Because your base hates Israel, man. They’re not going to support punishing a progressive who plays rough with supporters of the Jewish state, even if “playing rough” in this case means old smears about dual loyalty. They want more political space to attack Israel’s advocates, not less. If that means protecting anti-semites then that’s what it means.
Glad I could clear that up for him.
Deutch makes a fair point here when he notes that typically the left follows the lead of the victimized group when a charge of a prejudice is made. If the group thinks a comment aimed at them was bigoted, then it was bigoted. Not here, he says. Plenty of Jews took offense at Omar’s comment about foreign allegiance, obviously including Deutch himself. So why are Democrats debating whether the comment was anti-semitic?
To which I ask: Are they debating it? House Dems have tried lots of different spin on Omar’s behalf but it’s striking how little of it has involved claiming that what she said wasn’t really anti-semitic. Pelosi’s defense of her is that it *was* anti-semitic but that Omar didn’t grasp why. Clyburn’s defense was that refugees like Omar have had rough lives. AOC’s defense was a looooooong whataboutist rant on Twitter about various other slurs and offenses against progress that never warrant special condemnation by the House. (The point of Deutch’s speech is why anti-semitism deserves special condemnation.) Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Kamala Harris each defended Omar by treating her as the victim. None of these people to my knowledge have actually defended Omar on the merits.
Which may be the scariest part of this. They seem to tacitly acknowledge that what she said was anti-semitic, or at least that many people might understandably think so. They just don’t care. Omar has been lobbied many times, publicly and privately, by Jewish advocates to try to “educate” her about how her insinuations about AIPAC and money and dual loyalty are offensive, but she keeps returning to them. Her colleagues don’t care about that either. They want the anti-semite unpunished. It’s pure power politics.
Here’s the most interesting reaction to Omar that I’ve seen from a Democrat, though:
“My Minnesota colleague, Rep. Ilhan Omar, believes she has spoken honestly and forcefully about an issue of importance to her. Many of my colleagues, especially my Jewish colleagues, interpreted her words as personal attacks and deeply offensive. The situation is dividing Democrats, which is exactly what the Republican minority and President Trump are seeking to achieve.
“Rep. Omar has the right to speak freely, and she also must take responsibility for the effect her words have on her colleagues, her constituents, and the policies Democrats seek to advance. She has the power to remedy this situation with her colleagues and prevent it from happening again in the future. Democrats have an important agenda to advance and for any Member of Congress to be successful it takes the support of at least 217 colleagues to pass a bill. No one does this job alone.”
That’s from Betty McCollum, like Omar a congresswoman from Minnesota and like Omar a noted critic of Israel. McCollum has been pushing anti-Israel resolutions for years, going so far as to accuse the Israeli government of “apartheid.” And yet here she is with one of the most politely critical statements of Omar by a Democrat issued this week. What gives?
The key bit is the part about “the policies Democrats seek to advance.” McCollum knows that Omar is actually a disaster for her long-term effort to get Congress to behave more skeptically towards Israel. The more she spouts off about “the Benjamins” and foreign allegiances, the easier it is for some of Israel’s supporters to condemn all of Israel’s critics as essentially anti-semitic. Dopey progressives who are eager to aid McCollum in creating space for a loud-and-proud anti-Israel wing would have been smart to marginalize Omar this week so that they’d have an easy counterpoint once they started to move their agenda: “If we were anti-semitic we wouldn’t have isolated Omar when we did, would we?” Instead, while a wary McCollum has strategically kept her distance, House Dems have spent the last few days falling all over themselves to defend Omar. Why that is, I leave to your judgment.
Here’s the punchline to all this: Eventually Omar will say something so foul that even her friends won’t be able to spin it for her and Pelosi will have to deal with her anyway. It’ll set back the anti-Israel cause, as McCollum fears, possibly much worse than punishing Omar this week would have. All they’re doing by laying off her for the moment is buying time.