“Clarifications,” The Toxic Cleanse

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) decided to absolve Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) after Omar lumped the United States and Israel into the same basket as the terrorist groups of the Taliban and Hamas. Pelosi saidWe did not rebuke her. We acknowledged that she made a clarification.”

“Clarifications” on anti-Israel and anti-Jewish comments have an interesting history.

Progressive professor and CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill offered a clarification after he quoted the tagline of the Palestinian Liberation Organization terrorist group, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which calls for the eradication of Israel. Hill “clarified” his comment that he was actually seeking a “radical change within Israel, not a desire for its destruction,” to convert the Jewish State into a bi-national state. He implied he wants a purely Arab state of Palestine and the end of Israel as a Jewish State. That was clarity enough for his to keep his job at Temple University.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) has a similar view about Israel and she tied it to the Holocaust. She told an outright lie that Israel was established in “trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post-the Holocaust” at the expense of her Palestinian Arab ancestors. People criticized her remarks in failing a basic truth that the land of Israel has been center of Judaism for nearly 4,000 years and modern Zionism predates the Holocaust by many decades. The whitewashing of the active role her ancestors played in blocking Jews from entering Palestine in fleeing Europe – killing over 100,000 Jews – was beyond insensitive. Tlaib remained defiant tweetingI will never allow you to take my words out of context to push your racist and hateful agenda,” in an attempt to invert her vile anti-Semitism as a charge against others who note basic facts.

Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan was a little less elegant in asking people to stop saying he’s an anti-Semite, clarifyingI’m anti-Termite.” That seemed to be enough for him to remain in a vaunted position with numerous politicians and celebrities quoting him.

Notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan standing at the funeral of Aretha Franklin alongside Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and former U.S. President Bill Clinton (photo: Mike Segar/Reuters)

The “clarifications” of anti-Zionists and anti-Semites like Omar, Tlaib, Hill and Farrakhan are additional opportunities for them to spew venom. Their desired absolution cannot be granted by leaders like Nancy Pelosi, and each and everyone of us must hold the bigots to account.


Related First One Through articles:

Pelosi’s Vastly Different Responses to Antisemitism and Racism

Ilhan Omar Isn’t Debating Israeli Policy, She is Attacking Americans

Is Ilhan Omar’s Mentor the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?

Rep. Ilhan Omar and The 2001 Durban Racism Conference

The Calming Feeling of Palestinian Refugees: Rashida Tlaib in Her Own Words

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Pelosi’s Vastly Different Responses to Antisemitism and Racism

The most powerful Democrat in the United States, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, is probably the sharpest politician in America today. She knows how to make Washington move to her beat, directing her party and challenging Republicans in both policy and directly for their jobs.

It has been quite a display watching how she has handled antisemitism and racism.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) made a series of antisemitic remarks in early 2019. Fellow members of Congress were appalled and wanted her called out and sought a resolution clearly condemning Jew hatred. But Pelosi sought to shield her fellow Democrat, especially a Black Muslim Woman. She managed to have Omar’s named pulled from the resolution and rather than specifically condemn antisemitism, the final wording covered ALL forms of hatred including “Islamophobia, racism and other forms of bigotry.

Omar and fellow female Muslim Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) were thrilled by the wording and saidIt’s the first time we have voted on a resolution condemning Anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation’s history.” Rather than being scolded and embarrassed, Omar emerged as a proud victor.

She received a lesson that hateful words and actions do not matter: it’s power that protects, and Nancy Pelosi is both powerful and astutely political.

Ilhan Omar and Nancy Pelosi (photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP Images}

On June 8, 2020 Pelosi sought to address another case of bigotry regarding the killing of an unarmed Black man by a police officer in Minnesota. Pelosi issued a clear statement that “Black Lives Matter,” and said that only “House Democrats” seek justice on behalf of George Floyd’s family and other African-Americans.

So when a Black elected member of Congress made a series of antisemitic tropes, Nancy Pelosi came to her defense and said ALL hatred is terrible, but when a local White police officer killed a Black man, Pelosi stated that ONLY Black lives mattered. When Omar was vilified, Pelosi said she was particularly worried about Omar’s safety, as though Jews were murderers coming to get her, but now seems nonplussed by the nationwide riots and violence – including the killing of police officers – after the killing of George Floyd and Omar’s chant that police are a “cancer” that should be rooted out.

Leading Democrats alongside Nancy Pelosi donning African garb and bending a knee

Pelosi knows politics and knows the 2020 election will be determined by turnout. There are seven times as many Black as Jews in the USA and the number of Muslims will surpass Jews in a decade. This crafty politician knows where her power ultimately lies, and it’s not with the ever-shrinking Jewish minority, two-thirds of whom vote for Democrats regardless of who is running.

If you want an unvarnished view of America’s concern for antisemitism today, consider the cold calculus of America’s leading politician.


Related First One Through articles:

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Examining Ilhan Omar’s Point About Muslim Antisemitism

Anti-Semitism Is Harder to Recognize Than Racism

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Black Antisemitism: The Intersectional Hydra

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Inclusion versus Attention, and The Failure of American Leadership

The United States of America was founded on the principles of liberty and equality for all. In its early days, it came up short of those ideals, most notably in its treatment of African Americans who were kept as slaves, and of women who were denied the right to vote. Over the course of many years, the discriminatory laws fell and all people were understood to have a right to participate in every part of the public forum.

Some of the restrictions which were impediments to sections of society were marked in law while others were inherently physical. If the communal forum could be described as a public park, the American migration towards inclusion did not only remove the “No Jews Allowed” signs and the separate entrance for African-Americans, but removed the large flight of steps from the entrance, to enable all people to navigate into and throughout the park. The goals and actions of inclusions targeted both the intentional historic biases as well as the manifest material barriers which prevented all people from enjoying our collective world.

There are times when America falls short. As a society, we may not have removed all of the obstructions to enable everyone to join activities or we may have actually facilitated de facto hurdles which prevent certain segments of the community from engaging. Those are critical moments which need our attention, not a repetition of society’s aims.

As a continuation of the park example above, if a physically challenged person fell down stairs at the park, the appropriate action is to address the injury (perhaps with ice) and to fix the problem (build a ramp or smooth walkway). The immediate action should NOT be to pass out ice packs to everyone at the park nor to make pronouncements that the park is a space for all. Inclusion is a mission for our society, but it is not a salve to be uttered when things or people need attention. At those moments, required actions are the appropriate course.

Ilhan Omar Waves the Ice

In the winter of 2019, a new Democratic member of the House of Representatives, Ilhan Omar, seemingly could not stop attacking Americans who supported Israel. She accused Americans of bribing government officials to get them to support Israel, and she said that those pro-Zionists had misplaced and dangerous loyalties to foreign governments. After past comments in which she called Israel an “apartheid” state, “evil,” and a demonic institution that “hypnotized the world,” Omar was widely labeled an anti-Semite.

Many Americans – Republicans and Democrats – called on Omar to be censured from the House floor. They demanded a clear call to denounce antisemitism, the most prevalent type of bigotry in the United States, which has only grown more prevalent in recent years.

But the Democratic leadership under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opted not to do that. She did not strip Omar of her committee assignment (on Foreign Affairs, no less!) nor did she unambiguously rebuke Omar’s antisemitic words. Instead, Pelosi simply offered a general denunciation of all forms of bigotry. It was as if someone was singled out in the public park for injury, and Pelosi handed out ice packs to everyone she could see.

The insult to Jews would remarkably get worse, as Omar used the opportunity to wave her Pelosi ice pack in front of teary Jewish eyes as they remained on the ground in pain. She said:

“Today is historic on many fronts. It’s the first time we have ever voted on a resolution condemning Anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation’s history. Anti-Muslim crimes have increased 99% from 2014-2016 and are still on the rise.”

It is not as though the statement on its own is problematic. However, a call of inclusion at a moment that requires attention is misplaced and is hurtful. The Democratic leadership acted just like the United Nations, which calls for inclusion for “all” people when Jews are victims, but specifically gives attention to Palestinian Arabs when they are victims. It is a disgraceful tacit blessing of antisemitism by those in power in the face of Jews who just suffered from bigotry.

Donald Trump’s “Many Sides”

The Democratic leadership is not alone in missing the boat on focused attention in moments of stress.

In August 2017 a group of white nationalists took to the street of Charlottesville, VA shouting racist and antisemitic slogans and killed a woman counter-protester. Republican President Donald Trump condemned the bigotry – but broadly – on “on many sides, on many sides.” A person was run over in a racist riot and the citizens of the country needed attention at such a fragile moment, not equivocation.

The stain on Trump has not gone away, and the United Nations remains an antisemitic cesspool. Will Nancy Pelosi suffer the same consequences from her failure to clearly and unambiguously call out antisemitism and instead reward the instigator?


Related First.One.Through articles:

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“Jews as a Class”

NY Times Discolors Hate Crimes

The Invisible Anti-Semitism in Obama’s 2016 State of the Union

Between Right-Wing and Left-Wing Antisemitism

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