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Muslims — not Jews — are being targeted with racist loyalty canards

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As the Democratic Party establishment continues its long war on internal progressive dissent, Ilhan Omar has received a crash course in faux antisemitism accusations policing discourse around Palestine. Omar stands accused of suggesting that Jews are secretly loyal to their own people at the expense of their countries of citizenship (“dual loyalty”), following similar bogus allegations against Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian Muslim congresswoman. Both congresswomen stand accused for calling into question the appropriateness of expecting US congresspersons to support Israel at the expense of the interests of their own constituents, including First Amendment concerns emanating from federal legislation to penalize boycotts of Israel.

In reality, none of the comments by the congresswomen made any claims about Jewish loyalties at all. Tlaib asked why federal legislation being introduced by a Cuban-American Christian politician was prioritizing Israel at the expense of the First Amendment, while Omar questioned why she was being accused of anti-Americanism over her lack of support for Israel. That neither of them made any claims about Jewish loyalties — never mind that they would hardly be outside of mainstream Jewish company were they to do so — has prompted even traditional liberal Zionist strongholds like the New York Times and the Washington Post to pause and release pieces calling the accusations into question.

Of course, Omar and Tlaib are hardly the first to question support for Israel where it conflicts with other policy priorities. Eisenhower demanded that Israel pull out of Egypt during the 1956 war when it undermined his Cold War calculations. Reagan delayed a shipment of helicopters to Israel after Israel bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, then a U.S. ally. Carter, Bush Sr., and Obama all clashed with Israeli administrations over settlement building. Obama mentioned that it would be an “abrogation of [his] constitutional duty” to defer to Israel over the Iran nuclear deal. And every single U.S. administration until Donald Trump refused to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital out of legal, diplomatic, and geopolitical concerns, even if it meant spurning Congress. So it is worth questioning what is happening to prompt such a torrent of disproportionate criticism against the first Muslim-American congresswomen?

What is notable about the false accusations of using dual loyalty canards against Jews is how they are underpinned by a climate in which genuine accusations of disloyalty are regularly hurled at the accused themselves, simply for being Muslim. Last week, a West Virginia GOP event included a photo juxtaposing Omar with the September 11th attacks to suggest that Omar’s election was the equivalent of betraying the victims of the attacks. Tlaib was accused by a right-wing Jewish lawmaker in Florida of being a potential suicide bomber. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim congressman elected, was asked on CNN to prove that he wasn’t working for terrorists following his election, while a fellow member of Congress suggested that the U.S. must restrict immigration to prevent more people like Ellison from being elected — even though Ellison was born in Michigan to black non-Muslim parents who trace their presence in the country back to the 18th century. And perhaps the most high-profile example of such rhetoric was saved for President Obama. Though Obama was not a Muslim, he was regularly depicted as a Muslim illegal immigrant with terrorist ties on the basis of his Muslim relatives and international upbringing by members of the Republican Party, including the current President who said Obama was the literal founder of ISIS.

The loyalty canards about Muslims aren’t limited to targeting high-profile politicians. Mimicking the antisemitic refusals to accept Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, American politicians on both sides of the aisle have sought to aggressively restrict immigration by refugees from Muslim-majority countries on the explicit basis that they are culturally or politically incompatible with Western values and thereby pose a security threat — that is, that they would not make loyal citizens. The Obama administration in particular issued restrictions on seven predominantly Muslim countries for flimsy “security” reasons that were subsequently used by Donald Trump to justify his more sweeping “Muslim ban”.

That Donald Trump was emboldened to explicitly state his desire to ban Muslims during his election campaign is not surprising, given that much of his own party and many Democrats share his xenophobic beliefs that Muslim are disloyal. This was particularly notable in the Democrats’ response to Trump. Democrats heavily emphasized Muslim involvement in the U.S. military in response to Trump’s insinuations, indicating that Democrats also felt that U.S. Muslims might have something to prove — in part by serving in an organization that regularly bombs, tortures, and jails other Muslims. Democratic Party-aligned critics of Trump turned this trope into one of their most predominant symbols: an image of a whitened Muslim woman whose hijab was patterned with the American flag.

That the blatant bigotry of expecting Muslims to prove their loyalty has become a staple of American political life is made that much more obvious by the recent attacks on those who raise entirely legitimate concerns about Zionist lobbying and U.S. support for Israel. Were Congress genuinely concerned about racist canards of “dual loyalty,” they would be spending their time fixing U.S. immigration laws to undo the Muslim ban rather than making false allegations of the canard against two people who are actually its victims. Perhaps that is because Congress is actually a bastion of racist canards rather than a place to criticize them.

Amith Gupta

Amith Gupta is a recent graduate of the New York University School of Law, where he was an Institute for International Law and Justice Scholar. He is a Palestine solidarity activist.

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13 Responses

  1. Kay24 on March 6, 2019, 8:07 pm

    Shame on those Democrats who do not support their colleague. Shame on them for not trying to take this opportunity and define what anti-semitism truly is, and that criticizing Netanyahu’s policies, and Israeli’s crimes ARE NOT ANTI-SEMITISM. It is also NOT anti-semitism to criticize Israel’s efforts to buy Congress by making enormous campaign donations to political candidates. If we can freely criticize the NRA why not Israel? They are both a cancer on our political system, and our nation has been affected badly, by allowing these lobbies to control our politicians.
    The hatred for Rep. Omar is obvious, and the viciousness coming from her attackers is ugly.
    There apparently has been death threats made against her.
    It is ironic that they accuse her of hate, while showing her nothing but hate and threaten her with violence. We have some sick people living here.

    • Kay24 on March 6, 2019, 8:38 pm

      May I add that had this been a Jewish American congressperson, and she/he had been attacked and threatened with physical harm, like this Muslim politician has been, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and the others who now shout about “anti-semitism” would have been howling like wolves and protecting that individual.
      Have they no loyalties and common sense?

  2. JWalters on March 6, 2019, 8:32 pm

    The anti-Muslim wave in America is clearly instigated by Israel as a PR part of Israel’s so-called “War on Terror”. It’s pure distraction, thoughtless emotionalism to misdirect low-information Americans. e.g.

    It’s a tragedy that there are so many morally empty people in the press and politics who can be bought by such evil.

    • Kay24 on March 7, 2019, 2:02 am

      I agree. It serves their purpose, and justifies their crimes against the Palestinians, to demonize the Muslims, their religion, their Prophet, and make them all look evil and terrorists. I suspect they are also behind the anti Muslim FB websites, and the Hasbara comments, in places like Myanmar and Sri Lanka, where the majority were instigated to turn against the minority Muslims, to the point of ethnic clashes, and in the case of Myanmar, a slow genocide. Also keep in mind Israel supplies the brutal Myanmar military with weapons and military advice. Israel has been one of the most dangerous trouble makers around the world, and just like the US, where you get war, violence, and chaos, you will find their fingerprints.

      Anti-semitism has risen around the world, and Israel’s occupation, land grabs, and crimes against humanity, have made it a disliked nation, also a reason for the rising anti-semitism.

      Israelis should seriously consider if they want this negative image around the world.

  3. Elizabeth Block on March 7, 2019, 8:32 am

    I am old enough to remember when Catholics were suspected of being more loyal to the Vatican than to the United States. Trump is old enough, too. For those who are not: it wasn’t that long ago. One of those Catholics was John F. Kennedy.

  4. Tzvia on March 7, 2019, 8:50 am

    I’m Jewish Israeli. I am a holocaust survivor. I support BDS. Israel is an apartheid colonialist state. I’m anti Zionist and I love my Jewishness. Ilhan Omar is brave!

    • YoniFalic on March 7, 2019, 10:03 am

      I’m ex-Israeli. My grandfather led a rape & murder gang in 47-8. I support abolition of the State of Israel, which was founded in genocide after Auschwitz & after Nuremberg IMT.

      Opposing such abolition today is as at least as evil as opposing abolition of US slavery before the US Civil War.

      Zionism and the State of Israel made me a monster during Operation Cast Lead.

      My grandparents, parents, my sister, & I are completely secular. I don’t even know what my Jewishness is supposed to be. Do I have Jewishness

      1) because I was born in the abominable white racist genocidal European invader state and

      2) because I speak Hebrew & Yiddish?

      Those characteristics pertain to a good number of non-Jews.

      Ilhan Omar is impressive and braver than I, for I was a coward when it counted. It’s too bad she wasn’t born in the USA.

      • Talkback on March 7, 2019, 2:56 pm

        Yoni Fallic: “I don’t even know what my Jewishness is supposed to be.”

        Well there are many variations. But nearly all of them have in common that you can become Israeli and disenfranchise, injure or kill Palestinians from children to the elderly with almost 100% impunity.

      • YoniFalic on March 7, 2019, 5:26 pm

        It’s somewhat flip, but my medicines have kicked in.

        I’ve been there & done that.

    • Misterioso on March 7, 2019, 10:37 am


      Brava!! Rest assured, you and Ilhan Omar represent the future. Zionism is entering its death throes.

    • Talkback on March 7, 2019, 11:01 am

      You forgot something, Tziva. First and foremost you are a mensh.

      • bintbiba on March 8, 2019, 11:03 am

        And I fiercely concur , Tzvia !!

        ” * First and foremost you are a mensh.* ” (Talkback )

  5. gamal on March 7, 2019, 3:06 pm

    “That Donald Trump was emboldened to explicitly state his desire to ban Muslims during his election campaign is not surprising, given that much of his own party and many Democrats share his xenophobic beliefs that Muslim are disloyal” I keep hearing of Muslims pledging loyalty I thought it was their thing.

    While Trump is emboldened it’s odd to see Chomsky now excoriated for his support for the Pentagon in Syria, looks like the old ‘left’ is dead and we await a new one.

    “Noam Chomsky and the Compatible Left, Part I
    3 days ago

    Noam Chomsky recently took to the pages of The Intercept to give his blessing to the US military’s occupation of Syria, solidifying his support for the Pentagon after years of having done so in slightly more anguished terms. As far as the occupation, the only concession to what might once have been considered “Leftist” values is the MIT professor’s acknowledgement that the US is motivated by “power considerations” rather than “humanitarian objectives.” Today, the brief nod to realpolitik is what’s supposed to pass for a progressive anti-war stance.

    The Intercept is really a natural fit for Chomsky to deliver this message. The nonagenarian professor has limited years left on earth, and when he passes, Glenn Greenwald and Pierre Omidyar’s website will probably become the new face of the permissible Left. That Chomsky lends his radical imprimatur to a US military occupation in its pages is a testament to what kind of a “Left” Chomsky has helped to create and is bequeathing to Greenwald and Omidyar.

    To get an idea of the before-and-after picture, consider two recent pieces from Alfred McCoy, a historian who, like Chomsky, has produced radical scholarship for almost half a century. McCoy has done some of the best work on the CIA’s role in the global heroin trade, the relationship between foreign counterinsurgency and domestic policing, and the United States’ peerless role in developing and exporting new forms of torture. McCoy claims that while researching his landmark book The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, he came under attack by CIA mercenaries; after its publication, McCoy was monitored by the CIA and audited by the IRS, and ultimately had to move to Australia for 11 years in order to keep working. Here is part of a 2015 article on American hegemony, where McCoy explains how the US’s superpower status shares DNA with Nazi Germany and what effects this has had on the world:

    “So the United States, as the planet’s last superpower or, in Schmitt’s terms, its global sovereign, has in these years repeatedly ignored international law, following instead its own unwritten rules of the road for the exercise of world power. Just as Schmitt’s sovereign preferred to rule in a state of endless exception without a constitution for his Reich, so Washington is now well into the second decade of an endless War on Terror that seems the sum of its exceptions to international law: endless incarceration, extrajudicial killing, pervasive surveillance, drone strikes in defiance of national boundaries, torture on demand, and immunity for all of the above on the grounds of state secrecy. Yet these many American exceptions are just surface manifestations of the ever-expanding clandestine dimension of the American state. Created at the cost of more than a trillion dollars since 9/11, the purpose of this vast apparatus is to control a covert domain that is fast becoming the main arena for geopolitical contestation in the twenty-first century.

    Much of the torture that became synonymous with the era of authoritarian rule in Asia and Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s seems to have originated in U.S. training programs that provided sophisticated techniques, up-to-date equipment, and moral legitimacy for the practice… CIA interrogation training became synonymous with serious human rights abuses, particularly in Iran, the Philippines, South Vietnam, Brazil, and Uruguay.”

    The previous segment is in line with the bulk of his scholarship. Now here are some conclusions from McCoy’s 2017 Intercept interview with co-founder Jeremy Scahill, on the subject of America’s imperial decline and the rise of a multipolar world:

    “The British empire was relatively benign. Yes, it was a global power, there were many excesses, many incidents, one can go on, but when it was all over, they left the Westminster system of parliament, they left the global language, they left a global economy, they left a culture of sports, they created artifacts like the BBC.

    So the US empire has been, and we’ve had our excesses, Vietnam, we could go on. Afghanistan. There are many problems with the U.S. exercise of its power but we have stood for human rights, the world has had 70 years of relative peace and lots of medium size wars but nothing like World War I and World War II… Our successor powers, China and Russia, are authoritarian regimes. Russia’s autocratic, China’s a former communist regime. They stand for none of these liberal principles.

    So you’ll have the realpolitik exercise of power, all the downsides with none of the upsides, with none of the positive development. I mean we’ve stood for women’s rights [note: Russia passed women’s suffrage 3 years before the US], for gay rights [Russia legalized gay sex 10 years before the US], for human progress [Russia has a higher literacy rate than the US], for democracy [Russia extended the franchise universally 48 years before the US]. You know we’ve been flawed in efficacy, but we’ve stood for those principles and we have advanced them. So we have been, on the scale of empires, comparatively benign and beneficent. And I don’t think the succeeding powers are going to be that way.”

    Getting radical scholars—and scholars with radical reputations—to sound like they’re writing for Foreign Affairs magazine is very much The Intercept’s stock-in-trade. “The day after Trump threatened to militarily intervene in Venezuela,” writes Stansfield Smith, “Jeremy Scahill posted his interview with Eva Golinger on The Intercept. Venezuelan-American lawyer Eva Golinger, the author of The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela, is known as an outstanding defender of Venezuela during the Chavez era. She hardly goes as far in anti-Maduro criticisms as Scahill, who may fit what Shamus Cooke characterized as ‘the intellectually lazy ‘pox on both houses’ approach that has long-infected the U.S. left,’” according to Smith. “Yet within her valuable analysis, and precisely because of her valuable analysis, both in the interview and in her article Golinger makes some statements that require correction,” he wrote, enumerating 11 points where Golinger provided Washington-friendly misrepresentations of the Venezuelan government. She responded with the popular twofer of claiming lived experience and accusing her critic of hating women.

    The billionaire-owned publication is just the latest loudest voice among the permissible “Left,” an ecosystem of which Chomsky is still the most recognizable face. Since the late 1960s, Chomsky has both reflected and shaped this milieu. A reverent 1997 book on the MIT professor written by Robert Barsky, which advertises itself as the closest thing we’ll get to a Chomky autobiography, contains a major section titled “the Milieu Chomsky Helped to Create,” attesting to the professor’s privileged place in this world. If one considers radical according to its true definition—solving a problem by striking at its root—then it is a world of dissenters who are less radical than ever.

    The “Left” has taken quite a journey from the 1960s, the beginning of Chomsky’s career as a political commentator, to now. During that time, what people perceive as “the Left” transformed from something which was usually opposed to the status quo and genuinely radical into something more like what CIA official Cord Meyer called the “compatible left,” an agglomeration of “liberals and pseudo-intellectual status seekers who are easily influenced” by the elites that they purport to challenge, in the words of Doug Valentine. One of the primary purposes of “courting the compatible left,” according to Valentine, was to “court Socialists away from Communists” and into safe channels. Chomsky is a uniquely useful figure for demonstrating how these changes happened, although his more recent work owes a great debt to Barack Obama. The latter’s presidency was a powerful fulcrum for shifting the wider culture of left-liberalism—of which Chomsky is an avatar and gatekeeper—far to the right”

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