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House resolution rejecting hate is a band-aid for a broken leg

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The US House of Representatives finally passed a resolution yesterday, condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.  

This was a Democratic-Party-engineered response to outrage at Ilhan Omar’s various comments regarding the oversized power of the Israel Lobby as well as the question of “allegiance to a foreign country”. These and other expressions were construed by Israel-apologists as being bigoted statements about Jews – although they did not speak about Jews.

Gideon Levy in Haaretz was in full support of Omar:

What, after all, has Omar said? That pro-Israel activists demand “allegiance to a foreign country”; that U.S. politicians support Israel because of money they receive from the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC, and that “Israel hypnotized the world.” What is incorrect in these statements? Why is describing reality considered anti-Semitic?

But no – Omar’s supposed anti-Semitism had to be acted upon. Ironically, the attacks on Omar, for her supposed racism, were themselves driven by racism. James Zogby summarizes the nature of this racist witch-hunt on this site:

Because she was a hijab-wearing Muslim, who was critical of Israel, the GOP sought to exploit her in their continuing effort to drive a wedge between the Jewish community and Democrats. For their part, some Democrats reacted with hyperventilated outrage. Extreme language was used to denounce Omar. Her words were described as “bigoted”, “vile”, and, of course, “antisemitic slurs.”

President Trump suggested she should resign, and Republicans wanted to condemn her in a more direct and personal way than that which materialized in the final resolution. Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York, one of two Jewish House Republicans:

We are here today because of anti-Semitic rhetoric, said from one member of this Chamber again and again. If that member was a Republican, that member’s name would be in this resolution.

The Republicans didn’t need for it to become a long document about racism of all kinds. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said:

I am here with my friend from New York debating a resolution that all of us should have learned in kindergarten. Be nice. Don’t hate. This resolution doesn’t need to be seven pages.

But the Democrats needed that length, because it was a means of addressing other forms of bigotry that appear systemic on the Republican side – especially anti-Muslim bigotry, that is Islamophobia.

So this resolution was a means of letting Omar get out of this debacle without too much shaming and personal language against her. This is something she could actually proudly support, given the circumstance. A statement she made together with Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Andre Carson (the two other Muslims in Congress) hailed the achievement:

Today is historic on many fronts. It’s the first time we have voted on a resolution condemning anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation’s history. Anti-Muslim crimes have increased 99% from 2014-2016 and are still on the rise.

We are tremendously proud to be part of a body that has put forth a condemnation of all forms of bigotry including anti-Semitism, racism and, white supremacy. At a time when extremism is on the rise, we must explicitly denounce religious intolerance of all kinds and acknowledge the pain felt by all communities. Our nation is having a difficult conversation and we believe this is great progress”.

It is of interest that the resolution passed by 407-23 – and all 23 No’s were Republicans. The various statements of Republican house leaders indicate that many of them felt this was not the win they wanted. But most Republicans – that is, 173 of them, voted for. Steve King (R-Iowa), who recently embraced White Supremacy and was rebuked by his own party, merely voted “present”. 

On the face of it, it would seem that this is a success. But behind the words, which seem to be a band-aid of sorts, is a festering wound of racism, and it’s a broken system of pro-Israel bias. The resolution is a band-aid for a broken leg. And there’s racism is in the very act of drafting the resolution to begin with.

The campaign “Jews with Ilhan” notes the inherent bigotry in this whole campaign against Omar, as well as Tlaib (I am a signatory):

Genuine anti-Semitism and the growth of white supremacy are indeed growing concerns in Donald Trump’s America. Omar and Tlaib, the first two Muslim congresswomen in this country’s history, are not part of this ugly growth of white supremacy. Instead, they are part of movements which seek to confront it. For that, and for their courageous support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, they are being smeared by a racist and Islamophobic chorus, including the House Democratic leadership itself.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statements about Omar could not hide her inherent condescending attitude:

It’s up to [Omar] to explain but I don’t think she understood the full weight of the words.

You see, Pelosi acknowledged that she doesn’t believe Omar’s words were “intended in an anti-Semitic way”, but, “the fact is, if that’s how it was interpreted, we have to remove all doubt as we have done over and over again.”

But many Jews have been essentially saying the same things that Omar said and did not suffer such backlash. So really, what Pelosi is saying, is that Omar needs to know her place as a non-Jew – as a Muslim. Per Pelosi, Omar needs to understand that challenging certain pro-Israel orthodoxies, especially if you’re not Jewish, is translated as anti-Semitism. And it doesn’t need to be intended as anything anti-Semitic, nor does it need to really be anti-Semitic. The whole sensibility is supposed to be about it being interpreted as such – and per Pelosi, Omar needs to respect this ‘interpretation’, that is, the twisting by Israel-apologists, because that’s just how it is. Per Pelosi, Omar needs to follow the racist political syntax of American politics when it comes to Israel. In other words, Pelosi’s words are suggesting that Omar is a ‘stupid Muslim’, and that she needs to fall in line and know her place.

While Omar may have come out of this recent debacle relatively well, it’s not over. It’s not nearly over. We have to see the case of the concocted ‘anti-Semitic problem’ of the UK left since Jeremy Corbyn was elected to lead Labour in 2015, and mirror it against this. That ‘anti-Semitic problem’ is virtually non-existent. That supposed ‘problem’ was never really about anti-Semitism – but rather about the fact that Corbyn was too pro-Palestinian and challenged the pro-Israel conservative line that was meant to be kept. That witch-hunt has not ended, and one wonders if it ever will, no matter how many resolutions condemning anti-Semitism Labour sign.

It’s the same here with Omar and the US. It would be naïve to think that all this stops now. As James Zogby noted:

The House of Representatives may pass their resolution, but that won’t close the door on the discussion Omar’s courage has helped to open. If anything, their behavior and incitement against her has pried it open even further.

Pelosi and her ilk may believe that the storm has passed, that words which challenge Israel’s bi-partisan standing in Congress like those of Omar’s, will no longer be uttered. But this is only the beginning. Because Ilhan Omar is a serious person. The problem that the old guard have with her is not about what she actually says, but about what and who she is, and what she represents.    

Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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15 Responses

  1. eljay on March 8, 2019, 12:32 pm

    There’s a sad irony to the fact that a resolution condemning anti-Semitism:
    – was spurred by deliberate anti-Semitic conflation by Zionists of Zionism and Israel with all Jews and all Jews with Zionism and Israel; and
    – will do absolutely nothing to prevent further deliberate anti-Semitic conflation by Zionists of Zionism and Israel with all Jews and all Jews with Zionism and Israel;

  2. Ossinev on March 8, 2019, 2:36 pm

    I suspect he may have hoped to take a leaf out of the UK Zios book and call the Democratic Party “Institutionally Anti Semitic” but neither his brain and certainly not his teeth do long words:

    • Mooser on March 8, 2019, 9:20 pm

      His message is clear enough: American Jews have a political home in the Republican Party.

      I wonder if the Dems. will feel compelled to take that bait?

  3. JWalters on March 8, 2019, 6:21 pm

    “Why is describing reality considered anti-Semitic?”

    OBVIOUSLY it is not anti-Semitic. So equally obviously, all these people who are claiming it’s anti-Semitic are acting. They are college-educated, intelligent and literate enough to know this claim is ridiculous. It is straight out of Alice in Wonderland. An appropriate response is ridicule.

    The fact that this ridiculous claim is being treated as serious by so many people in the press and politics is itself CLEAR evidence of the influence of the Israel lobby.

  4. JWalters on March 8, 2019, 6:27 pm

    Side note: If a person’s statement could be explained by either

    1. it matches reality

    2. it might reflect an anti-Semitic attitude

    and (1) is clearly true, then there is no need to presume (2).

    As always, the Zionist debaters OMIT most of reality in their argument. How long will the American press and politicians let them get away with this crime against logic and common sense?

    • RoHa on March 8, 2019, 11:43 pm

      That’s not how it works.

      The basic principle is that, if there is any possible way the statement can be twisted to hint at an anti-Semitic attitude, then it is an anti-Semitic statement, and must be condemned as such loudly and often.

      Feeble excuses of the “it matches reality” type are to be treated as further evidence of anti-Semitism.

      • dionissis_mitropoulos on March 9, 2019, 1:37 pm

        RoHa, the strategy of pro-Israel activists that you are talking about would need to be theorized under the name “the transitivity of the ‘smacks of’ relation”. I just saw a link from philosopher Jason Stanley’s twitter feed to a criticism of Michelle Goldberg’s first article about Rep Omar by an analytic philosopher (who apparently disagrees that such a theory can ever work):

        “Perhaps Goldberg is merely acting from an awareness of the weakness of her own case, however. For her article inadvertently downplays the anti-Semitism of the statements Goldberg calls anti-Semitic. Instead, she says: “It’s particularly incumbent on Israel’s legitimate critics to avoid anything that smacks of anti-Jewish bigotry. And the idea of Jews as global puppet masters, using their financial savvy to make the gentiles do their bidding, clearly does.”But there is something wrong with this formulation. Omar has never claimed that Jews are global puppet masters using their financial savvy to make the gentiles do their bidding. Goldberg is right that claiming this would “smack of” anti-Semitism. All Omar has said are things that, to some, “smack of” that sort of claim.What Goldberg requires for her account to make sense is what a logician might call the transitivity of the “smacks of” relation: that if A “smacks of” B and B “smacks of” C, then A “smacks of” C. Of course, “smacking of” is not the sort of concept that will be susceptible to such precise analysis. It’s a fuzzy, almost silly phrase, which undermines the seriousness of the accusation — if indeed it was intended to be serious.In a way, though, the silliness of “smacks of” is on a par with the rest of the piece. The accusation of anti-Semitism, a serious ethical and characterological charge, is subsumed in a kind of kugel of tactical considerations and apologies for Jewish prickliness. Most of the essay has nothing to do with Ilhan Omar at all.

      • annie on March 9, 2019, 2:29 pm

        dionissis, “smacks of” reminds me of a tweet i wrote the other day in response to rahm emanuels use of *suggesting*. it’s sort of the same argument.

      • dionissis_mitropoulos on March 9, 2019, 2:01 pm

        I should also add that, as a fervent supporter of political correctness, i would want such a theory of the transitivity of “smacks of” to be possible. And then i would try to find out what it is that allows me to criticize Israel or pro-Israel activists in ways that are not intuitively Antisemtic even if my hypothesized criticism would be protested by pro-Israel activists and even though, ex hypothesi, my criticism would be banned under our ex hypothesi successful theory of “smacks of”. I think that these sought for considerations that convey permissibility to the anti-Israel criticism would have something to do with which of the competing groups is the more powerful in the instances that we place our verdict upon. But i have read nothing on anything on these issues.

      • annie on March 9, 2019, 2:50 pm

        And then i would try to find out what it is that allows me to criticize Israel or pro-Israel activists in ways that are not intuitively Antisemtic even if my hypothesized criticism would be protested by pro-Israel activists and even though, ex hypothesi, my criticism would be banned under our ex hypothesi successful theory of “smacks of”.

        i wouldn’t put any effort into it, it’s a waste of time. it’s more important to express your political views as clearly and concisely as you can with the full knowledge and understanding that if you cross their “sensitivities” red line, they will most definitely let you know. it’s simply more efficient that way.

        also, spending your energy upfront, try to find out what it is that allows me to criticize Israel or pro-Israel activists is *exactly* what they want you to do. they want to control the perimeters of acceptable debate, including speech, topic, ideas, everything. but more importantly, they want to use up all the time and energy discussing their feelings, antisemitism, debate surrounding their inherent right to set these perimeters AND to get all this settled (it will never get settled) PRIOR to hearing your ideas. so there becomes a hierarchy of importance (and it won’t be you). this reminds me of something ayanna pressely tweeted the other day, “there is no hierarchy of hurt” (that’s from memory, it could be off).

        anyway, speaking of suggestion, i think there’s enough evidence to suggest, this pattern ilhan has pointed out of trying to address something and then being labeled and then that’s what people discuss and there’s no time to discuss anything else, like palestine, i think that’s by design. it’s also human nature, to get your priorities up front. but i think after decades of propaganda, it comes naturally.

        so just say what you want to say up front because you might not get the chance to say it later anyway.

        another thing this reminds me of, that viral mcCain the view video, when sunny says they asked bari weiss what was ok and what crossed the line, weiss said that thing about not wanting israel to exist and how ilhan didn’t say that. but note how she didn’t have to say it because they claimed she suggested it. in fact, it’s quite common to be accused of suggesting that, and the implication is, you can’t criticize israel in an acceptable way if they don’t like you. it’s impossible.

      • JWalters on March 9, 2019, 9:53 pm

        “Feeble excuses of the “it matches reality” type are to be treated as further evidence of anti-Semitism.”

        That’s exactly what they do. Fire off a salvo of anti-Semite accusations – that’s their go-to response for pretty much anything. But reality is proving to be a persistent problem for the Zionsts.

  5. dionissis_mitropoulos on March 9, 2019, 6:46 pm

    Hi annie. It’s my bad that i didn’t clarify that my comment was meant as an invitation to Mondoweiss’s resident philosopher (commenter RoHa) to tell me what he thinks of my suggested strategy of philosophical theorizing about political correctness and Antisemitism allegations, given my commitment to political correctness. I was not making any political/tactical suggestion as to how to confront Israeli injustices and the pro-Israel advocates’ strategies. When i wrote the following

    ” I should also add that, as a fervent supporter of political correctness, i would want such a theory of the transitivity of “smacks of” to be possible.

    RoHa must have understood that i was inviting him for joint philosophical reflection, not politics — referring to the need for a theory of X while talking to an analytic philosopher is a surefire way for her to understand that you are making a demand for something intellectually rigorous. But knowing this fact about “demands” for a theory of X is esoteric knowledge, confined to philosophers and their fans. When i wrote the following

    “And then i would try to find out what it is that allows me to criticize Israel or pro-Israel activists in ways that are not intuitively Antisemtic

    once again i am sure RoHa understood that i was engaging in a philosophical game of trying to solve a logical puzzle,. I wasn’t suggesting that we should wait until we have an unassailable theory of Antisemitic allegations before we express our views.

    Your tweet about “suggesting” is spot on, conveys exactly the same idea that philosopher Oliver Traldi and RoHa expressed.

    • RoHa on March 10, 2019, 5:07 am

      I know what you are up to. You are thinking “RoHa is retired, so I’ll be able to get him to do a bit of thinking for me. Free.”

      Nope, sorry. No freethought from me. Being retired means I only think about things I am interested in or things my wife tells me to think about.

      Perhaps MHughes or one of the other MW philosophers (I am not the only one) will oblige, but otherwise you will have to pay someone the going rate for professional philosophers. And Heaven knows that isn’t much.

  6. Stephen Shenfield on March 10, 2019, 7:17 pm

    OK, OK, I see you need my help and I won’t charge for it. “Smacking of” is NOT transitive. A smacks of B only if A and B share a sufficient number of features — say, 3. (If the features are not equally important for “smacking” then weight them accordingly; it won’t change the conclusion.) B smacks of C only if B and C share 3 features. But they need not be the same 3 features as the 3 features that A and B share! Therefore it does not follow that A and C share 3 features. They may but it is not necessary that they should. As we continue with D, E, F etc. the probability of smacking between A and the last in the series falls and tends to zero.

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