At least James Clyburn gave Ilhan Omar some credit for agency. Nancy Pelosi, who’s pushing an “All Hate Matters” strategy to protect her frosh caucus member, contradicts Clyburn’s “hierarchy of hurt” defense that Allahpundit rightly skewered in the previous post. Pelosi tried explaining it away as unintentional ignorance rather than repeated and malicious attacks on Jews who don’t agree with Omar:
NEW: Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Rep. Ilhan Omar: "I don't think that the congresswoman perhaps appreciates the full weight of how it was heard by other people, although I don't believe it was intended in any anti-Semitic way." https://t.co/JQGNCG3tlF pic.twitter.com/JVuHrC5eOv
— ABC News (@ABC) March 7, 2019
“I do not believe that she understood the full weight of the words,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says about Rep. Ilhan Omar’s controversial comments on Israel.
— CNN (@CNN) March 7, 2019
Ahem. How can one allege that “it’s all about the Benjamins” and that Jews are less than loyal to the US and have it not be intended in an “anti-Semitic way”? If she “didn’t appreciate the full weight” of the first remark, for which Pelosi forced her to apologize, shouldn’t Omar have realized it with the latest remark — for which Omar now refuses to apologize, even after having it explained to her?
That assumes a lack of agency for Omar that doesn’t necessarily comport with reality. For one thing, Omar isn’t some naïf lost in an unknown political wilderness. She’s 38 years old, not 19, and has been involved in electoral politics for six years, having managed a campaign for a Minneapolis city councilman in 2013. She won her election to the state legislature in 2016 and then served as Assistant Minority Leader for the DFL in that session. She was savvy enough last year to use “Islamophobia” as a cover when a Republican House member of harassing her when he accused her of misusing campaign funds.
If Omar hasn’t learned that lesson by now, it’s time she did so, one of Pelosi’s former colleagues declared today. There’s room to criticize Israel’s policies without accusing American Jews of disloyalty when they disagree, former Chicago mayor and Congressman Rahm Emanuel writes today in The Atlantic. That’s a lesson that Ilhan Omar should have learned by now, Emanuel writes, and her voicing of the “ugliest stereotypes about Jews” is flat-out anti-Semitic:
First, when questioning longstanding congressional support for Israel, she blamed the campaign money provided by pro-Israel supporters. “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” she tweeted.
After apologizing for those comments and acknowledging her need to be “educated,” she followed with another tweet questioning the “allegiance” of supporters of Israel, intimating that we place the concerns of Israel above those of the country that we call home.
No one is questioning the right of members of Congress and others to criticize Israeli policies. But Omar is crossing a line that should not be crossed in political discourse. Her remarks are not anti-Israel; they are anti-Semitic.
Whether consciously or not, Representative Omar is repeating some of the ugliest stereotypes about Jews—tropes that have been unleashed by anti-Semites throughout history. She is casting Jewish Americans as the other, suggesting a dual loyalty that calls our devotion to America into question.
While Emanuel goes out of his way to allow for Omar’s potential for growth on this issue, he’s not falling under Kamala Harris’ spell about potential for harm. Emanuel treads carefully by focusing his ire on her statements as anti-Semitic rather than calling Omar herself anti-Semitic. Emanuel also calls out Islamophobia in his piece, but frames it as something that deserves direct criticism when it occurs rather than getting buried in an ambiguous “All Hate Matters” approach.
“It’s time for Omar to learn that lesson,” Emanuel concludes. Not according to Pelosi, who’s now doing her best to run interference for Omar with this All Hate Matters strategy rather than focusing on Omar’s specific peccadilloes. “It’s not about her,” Pelosi added today, “it’s about these forms of hatred.” If Omar’s airing those forms of hatred, however, why isn’t it about her?
Omar won’t apologize again, nor will she have to do so now that Omar has rallied progressives around her. That, by the way, is literally what happened yesterday:
Leaving CBC meeting, members formed a circle around @IlhanMN and Marcia Fudge literally stuck her arm out to prevent reporters from asking her questions.
Then a few members hugged Omar, including Al Lawson.
— Melanie Zanona (@MZanona) March 6, 2019
What’s wrong with reporters asking questions? She’s a member of Congress https://t.co/vOZutOQ1vb
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) March 6, 2019
Is it really time for Omar to “learn that lesson”? Emanuel’s fellow Democrats appear to disagree. Perhaps he might want to ask Nancy Pelosi for an explanation.
Addendum: The vote on Pelosi’s All Hate Matters resolution, for what it’s worth, will likely take place today.
Update: Reworded the first sentence referring to agency for better precision. Clyburn didn’t give Omar agency, he gave her some credit for her own agency.