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Ms Omar’s ‘heresy’

February 17, 2019


A ROOKIE in America’s political ring, Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, beat a hasty retreat the other day when both Republicans and Democrats joined hands to flay her for what in America is considered heresy: she had lambasted Israel. Within hours of her criticism of the Jewish state over its treatment of the Palestinian people, Republicans and Democrats, including one of America’s most powerful women, Nancy Pelosi, demanded an immediate apology for her “anti-Semitic tropes”. Evidently, the Bachelor’s degree that the immigrant from Somalia obtained in political science and international studies had taught her theory and not one of the fundamentals of American politics: Israel’s criticism is synonymous with anti-Semitism. In her tweet, Ms Omar had supported the ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ campaign, which demands Israel’s adherence to international treaties and calls for its withdrawal from the occupied territories. Her tweet raised a storm when she said American politicians supported Israeli policies for monetary reasons. When someone asked if she could clarify who doled out the money, Ms Oman flashed a one-word tweet “AIPAC” — American-Israel Public Affairs Committee.

AIPAC is a dreadful moniker, whose very mention sends a chill down Congressmen’s otherwise strong spines. A politician on the wrong side of the AIPAC has no chance of making it to Congress or to a state legislature. Once elected — as Ms Omar has been — an American lawmaker stands no chance of a re-election, unless he or she behaves. Quickly, the hijab-wearing Congresswoman realised she had grossly erred and thanked her critics for “educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes”. She would have spared herself strictures and denied Israel loyalists yet another opportunity to display their servility if she had read a comment by one of America’s leading journalists. Writing in NYT on the warm reception Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu received in Congress, Thomas Friedman said each of those standing ovations was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby”.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2019