Yes, she is. She is - and has been wrong in the past - for her comments regarding the influence of the Israel lobby and accusations of dual loyalty. Although journalists have accurately indicated that she is directing these allegations against Jew and non-Jew alike, it is a work of intellectual fiction to ignore that Jews are the perceived targets of such attacks. Charges of allegiance to other countries (i.e. Israel); the power of the Israel lobby; “the Benjamins” serving as lawmakers’ motivation for supporting Israel; Israel hypnotizing the world: All of these pronouncements from Representative Omar are anti-Semitic, plain and simple.
As Congress wrestles with a resolution condemning anti-Semitism in the wake of Omar’s recent comments, a debate, including within the Jewish community, rages. The premise of these deliberations is wrong, distorting the very essence of what Omar has stated. As human beings, let alone Jews, we must speak out against discrimination of any kind, including against those attacking Representative Omar for being Muslim. That fact, though, should not distract from the immorality of the very public comments from a member of our government.
The most prevalent defense of Rep. Omar is that any criticism of Israel is now irrationally considered anti-Semitic. I do not disagree that many a conversation deteriorates from a legitimate argument over Israeli government policy into an emotional tete-a-tete about anti-Semitism or, within the Jewish community, an allegation that criticism equates to a condemnation of Israel as a country (e.g. “bad Jew”). I leave that discussion for another day. My point is that the tropes listed above have NOTHING TO DO WITH ISRAELI POLICY. They are blatant attacks on Jews and on those that support Israel, not excerpts of civil discourse.
Alleging allegiance to Israel (presumably above the U.S.) or dual-loyalty has been a tool of anti-Semites for generations, levied against no other nationality in this country except for the shameful internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II. For those who consider its meaning a relic of days gone by, I implore you to speak to the Jewish communities today in France. In Britain. On college campuses. Anti-Semitic acts are increasing at a terrifying rate, with violent attacks against Jews on the rise. And much of this activity is occurring on the very continent where such questioning of one’s loyalty led directly to the marginalization and demonization of Jews, undeserving of protection and targeted for murder in the 1930’s. Couldn’t happen today? Look behind the BDS curtain. Listen to their chants. Observe their treatment of Jews, just because they are Jews. Talk to European Jews. We cannot sit idly by, lest it become normalized once again.
Similarly, the contentions of unjustified power of the Israel lobby or the undue influence of Jewish money can only be characterized as anti-Semitic, intended to completely delegitimize support for Israel as anything but corrupt. Agree with them or not, AIPAC is an effective lobby, often targeted by anti-Israel antagonists. Israel enjoys incredible support in Congress. These results are not due to some nefarious scheme. They are the result of conclusions based on shared values, morals and ethics, yet these accusations completely dismiss that political supporters could possibly have such independent, sincere thought. The argument is both ridiculous and as anti-Semitic today as it was when my parents were children. Jews and Israel enjoy tremendous, but far from unanimous, support in the U.S. Not because of AIPAC. Not because of Jewish money. But because we, as Jews, deserve it like any other group in this country and because Israel, far from perfect, merits the U.S.’s alliance in a world filled with countries that want, and some that actively pursue, its complete destruction - the only country so targeted.
As I have stated in the past, criticism of Israel is a critical aspect of its strength as a democracy. No one should be condemned for challenging it's policies. It is not anti-Semitic per se to do so. The issue transforms into one of hateful discrimination when, as is all too prevalent, the chants become “from the river to the sea”, an attack on the country’s legitimacy and on Jews alike. I do not agree with all American policy. I believe this country does some pretty awful things. Still, I love this country and am a proud American. I am not happy with all that occurs in Israel. Not by a long shot. Still, I am unapologetically an unwavering supporter of Israel as a country. For those defending Rep. Omar’s comments and those unsure, consider the distinctions between hateful stereotypes and genuine political discourse. Her comments were not about Israeli policy. They were not a policy debate in Washington. They were anti-Semitic tropes repeated for centuries.
Representative Omar is wrong.