Trans-Denominational Jewish religious organization sees the need for drastic action
When Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was elected to Congress it might have been seen as a demonstration of the openness of American society. Given the experience of 9/11 and the continued threats from ISIS against the U.S., a Somali Muslim in congress was a first and was proof to the world that America is capable of seeing beyond historic wounds.
It was therefore very sad when Ms. Omar chose to use her new position to slam American support for the State of Israel by suggesting that it resulted from wealthy Jews paying representatives for their votes.
Possibly, Ms. Omar sincerely believes this and felt she was fighting the good fight by heroically shining a light on a cabal she thinks exists and is manipulating U.S. foreign policy. That so many of her own party allies had to berate her for using an age-old Anti-Semitic canard before she apologized, might show she didn’t know she was doing anything wrong. Maybe she really was unaware that this particular slur has resulted in the murder of Jews since the Middle Ages through the Holocaust.
Even if Representative Omar felt her words to be true, it is disturbing to consider the reaction to them thus far. Correctly, Nancy Pelosi condemned the use of an Anti-Semitic trope by a member of Congress. Many others have joined in castigating her and Ms. Omar has now apologized for her tweets. Unfortunately, she tempered her apology by maintaining that the American Israel PAC is representative of the problem of lobbyists influencing American policy. Most of those who lobby on behalf of AIPAC are citizen volunteers who support Israel, not paid lobbyists.
At a time when cries go forth for the resignation of a Governor and attempts were made to block the nomination of a Supreme Court candidate because of decades old racist or misogynistic yearbook comments or pictures, how is it that Ms. Omar gets a pass on her Anti-Semitism with a tepid apology?
The recent call for Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) to resign from Congress after repeated racist remarks is very much in place. Both his and Rep. Omar’s statements are current events not echos from their respective pasts. While Mr. King has been stripped of his committee positions by the Republican leadership, Ms. Omar has not been touched. Both are equally guilty of public anti-Semitic statements. Neither should be representing an America that believes in the protection of religious freedom and safety from hate.
Racism is racism, whether it is aimed at Jews, African Americans, Christians, Asians or Moslems. To suggest, through action or inaction, that racist speech aimed at one group must be dealt with strictly, while against another group a slap on the wrist will do, reflects an un-American double standard. Even when the perpetrator is part of a minority, racism is socially poisonous and cannot be tolerated, particularly in the halls of our national legislature.
It is with regret, then, that we must call for the immediate resignation, not just from committees but from Congress, of both Ilhan Omar and Steve King because of their destructive racially charged statements. We hope others will join in this call. Nothing less will demonstrate true recognition that Anti-Semitic words, even if naively spoken, represent an intolerable evil in our society.
Rabbi Ronald D. Price, UTJ Executive Vice President, Emeritus, Boynton Beach, FL
Rabbi Professor David Novak, UTJ President, Toronto, Canada
Rabbi Gerald Sussman, Executive Director, Staten Island, NY
The Union for Traditional Judaism, founded in 1984, is a New York based trans-denominational religious organization created to put forward the teachings of “Emunah Tzerufah v’Yosher Da’at”, Genuine Faith and Intellectual Integrity. For more information see our website.
Rabbi Ronald Price