By Spencer Kellogg | @Spencer_Kellogg
Although Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar has only been in Washington for a couple of months, her words regarding Isreal are already causing a backlash. In both the Republican and Democrat parties, Omar has frustrated lawmakers and pundits alike with her sharp critique of Israel. Omar has repeatedly questioned the close financial ties between America and the Middle Eastern nation.
Today on Capitol Hill, the House overwhelmingly approved a resolution aimed at Omar to condemn “anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and other forms of bigotry.” The vote on the resolution was 407-23. In particular, all 23 of the nay votes were Republicans. Though Omar has been labeled an anti-semite and faced harsh critique in the media, is it deserved?
What Omar Said
Before her most recent controversial statements, Omar had criticized Israel’s influence on American politics as early as 2012. In a tweet from that year, Omar wrote “Israel has hypnotized the world. May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Last week Omar tweeted that America’s support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins baby.”
Earlier this month, at a cafe in Washington DC, Omar questioned the pro-Israel lobbies afoot in American politics. “I want to ask why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policies?”
For these statements, she has become the ire of the conservative right and pro-war Democrats everywhere.
We often hear of our ‘special relationship’ with England when in reality it is Israel who has become the new best friend of America.
Why? I don’t think it’s crazy to suggest it has to do with an underlying hatred towards Muslims that lingers in the minds of Americans post-911. Listen to any American media pundit and they all will agree that it is of the utmost importance that we send money and military to preserve what they consider the last great western democracy of the Middle East.
America has the most pro-Israel foreign policy in the world. It wasn’t always that way. In fact, the United States, until recently, had a policy of staying out of people’s business. That all changed during the Bush years.
If you look at the first American currency minted by founding father Benjamin Franklin, it reads: “Mind Your Own Business.” It has been a long time since American foreign policy has ‘minded its own business.” The demographic we have treaded upon the most? Muslims. Whether in Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria or Iran, America first has truthfully come to symbolize “Muslim Last.”
If you only got your news from the American media, you would probably join in on the calls against Omar. That is because the media fails to give her words a fair reading. While speaking last month at a public event, Omar rightfully pointed out how quickly pundits label her anti-Semitic because of her Muslim faith. “Our advocacy about ending oppression, or the freeing of human life and dignity, we get labeled as something and that ends the discussion. Nobody gets to have a debate about what’s happening in Palestine.”
The American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky once called our alliance and allegiance to Israel a form of ‘unusual imperialism.” At its root, the pro-Isreal coalition in the United States is nothing more than religious zealots and neohawks dressed in doves clothing. So adamant are they to prop up a ‘democratic’ nation in the Middle East that you will find scant criticism of the more than $10 million dollars we send Israel every day.
Today, questioning America’s foreign policy in regards to Israel is tantamount to being a crypto-Nazi. But what if the reality is far from that truth? What if, in fact, the truth is that America has become an overtly anti-Muslim country in the wake of 9/11 and that Israel represents a sort of ideological superman to thwart those we deem ‘evil?’
Is it so outrageous to question the influence that Israel and their lobbying groups have over American tax dollars? Apparently so. Gore Vidal, the old left’s last great prince, was much maligned for his positions on the Israeli question. In 1994 he wrote: “The hasty invention of Israel has poisoned the political and intellectual life of the USA.”
What did Vidal mean exactly? Though his critics labeled him a crypto-Nazi, Vidal concretely pointed to the reality of American foreign policy over the last half-century. The United States had once been a nation that prided itself in staying out of wars across the sea. Today, we believe it to be our greatest strength. Furthermore, what price do we pay for stormtrooping around the world in the name of justice? And who is the buyer?
Neohawks & Pro-War Liberals
Fox News quickly rolled out Holocaust comparisons. Megan McCain cried a river. Even Nancy Pelosi did everything in her power to turn and run. In this time of ultra-polarization, it was a sight to see the entire media and political apparatus in apparent agreement over Omar’s remarks. The neo-imperialistic instinct to control and police the world is a striking pattern that colors all frames of the modern nightly news and driveby media. When it comes to the big items, they always speak in unison.
Earlier today, Liz Cheney took her turn to cast stones against Omar. She labeled Omar’s words as “vile, hate-filled, anti-semitic, bigotry.” As her fingers dug into the podium, I couldn’t help but think of her father Dick and the endless wars that he helped orchestrate. I fumed. How dare any Cheney ever tell the American people about hate-filled bigotry when it was her doting husband who ripped up the Constitution and was solely responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Muslims and Christians for the enrichment of his oil-rich buddies?
Which is why it’s important that we critically analyze the response that Omar has received and attempt to decipher, for ourselves, what Omar was really getting at here. Her anti-imperialistic diction is reminiscent of old school leftists and conservatives who were always skeptical of wars and entanglements abroad. In his farewell speech, George Washington warned Americans to “beware of foreign entanglements” and that is exactly what Omar is doing. Her words are innately Americana and inspire us to look back at the proto-liberal ideas that founded and sustained our Republic.
Much of what Omar said has been clouded in vitriol, hate, and mischaracterizations. I recommend anyone reading this to seek out her comments for themselves. Listen to her speak a truth that is rarely uttered in American politics. Reflect on your own beliefs before leveling your instep criticisms. Her words are not ones of hate and they demand a real debate regarding Israel’s influence over American foreign policy.
“When people say, you are bringing hate, I know what their intention is. Their intention is to make sure that our lights are dimmed. That we walk around with our heads bowed. That we lower our face and our voice. But we have news for people. You can call us any kind of name. You can threaten us any kind of way. We’re here to say and represent the voices of people who have been silenced for many decades and generations.
There is a direct correlation between not having clean water and starting endless wars. It’s all about the profit and who gets benefits. There is a direct correlation between the corporations that are getting rich and the fact that we have students shackled with debt. What people are afraid of is not that there are Muslims in Congress. What people are afraid of is that there are Muslims in Congress who have their eyes wide open.” – Ilhan Omar.
Oh, and just a friendly reminder: Isreal still has nukes.