In an interview on Sunday with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) attempted to address her history of controversial comments, but the congresswoman’s responses did little to mitigate the concerns critics have raised so far, which range from treating the terror attacks of 9/11 with irreverence to espousing antisemitic rhetoric.
Anger towards Omar’s previous comments on 9/11 stem from a speech she delivered earlier this year to the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), where she stated an iinaccurate reasoning for CAIR’s founding. According to Omar, those at CAIR founded the organization when “they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”
What incensed audiences in particular was Omar’s blasé treatment of the deadliest terror attack on American soil. Indeed, whether you impart ill intent upon her words or not, both the content and the tone were unsettlingly dismissive and failed to capture the gravity of the fatal event. She received much grief for her words, most justified, some less so. However, Democrats closed ranks around her and claimed Islamophobia motivated any criticism. This did little to actually address her comments, which were objectively inappropriate.
That wasn’t the only problem with Omar’s statement about 9/11. It was also false. In actuality, the concept of CAIR came about in a 1993 meeting organized by the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate Palestinian Committee. The group was devising a way to gin up support for the terrorist organization Hamas in the United States and spoil the Oslo Accords, which legitimized the state of Israel again in 1993.
In response to this dilemma, alumni of the group Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) established CAIR. The now-obsolete IAP was itself established by senior Hamas official Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, who was indicted by U.S. courts in absentia in 2004 for coordinating and financing terror activities, including murder, kidnapping, and assaults, according to the indictment. Given CAIR’s less-than-favorable history, it is almost understandable that its supporters would try to rewrite it.
Thus, Omar’s recent interview with Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation” served as an opportunity for Omar to “set the record straight” on her feelings towards 9/11. Instead of sharing an unequivocal apology when prompted by Brennan, however, she opted to defend her comments, conceding the pain experienced by those who lost loved ones in 9/11, but ending her answer highlighting the pain experienced by some Muslim Americans in the form of facing increased suspicion following the attacks.
“But I think it is really important for us to make sure that we are not forgetting, right, the aftermath of what happened after 9/11,” Omar said in the interview. She brings up a valuable point, one that should not be denigrated. However, the framing of her explanation felt as if she were balancing the pains suffered, and it was uncomfortable to watch.
The other critique frequently is lodged at Omar is that she is anti-Israel and possibly antisemitic. In this interview, in which she blamed Israel for impeding peace in its region and heaped praise on the boycott, divest, sanction (BDS) movement, did little to weaken either accusation.
Omar’s reflections on the upcoming Israeli elections were entirely dishonest. When referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent plan to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, she referred to “this annexation” as responsible for “mak[ing] sure that the peace process does not happen.” The application of Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley is not novel nor outlandish, however.
For reasons outlined here, Israel has maintained a significant presence in the Jordan Valley, stemming from both legal claims and serious security concerns. If anything, Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley mitigates violence by preventing jihadists from smuggling weaponry into Israel and potentially committing violent atrocities. The biggest impediment to peace between Israel and the Palestinians is Palestinian leadership, in the form of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas (if we deign to call Hamas “leaders”), both of which reward terrorist “martyrs” for attacking and killing Jews.
Finally, Omar ends the interview with a plug for the BDS movement, declaring, “I think the opportunity to boycott divest sanction is the kind of pressure that leads to that peaceful process.” Omar’s praise for the BDS movement is sort of bizarre here, given that she calls for a two-state solution just two sentences before. The idea of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel was lauded by both the Bush and Obama administrations. In the two-state solution, however, there is an Israel. However, for the BDS movement, the ultimate endgame is no Israel.
As evidence of this attitude, look no further than the co-founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti, who not only has come out against the two-state solution but engaged in a whitewashing of Arab persecution of the Jews to buttress his claims for why a Jewish state is unnecessary, proclaiming that Jews “did not suffer in Arab countries. There were no pogroms. There was no persecution. And in general, the Jews thrive as minorities in Europe and the United States.” Regardless of your opinions on Israel, it is unbecoming for a member of Congress to be espousing the belief system of a movement devoted to erasing Jews’ history.
Furthermore, several countries, including Germany, have condemned the BDS movement as anti-Semitic for its “arguments, patterns, and methods,” which German politicians declared to be “reminiscent of the most horrific phase in German history…arousing associations with the Nazi slogan ‘Don’t buy from Jews.’”
Omar’s “Face the Nation” appearance provided her an opportunity to address her harshest critics, but she refused. She instead made uncomfortable pivots, eventually regurgitating the same theses she has always put forth and offering no genuine apologies or self-reflection. Omar’s interview is a reminder of the bravery it takes to admit when we’re wrong—and a reminder of how few of us actually have it.