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The Democrats’ Bigoted Smear Campaign Against Ilhan Omar

House Democrats are going after Omar because she had the gall to say that America and Israel do not deserve special treatment in international courts.

Ilhan Omar speaking at an event for Bernie Sanders in 2020
Gage Skidmore

You could be forgiven for thinking that Ilhan Omar recently committed some egregious offense. The news headlines are full of stormy words, all centered around her apparent misdeeds. “Ilhan Omar Again Sets Off a Fight Among Democrats,” the New York Times blares. Uh-oh, there she goes again.

So what is Omar’s crime this time? What is the unthinkable action that caused 12 of her fellow House Democrats to issue a statement on Wednesday night virtually accusing her of antisemitism?

The crime is this tweet from earlier this week:

The tweet is quite straightforward. It’s framed around a clip from a House committee hearing in which Omar asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the U.S. stance that the International Criminal Court should essentially have no jurisdiction over any crimes that the U.S., or indeed Israel, might commit. She was referencing specific, pending cases in the ICC against all of the actors mentioned in her tweet. Nothing too explosive, really.

But, in her tweet, Omar—who has also been smeared by AIPAC in recent weeks—had the gall to say that all sides in some of the most protracted conflicts in the world had committed atrocities. This, if you want to indulge the ludicrous framing of the New York Times, “set off a fight.” The U.S. and the Taliban have committed atrocities? Fighting words!!!!

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It was all too much for the aforementioned dozen House Democrats, all of whom are Jewish. They issued this statement on Wednesday night:

Let’s just examine this a little more closely. Look at this line, emphasis mine: “Ignoring the differences between democracies governed by the rule of law and contemptible organizations that engage in terrorism at best discredits one’s intended argument and at worst reflects deep-seated prejudice.”

That’s also quite straightforward. These Democrats think that, because Ilhan Omar said that all sides in the war in Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have committed atrocities, she is possibly a fanatic with a “deep-seated prejudice” towards America and Israel. In other words, she’s a fanatical Islamist and an antisemite because she said that everyone in two long-running conflicts—all of whom are the current subjects of international war crimes investigations!—have done bad things.

As so often happens, these politicians are engaged in a hefty bit of projection. They are accusing Omar of being in thrall to some poisonous ideology, but there is nothing more ideological than the assertion that, merely because America is America and Israel is Israel, you must discuss the atrocities they carry out in some special way. Accusing someone of antisemitism because they think that Israel might have a case to answer in the ICC is as ideologically destructive as it gets, as Omar herself pointed out.

The representatives here are not disputing Omar’s statement that America and Israel have committed atrocities. How could they? The existence of American and Israeli military atrocities is an objective fact, as indisputable as the existence of climate change. They can’t say that she was somehow “targeting” America and Israel for special criticism because she was careful to be “fair and balanced” and say that all sides have things to answer for.

No, their problem is that Omar implied that the United States and Israel deserve to be held accountable in exactly the same way as anyone else on the planet—that two countries do not deserve special treatment under international law. They hate the idea that something Israel has done could be worthy of the same level of criticism as something Hamas has done. If that is not a “deep-seated prejudice,” I’m not quite sure what is. I’d say that these Democrats should be ashamed, but that would imply that they know the meaning of the word.

Update, 2:11 p.m. ET: OK, job done everyone, Omar has moved to end this thing:

And the entire House leadership team has patted her on the back, while repeating the smear against her:

The fact that Omar has been pressured into what will inevitably be described as some kind of climbdown because she made the *factual statement* that Israel and the United States have committed atrocities, just like their enemies, is enraging beyond belief. The fact that Nancy Pelosi, rather than defend one of her most embattled members, is amplifying the disingenuous attacks against her, is infinitely contemptible.