No Holds Barred: The growing sewer of hate of Ilhan Omar

In the past, the introduction of antisemitic rhetoric on popular, national platforms marked the start of dark times for the Jews.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) participates in a House Education and Labor Committee Markup on the H.R. 582 Raise The Wage Act, in the Rayburn House Office Building on March 6, 2019 in Washington, D.C (photo credit: MARK WILSON / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) participates in a House Education and Labor Committee Markup on the H.R. 582 Raise The Wage Act, in the Rayburn House Office Building on March 6, 2019 in Washington, D.C
On Sunday, the first day of the AIPAC Policy Conference, our organization, The World Values Network, took out a full-page color ad in the Sunday edition of The Washington Post calling out Rep. Ilhan Omar for her antisemitic remarks.
The headline read: “Blah Blah, The Jews Control The World With Their Money, Blah Blah,” showing Americans that Omar’s antisemitism is classic and her statements a repetition of age-old canards. We actually dug up those canards from classic antisemitic tracts, and the resemblance was striking and frightening.
We compared her claim that “Israel has hypnotized the world” into being blind from its “evildoings” with that made by the foundational text of modern antisemitism, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which explains that gentiles are blind to the evils of the Jew because he “hypnotizes [them] by his daring and strength of mind.” The notorious antisemitic archetype of the manipulative Jewish Svengali, too, has its roots in a Victorian “Jewish villain” of the same name, who was himself a supposed hypnotist.
We also took aim at Omar’s claim that America’s alliance with Israel is “all about the Benjamins [money],” which is as antisemitic as the sky is blue. In his prized compendium of Jew-hatred, The International Jew, founder of the Ford Motor Company and frothing antisemite Henry Ford wrote something similar. “Money” he claimed, “is the only means [the Jew] knows by which to gain position.” In quite the same vein, Omar implicitly assumes that America’s policy of supporting Israel has nothing to do with shared values, strategic interests, common democratic objectives, or tens of millions of Evangelical Christian votes. No. For the antisemite, it’s all about the Jews, their “Benjamins” and, of course, cash-gurgling golem AIPAC.
Just as soon as our ad was published to huge attention across the nation, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – who quite literally kicked off her congressional career by accusing Israel advocates of “dual loyalty” – attacked us for “incit[ing] violence toward a Black Muslim woman.”
“This type of hate,” she went on, “should not have a place in our newspapers or society.”
Accusations of Islamophobia and hate speech have been the favored red-herring distractions employed to shield Omar from any sort of criticism. Omar, Tlaib and her cohorts argue, should be allowed to attack the Jews in the most disgusting way but should never have to face consequences, because any response constitutes an a priori example of Islamophobia. And whatever viciousness Omar can direct at Jews dare not be criticized, because she is a defenseless woman.
Such arguments are not only straw men but are deeply misogynistic. They also grant Omar cover for her hate with false charges of Islamophobia and deny the Jewish people any right to defend itself against glaring, rancid antisemitic attacks. And by invoking Omar’s Islamic faith in her condemnation of the Jews, Tlaib abuses Islam, a great world religion, to justify the antisemitism of anyone claiming to be an adherent.
Ilhan Omar speaks for no one but herself when she defames Jews as buying lawmakers and being guilty of dual loyalty. Muslims and Jews are brothers. But Tlaib and Omar seem determined to drive us apart. There has never been real tension between the two communities in the United States. But Omar and Tlaib are doing their utmost to defame Jewry as much as possible, in the hopes of sewing a deep rift between Muslims and Jews, an outcome that I trust all God-fearing adherents of both faiths will reject.
Omar has employed all three of the basic slurs that have defined modern antisemitism: hypnotic mind control, economic manipulation, and dual loyalties. The Svengali, The Rothschild and The International Jew.
Moreover, there’s an old Jewish adage that three consecutive actions make a habit. Omar’s behavior indicates the same. In the aftermath of her first two slurs, Omar offered overtly inauthentic, yet formally acceptable apologies. After her comment on how we “push for allegiance to a foreign nation,” Omar did not offer a clarification of any kind. That this third offense came and went without even a halfhearted apology all but confirms that antisemitism has become habitual and instinctual to Ilhan Omar.
WITH THE antisemitic tone of Omar’s remarks abundantly clear, we need only establish that the micro-aggressions of inflammatory rhetoric aren’t so micro after all. Indeed, the ability of micro-aggressions to inspire macro-disasters is a serial feature in the tortured annals of Jewish history.
On the day before Easter in 1144, the body of a young boy was found in the city of Norwich, England. A monk named Thomas of Monmouth took advantage of the tragedy to write a book about how Jews filled their storehouses with blood in time for the Passover holiday. His words at first made little impact. But they hung in the air long enough to eventually catch on. Similar blood libels would emerge surrounding incidents in Gloucester (1168), Bury St Edmunds (1181) and Bristol (1183).
All throughout, these libels were nothing more than gossip. For years, those words turned and gurgled like molten metals in a cauldron of hate, which eventually hit its tipping point in 1189. At the coronation of Richard the Lionheart, marauding crowds crashed down upon the Jewish delegation, with Jewish communities soon being massacred in York, London, and Norwich. The number of libels (and dead Jews) would continue to pile up until, in 1290, England expelled its Jewish community altogether for nearly 400 years. From there, blood libels would go global. Indeed, they still exist today.
This is just one example of just how quickly antisemitic rhetoric incites antisemitic sentiment, which in turn ignites antisemitic policy.
Another example would be the Jews of Austria at the turn of the 20th century. Despite receiving full rights from Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1867, the Jewish community couldn’t shake the hateful rhetoric being constantly sent their way. Eventually, one of those hateful talkers found a platform large enough to catalyze the fusion of his toxic views with the public mind.
As mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910, Karl Lueger didn’t hurt any Jews. But he did call them “usurers” and “property exploiters” and claimed repeatedly that the press “mostly belongs to Jews.” He also urged his constituents to “fight with all determination against the unjustified and even harmful domination of a small fraction of the population.”
These words would blossom like toxic lilies in the hearts of thousands of Jew-haters drinking in his words. One such constituent was a young and struggling art student named Adolf Hitler, who would later credit the mayor with having introduced him to racist and antisemitic theory. While the fate of Austrian Jewry 40 years later needs no explanation, the crucial role played within it by a single hate-talker must be duly noted.
OMAR WAS elected to national office, which means she, too, has a national platform. With Ilhan as the needle, antisemitic tropes can now be comfortably sewn into the seams of the national discourse. In the past, the introduction of antisemitic rhetoric on popular, national platforms marked the start of dark times for the Jews.
One after another, Ilhan Omar is shattering taboos that have for years protected America’s Jews. What her words might mean in 40 years, none can say for sure. This time, though, American Jews would be wise to determine the answer and not wait to find out.
The writer, “America’s rabbi,” whom
The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 32 books, including his most recent, Lust for Love. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.