But as various Israeli supporters pointed out to him, it’s more the case that McCollum gets away with it because she doesn’t stoop to stereotypes about dual loyalties among Israel’s supporters. She sticks to policy because she seems to understand, as Harris and Sanders only pretend to, that you can be anti-Netanyahu without being anti-semitic.

Batya Ungar-Sargon, opinion editor at the left-wing Jewish-American newspaper Forward, writes today that “The Left Is Making Jews Choose: Our Progressive Values Or Ourselves.”

[A]bove all, when Jews hear racist stereotypes, the onus is on us to not go “nuclear” and to stay silent, to reach out to the offender privately (again and again and again and again) and if that doesn’t work, to never, ever involve the authorities.

This, too, is familiar to us. Resentment against Jews for seeking the protection of a sovereign – and for the rare times that we got it – is just as much a staple of our history as the ugly tropes Omar seems incapable of refraining from using.

Are Jews supposed to stay in a progressive movement that resents us for standing up for ourselves? That has leaders who are “hurt” when they see Congress defend us? A movement that is lionizing a woman for the fact that she has offended us?

Ungar-Sargon wrote that before Harris issued her statement this afternoon, I believe, but “resentment against Jews for seeking the protection of a sovereign” does sound more than a bit like Harris claiming that Omar is the one being victimized here, not them.

This is what Democratic presidential politics is now, though, especially for Harris. As noted earlier, it was members of the Congressional Black Caucus who stood up for Omar in this morning’s caucus meeting with Pelosi, with CBC chair Karen Bass allegedly resolved to oppose any resolution denouncing Omar by name. Competition within the 2020 field for black primary votes will be fierce; Harris can’t afford to make needless enemies of influential black legislators with Bernie Sanders trying to launch a charm offensive aimed at black voters, with the VP to the first black president likely to jump in soon, and with another black candidate in Cory Booker already running hard. If the CBC has decided that protecting Omar is a priority for them then it’s a priority for Harris too. Hence the pitiful statement she just issued claiming victimhood for the stereotyper.

By the way, at last check the House resolution being prepared by Democrats had been rewritten to condemn “all hate” instead of Omar specifically or anti-semitism generally. As a hundred different conservatives pointed out this afternoon upon hearing that, the left bristled when righties countered “Black Lives Matter” protests by insisting that “all lives matter.” You’re missing the point, the right was told; it’s because black lives are undervalued relative to others that protesters need to emphasize their value specifically. The shoe is on the other foot in the House resolution, with the loyalty of Israel’s supporters having been singled out by Omar as worthy of special skepticism. Initially the resolution aimed to rebuke that point specifically. Now that it’s been watered down to the equivalent of “all lives matter,” it’s not really rebuking anything. What a fiasco.