I’ve been working on a post about the Omar controversy. It’s taken a bit longer than I anticipated. But I just got this note from TPM Reader TB which captures one of the key elements of the controversy, to my mind. Many readers have a hard time really seeing anti-Semitism, recognizing it as real and complex issue in our society, when it runs into conflict with their ordinary sense of who the good guys and the bad guys are in our politics. It can be relegated to a footnote, a secondary concern, when the ‘real’ issue appears to be racism or Islamophobia. And those are very real issues. But it is just as true that the Israeli right and its supporters in the US (who are overwhelmingly evangelical Christians) have reaped the whirlwind by making the Netanyahu government’s meddling in US politics so frequent and expected. It is not only wrong on the merits. It is insanely shortsighted for Israel. It also endangers American Jews.
Here’s TPM Reader TB …
Everyone has their own view on the Omar situation, and I can see that it is highly personal and reflects a person’s perspective and life experience. My reaction has been different than any that I have seen in the press, although I certainly haven’t read every opinion article on this matter. Just to be honest and lay it out there, I have soured on Israel over the last 10 years or so because of the Netanyahu government’s support of the right in America, its opposition to Obama, and its essentially pro-permanent-apartheid stance on its relations with the Palestinians.
I always rooted for Israel because it was an underdog and shared values with us. I have soured on them though because the population has elected successive right-wing governments, and those governments have been increasingly hostile to the Democratic Party in the US. I take that personally because the Democratic Party and progressivism in my country are so important to me. I have to be honest and say that I see the Omar situation through that prism. I am an Inside subscriber in large part because I think you are a voice of reason on the left, and you haven’t written anything on this matter that I disagree with. When you have said that Omar went too far with her words, I have always agreed. But I can’t deny that I am happy that the issue of our unquestioning support for Israel within the Democratic Party has come to light.
To be clear, I do not equate Israel with countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia or even Hungary. They have a robust Democracy. Imagine a Russian prosecutor indicting Putin… But if I am feeling this about Israel right now then I would think other Democrats are as well. I hope the Israeli people choose a government in the coming election that is less hostile to my political party and I can go back to rooting for them again. For now, I am not motivated to be their defender.
As I’ve explained, the part of this that has engaged my attention and focus really isn’t about Israel at all. It’s about American Jews, their safety and the degree to which they get pulled into these controversies. There is nothing wrong with criticizing Israel. I agree with many of the main criticism. There’s nothing about criticizing Israel that is anti-Semitic, though the two things can overlap. And the history of anti-Semitism being what it is, it behooves critics to stay their criticism in ways that doesn’t easily play into anti-Semitic stereotypes. But the Israeli right and its American allies have made all of this more difficult for American Jews, who are overwhelmingly identified with the party the current Israeli government considers itself opposed to.