There’s a revolution underway. American Jews, who have been an integral part of the Democratic coalition for more than a century, are currently being made uncomfortable in their political home. And the whole thing is being live-tweeted.
What’s shocking isn’t that there are anti-Semites (and those willing to tolerate them) on the political left. There are Democratic members of Congress with ties to Louis Farrakhan, after all. But leftist anti-Semitism, which has continuously bubbled just below the surface for many years — and too often been blithely ignored — has burst into full view this year.
First there was the Women’s March subsumed by anti-Semitism, then the whole brouhaha over Sen. Marco Rubio’s anti-boycott, divestment, and sanctions bill, and now there’s Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, who simply can’t stop slandering American Jews and Zionists, two overlapping but not identical groups.
The Democratic National Committee felt compelled to pull their partnership with the Women’s March because it had become so toxic. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also managed to quickly formulate a leadership response condemning anti-Semitism when Omar created a stir with her hateful words just last month. But now something has clearly shifted.
Pelosi’s attempt to lead her caucus in a symbolic vote condemning anti-Semitism, which should have been a gimme, became a political football. Rather than rally to support long-time Jewish colleagues, who have expressed serious concerns about Omar’s anti-Semitism, members are mutinying in support of Omar.
Pelosi was recently lauded for her discipline and leadership. Yet she seems to have lost control of her own members. So she can’t enforce Rep. Eliot Engel’s demand for an apology after Omar’s latest “vile anti-Semitic slur,” accusing American Jews of dual loyalty, let alone strip Omar of her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. House Republicans would support Omar’s removal, but it’s increasingly clear that many Democrats do not. Just like Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Omar isn’t going anywhere.
From the outside, it appears we are watching a revolution in real-time. Pelosi and other long-time leaders are attempting to maintain power amidst a storm started by a freshman who’s been in office for two short months. (Doesn’t it feel longer?)
There have always been members of Congress who’ve taken a tough line on Israel. What Omar wants is different, though. She wants to make Congress a safe space for expressing Jew hatred, and based on the outpouring of support for her this week, there’s Democratic support for that. Omar has also had back-up from powerful progressive allies outside Congress like Linda Sarsour, who took to Facebook to blast Pelosi as “a typical white feminist upholding the patriarchy doing the dirty work of powerful white men.”
Those Democrats who want to uphold traditional norms, including the marginalization of anti-Semitism, are fighting an uphill battle. But is that battle still raging off-camera, or have Democratic leaders already surrendered?
It’s concerning that in less than one week, Pelosi has been reduced to pretending that Omar’s tweets were not “intentionally anti-Semitic,” while Majority Leader Steny Hoyer strained credulity, saying that Omar’s not an anti-Semite. That they lack the support of their members to speak truthfully on this issue, let alone take any decisive action, is a glaring problem.
And to be clear, the problem is not the use of “tropes.” Words are not violence, but hateful speech, especially from people in positions of authority, can lead to harmful real-world actions.
Democrats like to remind us of that link in other settings, but not here. Consider Sen. Kamala Harris’ statement: “I am concerned that the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk.” Omar is a public figure, so fair game for criticism, as Harris should know. It is striking, though, that Harris expresses zero concern about American Jews’ safety, a mere four months after 11 American Jews were massacred while praying in Pittsburgh.
This fight has been a long time in the making, but things are changing quickly. It’s been only two years since Jewish women felt the need to publicly make the case that one could be both a Zionist and a feminist. Is it now time for a debate about whether one can be both a Jew (who believes in Israel’s right to exist) and a Democrat?
The political party that’s long attracted the support of 75 percent of American Jews has shown this week that their leaders won’t stand up for the community when it matters. It’s quite breathtaking, really. It’s not only bipartisan support for Israel that’s being debunked as much weaker than advertised, but also, quite troublingly, an acceptance of Jew hatred directed at fellow Americans. For the record, that hatred is not only being tolerated but embraced by congressional Democrats.
The “allyship” progressives always cheer is proving to be a one-way street. Jews, who have traditionally voted for Democrats, are feeling betrayed, abandoned, and even politically homeless.
This path leads toward disaster. For Jews to truly have a home in America, anti-Semitism must be marginalized by both major political parties. And if the Democrats succumb to Omar’s anti-Semitism, the only winners will be bigots.