Swarthmore JVP: We Stand With Ilhan Omar

This past week, Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has faced intense and unwarranted scrutiny for comments related to Israel/Palestine from elected officials on both sides of the aisle. Simultaneously, students from Swarthmore Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have experienced targeted harassment and have been called anti-Semitic, from members of our community at Swarthmore and external right-wing social media pages.

Jewish Voice for Peace at Swarthmore unequivocally stands with Ilhan Omar and with Swarthmore SJP.

Rep. Omar was called anti-Semitic for calling out the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) influence on U.S. politics. AIPAC is one of the largest and most powerful lobbying groups in the country; identifying that a powerful lobbying group uses finances to influence politicians is not anti-Semitic –– it is simply explaining how lobbies work.

As Jews, genuine anti-Semitism is something with which we are all too familiar. It is real, dangerous, rooted in white supremacy, and ever-present in U.S. politics. Steve King (R-IA), for example, vocally associated with white supremacist Holocaust deniers. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tweeted this past October that three Jewish Democratic donors were scheming to buy the upcoming election. And just this week, Jim Jordan (R-IA) also sent a tweet implicating a Jewish donor in controlling politics with finances.

None of these politicians, and the countless others who have engaged in promoting anti-Semitic attacks, have been criticized as harshly as Ilhan Omar. Rep. Omar is a Black Muslim Somali refugee and a woman. The attacks on her are anti-Black, Islamophobic, xenophobic, and gendered in nature; there is nothing that Rep. Omar has said or done to indicate she is anti-Semitic. False charges of anti-Semitism not only shut down conversations about genuine anti-Semitism, but have also effectively diverted attention away from the state of Israel’s fascistic and settler-colonialist policies that Rep. Omar spoke out against in the first place.

Instead of attacking Rep. Omar for exposing the AIPAC lobby and supporting Palestinian human rights, we should be criticizing our elected officials who perpetuate white supremacy in all its forms, from unfairly attacking marginalized peoples, to perpetuating actual anti-Semitic bigotry, to supporting a state that systemically dispossess Palestinians. The reality that Israel daily violates Palestinian human rights must be confronted in the fight to create a just and peaceful world for all.

We hope that our representatives fight this ideology of white supremacy with the same bravery and tenacity of Rep. Omar.  We are proud to defend her.