I'm a very long way from having expertise on the Middle East, from deep understanding of Palestinian v. Jewish conflicts, etc. I have strong positive appreciation of ancient Jewish culture, and somewhat similar (though even less well informed) appreciation of ancient Islamic culture. I'm not a politician or ever likely to be one. I'm an atheist and therefore don't accept Jewish or Islamic ideas of any gods--and Jews and Muslims, however friendly with me, can probably never fully accept me because of my infidel status.
But the ongoing brouhaha over Representative Ilhan Omar and her alleged anti-Semitic remarks seems quite ridiculous and unjust to me. And I admit I'm glad to find that many Jews have joined in the critique of those who conflate anti-Semitism and criticism of Israeli policies and actions. Examples:
From the NYTimes letters to the editor:
Anti-Semitism Charges Roil Democrats
Readers discuss comments by Representative Ilhan Omar, the influence of a pro-Israel lobbying group and divisions within the Democratic Party.
Re “Rift Over Israel Has Democrats Divided by Age” (front page, March 6):
Of course Democrats are more aggressive in combating prejudice within their own party. It’s both human nature and good diplomacy to hold your own family to higher standards than outsiders or adversaries (otherwise, you’d just look partisan and hypocritical).
As an older American Jewish Democrat, I am as aghast as younger American Jews at Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinians. I encourage speaking out against it and I applaud Jewish-Palestinian collaboration. But anti-Semitic tropes about the power of Jewish money and the dual allegiance of American Jews are inexcusable aspersions in the face of what might otherwise be valid concerns.
Jewish Democrats are fairly defending themselves against such tropes; if other groups — people of color, Muslims, Palestinians — criticize Jewish Democrats for not speaking up more forcefully on their behalf as well, that is fair, too. But why aren’t those other groups equally concerned about anti-Semitism?
“Concerns Raised Over Power Wielded by a Pro-Israel Lobbying Giant” (news article, March 5) provides useful information about the tactics the pro-Israel lobby uses to pressure and intimidate members of Congress. Until now, these methods have largely accomplished their goal: an almost total and unconditional refusal in Congress to question Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians or the $3.8 billion in military aid we give to Israel each year.
When Representative Ilhan Omar, one of only two Muslim congresswomen, dares to question this, she is pilloried and falsely accused of anti-Semitism. This is a disgrace.
I am one of thousands of American Jews who applaud Ms. Omar for her courage and honesty and stand with her in objecting to Israel’s brutal and worsening policies toward Palestinians.
Ms. Omar speaks simple truth. Isn’t unconditional support of another country no matter its actions a form of allegiance to that country?
The writer is professor emerita of political science at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY.
I am deeply shaken by the fault lines that have been exposed by the recent controversy around the influence wielded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac. It is not anti-Semitic to hold Israel to the same standards as we do other nations. Many Jewish people, myself included, disagree with the current policies of the Israeli government, particularly with regard to the human rights of the Palestinian people, the occupied territories and the settlements.
Identity politics perpetuate stereotypes and prejudice and ultimately dehumanize us. We need to take a breath and have honest, good-faith discussions without throwing around accusations of anti-Semitism when we disagree.
I continue to applaud the election of two Muslim women to Congress, even though their presence and remarks have exacerbated tensions over Israel and anti-Semitism. They present us with a marvelous opportunity.
As a rabbi on Long Island for many decades, I was very proud of my congregation’s establishment of an ongoing dialogue with a nearby mosque. The friendship that emerged enabled us to discuss many inflammatory subjects including Palestinian/Israeli crises, growing Islamophobia and the complicated distinction between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, which lies at the heart of the current controversy.
Now is the time for synagogue and mosque leaders to reach out to each other, building trust and understanding. The Democrats can resolve their rift with patience and tolerance. American Jews and Muslims, natural allies facing a resurgence of racial and religious hatred, can do so, too.
Michelle Goldberg's column, with which I only mostly agree, is on point as well:
And there is this on AlterNet: