From the inception of the State of Israel in 1948, both Democrats and Republicans announced their enthusiastic bipartisan support for the establishment of the country. However, this significant and shared support for over 50 years may be at risk with the November 2018 election of two new Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (Minnesota District 5) and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan District 13). The election of these two women has now put into doubt that there will always be majority support for the State of Israel within the United States Congress.
Within their campaigns for election and immediately after their wins, both have challenged the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Ironically, both served in their State Houses prior to their election to Congress that had enacted State laws that prohibited the boycott, divestment and sanctions (also known as the “BDS movement”) against Israel. The “BDS movement” is the global campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel, attempting to link its government to the historical apartheid policies in South Africa. It is significant to note that in 2017, Minnesota became the 19th State to enact a law prohibiting any BDS actions and on New Year’s Eve 2018, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder also signed two anti-BDS bills into law. To date, 26 States (including Minnesota & Michigan) have anti BDS laws on their books with pending legislation in many others.
I personally reached out to both Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for comment after their elections asking them how they can support BDS when both of their States have laws preventing such actions? Omar’s office advised me that Akolade Gbadamosi from her staff would respond after returning to the office but as of this writing, no response has followed. Tlaib’s office has provided no response as well. As Omar & Tlaib cannot uphold the laws of their State within their current State houses, both have now been elected to higher levels of government representation. It is in their national level positions as newly elected Congresswomen, where their voices may have a louder and larger negative impact on the State of Israel that concerns me and other pro Israel individuals significantly.
Moreover, Omar and Tlaib hold views which are in violation of the State Department definition of Anti-Semitism relative to Israel. The Department of State defines Anti-Semitism relative to Israel as “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and denying the Israel the right to exist and for blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions” (with a further definition as well).
One would hope that both Omar and Tlaib would bring a unique lens of their Muslim heritage to Congress, one that brings to life the compassion noted in Islam. Sadly, this is not the case. Both are bringing forward a virulent anti-Israel narrative. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib scare me and they should scare you as well. Allowing Omar & Tlaib to be seated in Congress will provide them with a legitimacy and larger stage for their anti- Semitic views. We must hold firm that the anti -Israel bigotry that Omar and Tlaib espouse in any words or actions will not be accepted in Washington and elsewhere in the United States.
In 2012 Omar (in a Tweet) declared Israel had “hypnotized” the world and prayed Allah would help the world see the “evil doings of Israel.” In September of this year, Omar spoke at an event asking for funds to be raised for Gaza and specifically to be managed by Hamas who to date has no money to care for its population but remains able to send hundreds of rockets across its border to Israel. And while Ivanka Trump recently announced that she supported changes to allow Ilhan Omar to wear a Hijab in Congress reflecting changes after 181 years this month, Omar had only words of criticism for Ivanka Trump when she attended the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem in May. Omar tweeted “@IvankaTrump smiles, as blood spills on the streets underneath her! Heartbreaking to read 52 Palestinians, including several teenagers, were dead and at least 1,700 were injured in Gaza! #IsraeliCrimes #GazaMassacre #gazaprotests #peace.” Renewed Gaza-Israel border protests that began in March 2018 consisted mainly of young men who approached the border, threw stones and Molotov cocktails, and have accelerated into rolled burning tires at Israeli troops responsible for defending their border. Omar’s comments continue to fail to recognize any of the complex issues at hand other than her open hatred for the State of Israel.
Rashida Tlaib openly supports a “One-State Solution”, one that does not call for the existence of the State of Israel. Tlaib ran unopposed for John Conyer’s seat this November after he stepped down amid sexual harassment allegations. In her 2016 Twitter feed, Tlaib tweeted that “Israel is inciting Palestinian violence.” In 2017, she openly attacked California Senator Kamala Harris calling her “part of the resistance to racism” when Senator Harris met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussing joint areas of interest between Israel and the State of California. Of significant note is that the State of California & Israel have a Memorandum of Understanding on water management, cyber security and similar program initiatives. Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked Senator Kamala for “America’s commitment to Israel’s security.”
Even the far left- wing lobby group J Street, withdrew its endorsement and support of Tlaib in August 2018 for being “too anti-Israel” . According to J Street, they announced that “we cannot endorse candidates who conclude that they can no longer publicly express unequivocal support for a two-state solution and other core principles to which our organization is dedicated.”
Sadly, and misleadingly, Ilhan Omar was featured in a Maroon 5 “Girls Like You” video of famous women this past summer. The video features J-Lo, Ellen DeGeneres, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Tiffany Haddish, Millie Bobby Brown, Camila Cabello, Ashley Graham, Aly Raisman, and many more popularized role models. The ugly beliefs and truths about Ilhan Omar must be shared with these women and all woman so they understand the repercussions of such a video featuring her in it. Similarly, a picture of a smiling Tlaib is featured on her Facebook page with former President Obama as are additional pictures of her endorsed by wide range of other elected officials.
The greatest concern for all of us should be the virtual silence on the topic of BDS and Anti-Semitism from elected officials, NGO’s, media notables and other celebrities. With the Chanukah holiday quickly upon us, it is our duty and responsibility to bring light to the world and challenge any support for two virulent anti-Semites as they are sworn into Congress. Their election is not an issue of Democrat or Republican, it is an issue of decency and the values that we stand for as Americans. Where is the outrage and the call to publicly question and challenge these women are seated in our Congress on January 3, 2019? It is time for all of us to affirm that as citizens of the United States of America we will not tolerate the scourge of bigotry and racism. I ask you to join me in voice and action.