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In calling Ilhan Omar a ‘terrorist,’ Trump models an Israeli tactic against Palestinian dissent

Opinion
on 14 Comments

President Trump’s racist comments regarding Congresswomen of color Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, saying that they should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”, are the news the world over.

They are so virulently racist, that the House passed a resolution yesterday condemning him. The Democrats were unanimous in the condemnation, and only four Republicans joined them.  

Trump is not backing down – quite the contrary. He suggested that the condemnation is a conspiracy, tweeting:

Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body! The so-called vote to be taken is a Democrat con game. Republicans should not show ‘weakness’ and fall into their trap.

It’s hard to keep up with Trump. He has intensified his racist attacks, also by hitting more directly, and more mendaciously, against Ilhan Omar, in attempt to paint her as a “terrorist”.

In a press conference two days ago, Trump misquoted Omar, suggesting that she supports al-Qaeda and the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center. (The fact-check of the false claims can be followed here).

These falsifications concerning Omar seem to have had their own life in the conspiracy theories of the white-supremacist right that Trump traffics in. By transmitting them on the official POTUS platform, Trump has been disseminating virulent and dangerous incitement. One can easily imagine the vigilante who will come to help the land of the free defend itself from the terrorist, in seeking to harm Omar. And Trump has also extended the accusation to the other three – notice how ‘anti-Semitism’ and Israel come into his comments at the White House Monday:

When I hear the anti-Semitic language they use, when I hear the hatred they have for Israel, and the love they have for enemies like al-Qaeda…,

So not only is Omar a terrorist– also Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib are, and by extension, the people who support them.

Now, let’s talk about the ‘anti-Semitism’ and Israel. Even the Anti-Defamation League is feeling uncomfortable here. Jonathan Greeblatt tweeted

#AntiSemitism is on the rise. @realDonaldTrump using Israel to defend his blatant racism only hurts the Jewish community. He doesn’t speak for any of us. We call on ALL leaders across the political spectrum to condemn these racist, xenophobic tweets & using Jews as a shield. 

In other words, Greenblatt is not buying Trump’s claim of protecting Jews from anti-Semitism and sees his usage of Israel (a repeated theme for Trump in this context) as hurtful to the Jewish community. In other words, Greenblatt sees Trump as “bad for the Jews”. The logic is obvious. Although ADL have themselves been part of the false-accusation campaign against Omar, they are now seeing this as going beyond the pale: it is so obviously racist, that they don’t want Israel and Jews being directly associated with it. Thus Greenblatt added in a statement:

While ADL has publicly disagreed with these congresswomen on some issues, the president is echoing the racist talking points of white nationalists and cynically using the Jewish people and the state of Israel as a shield to double down on his remarks. Politicizing the widespread, bipartisan support for Israel and throwing around accusations of anti-Semitism is damaging to the security of Israel and the Jewish community. He should lead by example, stop politicizing these issues and stop smearing members of Congress. 

Read: There’s a danger to bipartisan support for Israel, and the ‘anti-Semitism’ accusations could backfire at Jews – in that order.

Let’s look at what this means for the more direct and obvious victims – those who are now being framed as “terrorists”. The charge is very well known in Israel. It has also been used against sitting lawmakers, like when former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman called Hanin Zoabi a terrorist in 2016. It is a classical racializing rhetoric. If you express resistance or dissent, you’re a terrorist.

Likewise, Israel has attempted to make the young Palestinian resistance icon Ahed Tamimi, who is famous for having slapped an Israeli soldier occupying her backyard, her town and her land, a “terrorist”. As with Palestinian-Israeli poet Dareen Tatour, who was under house arrest and prison for nearly three years, for her poem “resist them,” the suggestion of “terrorist” doesn’t have to be very explicit. It just needs to be a supposed incitement to terrorism, suggested through various means of word-twisting, that makes it so.

And when people think it, when they associate you with “terror”, then they are sold. You’re just too dangerous to be around, and so the people will easily approve your isolation, your incarceration, even your death: as shown by the ongoing massacre of hundreds of unarmed Palestinian protesters at the Gaza fence with overwhelming approval of Jewish Israelis (and influential American supporters). Lieberman has associated the Gaza protesters squarely with Hamas (thus “terrorists”), and emphasized that there are “no innocents in Gaza” – so why care too much about terrorists?

Trump is apparently seeing Israel’s institutional racism as his operational model, which may go to explain why he mentions it so often in that context. He seems to think that using the ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘Israel-hater’ charge will whitewash his racism, as even ADL seems to fear. Yet his warm and reciprocal embrace of Israel is exposing the affinities between his person, his racism, and Israel’s character – as the new Israeli settlement Trump Heights on the occupied Syrian Jolan (Golan) will tell. 

Trump is pushing a very dangerous, fascist notion: that those racialized people who do not agree with the ultra-nationalist, essentially white-supremacist vein of the state should somehow disappear. In Israel, one of the worst epithets against Palestinians is supposed to be “go to Gaza”. That means, disappear from our sight and we’ll bomb you once in a while. In Trump jargon it might be “go to your shithole countries” or something similar. It’s basically the same thing.

It’s good that Trump is being condemned for his racism (mostly by Democrats, but still). Now they also need to understand that Israel is his model, and that it needs that condemnation too (and far more than that). And you don’t need to listen to Trump’s garbage in order to figure that out. But Israel is still largely protected in US politics. Especially Omar and Tlaib have pointed to the need to break that taboo, and this is also why they are being targeted. In protecting them and their allies, we must also protect the points that they have been making.

Jonathan Ofir

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

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14 Responses

  1. amigo on July 17, 2019, 2:57 pm

    Being a real american is not that difficult.All is required of you (non whites).is that you accept and love Trump.s America and love and support Israel.

    • Misterioso on July 18, 2019, 9:43 am

      @amigo, et al

      To quote Trump from the above article: “Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!”

      Reality:

      David Leonhardt, Op Ed columnist, New York Times, July 16/19

      “His real estate company tried to avoid renting apartments to African-American tenants. He described ‘laziness’ as ‘a trait in blacks.’ He called for five black and Latino teenagers to be executed — and then insisted on their guilt even after DNA evidence proved their innocence.

      “He rose to prominence in the Republican Party by questioning the citizenship of the first black president. He launched his presidential campaign by saying Mexican immigrants were ‘rapists.’ His political organization created a television advertisement that Fox News pulled for being too racist.

      “He frequently criticizes prominent African-Americans for being unpatriotic, ungrateful, disrespectful or unintelligent. He mocks Native Americans and uses anti-Semitic stereotypes. He retweets white nationalists. He said that a violent white supremacist march included some ‘very fine people.’ He regularly appoints people with a history of racist comments.

      “And over the weekend, he told four non white members of Congress — all citizens, of course, and three of them born in the United States — to ‘go back’ to where they came from.
      President Trump doesn’t just make racist comments. He is a racist. He’s proven it again and again, over virtually his entire time as a public figure. His bigotry is a core part of his worldview, and it’s been central to his political rise.

      “Anyone who claims otherwise — like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; Senator Steve Daines of Montana; Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff — is simply enabling his hate. (Mnuchin now has a pattern of defending racism, as a way of pleasing his boss.)

      “For a list of Trump’s racist statements — first compiled in 2018 and updated this week — go here. If you think we missed any, email me at [email protected].”

  2. Peter in SF on July 17, 2019, 7:34 pm

    I clicked on this story because of the headline: I wanted to read about how and when exactly Trump called Omar a ‘terrorist.’ Having read the article and its links, I still haven’t seen a quote by Teump in which he did that. If this were a case of “that’s what he meant”, you wouldn’t have put the word “terrorist” in quotes.

    • Jonathan Ofir on July 18, 2019, 3:12 am

      Peter in SF, as to the single quotes title, that’s an editor prerogative. But I don’t have an issue with it – I’ve applied the term interchangeably in the piece, with double quotes and without. That might sound sloppy, but in the context of Trump’s words, their intended meaning and the points that are being made about them, I think it’s just fine.

      Your comment seems to suggest that this is mistepresentative – as in ‘he didn’t really say that’ (see the quotes there? – they could be double too) – but I’m saying that this is what he was saying, really.

      This is about translation of ideas. You could argue that calling someone an al-Qaeda supporter is not calling them a terrorist. I’m pushing that point through, yes. It’s our job as journalists to also point out what is inevitably hidden in a person’s words.

      • Peter in SF on July 18, 2019, 8:20 am

        When journalists write “X called Y a ‘Z'”, they should expect their readers to understand that they’re saying that X used the word ‘Z’ to describe Y.

      • Talkback on July 18, 2019, 9:09 am

        “Pro-terrorist”, not “terrorist”. Please maintain your high standards, Jonathan.

        ‘Pro-terrorist’: Trump Ups Racist Attack on Democratic Congresswomen
        https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/pro-terrorist-trump-ups-attack-on-democratic-congresswomen-1.7530755

      • Jonathan Ofir on July 19, 2019, 5:49 am

        Talkback, ‘“Pro-terrorist”, not “terrorist”. Please maintain your high standards, Jonathan.’

        Thanks, I had missed this Trump tweet where he literally accused the four of being “pro-terrorist”. I first thought Haaretz were paraphrasing in their title, but they aren’t.

        Talkback, are you meaning your comment seriously or as irony?

      • Eva Smagacz on July 21, 2019, 5:49 am

        Jonathan, you asked:

        “Talkback, are you meaning your comment seriously or as irony?”

        I read it as a dig at Peter in SF, who, by splitting the hair, highjacked the comments in very Richard-Wittesque way.

      • Talkback on July 21, 2019, 8:48 am

        @ Jonathan.

        Seriously. You articles are a must read.

        And I have complained many times on MW if titles were inaccurate, because that doesn’t help the cause and can be used to distract from the content from the article. Zionist propgandists grap at every straw they can.

  3. LiberatePalestine on July 17, 2019, 8:36 pm

    It’s interesting that the Zionists, some of whom recently celebrated tRump by naming a settlement in Zionist-occupied al-Jawlān (colonially «the Golan») for him, now find him to so grievous an embarrassment that they have to distance themselves from him lest his unabashed racism taint the Zionist cause.

  4. Elizabeth Block on July 18, 2019, 10:35 pm

    I’m old enough to remember the time when if you wanted to smear someone you called them a Communist. Now you call them a terrorist. Neither epithet has to have any actual content.

  5. gamal on July 21, 2019, 9:54 am

    “These falsifications concerning Omar seem to have had their own life”

    But since the western view of its relationship with the Muslim (and rest of the) world is so radically false these current episodes of self serving rage are almost indistinguishable from pretty much the whole spectrum of views expressed in the mainstream and alternative media about ‘them’ in our western political culture and our underlying view of their ‘culture’ and ‘plight’ seems pretty universal, Eric Zeusse recommends a profound rethink, on our part rather than, say, taking up the burden of la mission civilisatrice while pretending to oppose imperialism, settler colonialism ( invasion, theft, murder, brutal suppression and crimes that are so vile they have no name etc) , I condemn both us and them is pretty much the apogee of political and moral meaninglessness, sometimes it may better to challenge yourself, at least you have a chance of knowing a little about yourself and what we collectively do while in the west knowledge of the other is always a bit strained, occluded and neurotic when not overtly aversive or paternalistic.

    Why the Taliban Will Regain Power

    “Soon they had their own checkpoint and scared the village’s bandits away. Volunteers joined and began to unite with others as Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) brought about their peaceful return to Mecca (629–630), involving no plunder, and granting amnesty to their enemies.

    What happened in 1994-6 was a repeat of that 7th century religious-political moment, redeeming a society out of violence and chaos, no less astounding in its speed of transformation, and resulting — in an instant — in the rule of peace (sharia).

    The Taliban had given beauty to the region just as a flower can brighten even the most barren desert. Soon dozens of volunteers came to join us, and only a few days after the movement started it had over four hundred members. Many businessmen and traders began to donate money.

    Suddenly thrust into western-style political power, the Taliban had neither the experience nor even the interest in state-building. They forged on, declared Afghanistan to be an emirate and used a literal application of sharia according to the Hanafi school.
    ( in my discussion with a Talib, coincidentally an absolute giant of a man whose headdress made him 9ft of imposing presence, explained to me in our brief discussion about the source of their application of Sharia, “we have our own book” and that was the end of that discussion)

    After close to two decades of war, millions of lives lost, their public executions, stonings, etc shocked the West. But their successes in bringing peace, disarming the population, ending opium production were ignored. They faced sanctions from outside and opposition from the Dari ethnicity in the north and the Hazara. They struggled to suppress these rebellions. They were never implicated in bin Laden’s terrorism, but their efforts to reach an accommodation with the US were ignored, and the US used 9/11 as a pretext to invade.

    Lessons

    So the most obvious lesson is that Afghans will continue to look to the Taliban as the only honest force in Afghanistan, promising peace and sharia law. Mirwais Yasini, head of Hezb-i-Islami Khalis, now parliament’s first deputy speaker, told Van Dyk: I am positive they will return. I know the blood of our people. We need to bring civilizations closer together.

    Zaeef hints at past mistakes and the actual program of the Taliban today. While the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhist cliff statues was “within the letter of the Islamic law,” he says it was “unnecessary”. As a loyal Taliban, he will not denounce his then-leader and friend, Mullah Omar, but he had no part of this decision.

    Zaeef admires Ismail Khan, the Hazara warlord and sworn enemy of the Taliban, as the only warlord who used revenues to help his people. But he insists

    In Afghanistan each ethnic group may only prosper if there is unity. No one can protect their national honour with selfishness … Afghans need to unite. Not let themselves and their children serve the Americans, killing other Afghans and being killed themselves.”

    Just to give everyone a little frisson of righteous rage

    “How sharia law will be practiced will be debated. In public statements, the Taliban have renounced support for al-Qaeda, and accepted girls’ education. The only way the West can help is through reconstruction under control of the uncorrupt Taliban”

    https://dissidentvoice.org/2019/07/why-the-taliban-will-regain-power/

  6. Sibiriak on July 22, 2019, 1:54 am

    Gamal: Eric Zeusse recommends a profound rethink…
    ————————————————————————-

    Thanks for the link to the Eric Walberg article. I was wondering, though, were Eric Zeusse (Zuesse) comes into it.

    • gamal on July 22, 2019, 8:10 am

      I am a sloppy git I only hope Mr. Walberg can forgive me, Eric Walberg that is.

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