Maybe it is not always about the Benjamins, anti-Semitism or Islamophobia. Maybe we are just too busy trying to promote our own views that we fail to see what others are trying to say. No one is born an anti-Semite, a racist or whatever we choose to call others today. These are certainly traits society forces upon people. Although James Watson, the famous geneticist or now sort of, might be itchy to tell us it is perhaps some sort of genetic mutation from baby through adulthood.
We often make the assumption that we have already arrived at this level of understanding that there is no longer room for growth. There is always room for growth and that is something we need to take upon ourselves, not only to challenge ourselves, but also to stimulate and push the kinds of discussions that bring the best out of us and others and to realize that understanding is a journey with no arrival.
Rep Omar said lobbyists and PACs “play a problematic role in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.“ Even as she criticizes the huge influence from these groups on congress, she also receives the Benjamins (money) from the Council on American Islamic Relations, CAIR another PAC. It won’t be any surprise if CAIR is interested in pushing its own considerations on the table. It is unfortunate that only interest groups with deeper pockets get noticed by congress, but that is the reality.
She questioned the influence of the NRA, big pharma, and the AIPAC all in the same sentence and that would otherwise have been harmless, yet she faced strong criticism even for that.
Her statement during a panel session where she asked why it was wrong to question the push to allegiance to a foreign country happened on February 28. Coincidentally, this was the same day a UN report came out accusing the Israelis to have committed serious crimes against humanity in Gaza on Palestinians.
Rep. Omar said she felt “pained” being accused as intolerant. “But it’s almost as if, every single time we say something regardless of what it is we say…we get to be labeled something,” she said. “And that ends the discussion. Because we end up defending that and nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine. So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
Her comments may be prematurely judged as anti-Semitic, but the issue is if that was the biggest story of the week or if Israel and her allies were using that as a distraction from what was really the biggest news. So, why the sudden ganging up on her on a seemingly innocuous statement?
Are we saying that her ill-conceived tweets and comments for which she apologized deserved to have garnered a lot more media attention than the UN report accusing Israelis for committing crimes against humanity in Gaza on Palestinians?
Congress even passed a resolution seemingly condemning Rep. Omar and the serious allegations in the UN report just went by as just another report. There was no resolution on these crimes. This certainly smacks of double standards. The fervor with which the resolution over her poor word choice was quickly taken up is nothing short of remarkable.
Singling out the new congress woman for her comments, but completely ignoring the perspective she was making about the strong AIPAC and Israeli influence actually only validated her point. That she will be scrutinized and vilified even for things that would have gone unquestioned if they were made by others. That AIPAC and other Jewish lobby groups have a considerable influence on members of congress.
Considering that the focus was on Omar and not the UN report, it was definitely a big win from a PR perspective for Netanyahu. One is also left to wonder if PR and twitter mishaps trump humanity.
It is no secret that for many Evangelicals and a good number of conservatives that when it comes to Israel, it is as much about the Bible as it is about democracy. We see people often turn a blind eye when Christians are not affected.
For these folks, it is a Bible duty, not to mention the category of folks who believe that God brought them into the world so that they could voice their defense for Israel. On the other hand, we hear little condemnation of the atrocities of Hamas from muslim communities.
One of the unintended consequences of misusing the Holocaust to discredit genuine criticism is that you begin to reduce it to the point that it becomes a common term. When it becomes a common term, there is no going back. That will be a great dishonor to the many people who lost their lives.
In fact, Netanyahu seems to use the Holocaust to hang it around the neck of anyone who tries to criticize Israeli policies in the region. The Holocaust is sacrosanct and in another world, it would be morally reprehensible for anyone to throw it around, but this seems to be something Netanyahu constantly does today and goes away unscathed. Apparently because it is always a winner.
Knowing the Holocaust is a deeply emotional subject for many, Netanyahu can always count on people to make mistakes in criticizing Israel to capitalize on it. Anti-Semitism is real and it is the more reason why Netanyahu should be called out when he wields it as his political trump card.
The condemnation of otherwise valid criticism against Israeli policies is sometimes jarring especially when it fails to highlight the real sufferings of Palestinians. The condemnations are swift and as in Rep Omar’s case, a one-sided condemnation to callous statements that were really a reference to legitimate issues. These make one to wonder if the Jewish community in trying to call attention to anti-Semitism instead encourages anti-Semitic sentiments.
Since Rep. Omar’s intention was clearly trying to highlight the Palestinian issue, we can’t go without talking about Hamas a little. And what is really the deal with Hamas?
Sticking your neck too far out for the Palestinians is always a problem especially when Hamas does not see the futility of terrorism. Hamas has made it its sole goal to eliminate Israel even at the cost of every Palestinian life. You would think Hamas by now might have given up terrorism, the rockets and the tunneling, but far from it.
Hamas won elections in 2006 and it only had to recognize the state of Israel and renounce terrorism in order for the new government to get the international aid it so badly needed. In a monumental strategic blunder, Hamas refused. The government eventually collapsed and Hamas went back to fighting.
Israel responded by pounded it almost to oblivion that Hamas has now cowardly turned to protests. Hamas engages in protests today with the expressed intent to commit violence tomorrow. How does one even reconcile that?
It is hard to make sense of the passions that drive people to terrorism and one can only speculate as to why Hamas has so far failed to renounce violence. Hamas is perhaps more interested in preserving a younger generation of diehard fighters because had the organization accepted the coexistence of the state of Israel and renounced violence that act alone would have induced a generational mind change.
Kids would have grown up, no longer taught to perceive Israel as the enemy to annihilate, but taught to focus on building a new Palestinian state, a state borne out of creative and progressive thoughts. This would have benefited Palestinians, but would have also meant the demise of the Hamas ideology.
For Hamas to have selfishly denied this life changing opportunity to Palestinians is something they will always live to regret. At some point they will have to focus on actual rebuilding and not wasting resources tunneling underground only to be pounded from above. Welcome to the new Stone Age resistance.
Palestinians have the option to either pursue peace with Israel or terrorism. Terrorism so far has not worked. This does not leave them now with much choice, does it? There are legal options they can pursue later with respect to the Jewish settlements, but for now, it seems their most urgent task is to abandon the fighting completely and focus on building what they have so far neglected.
In a year, Israel will no longer have a justifiable reason for the blockade, there will be far less suffering in Gaza and Palestinians will be on their way to even more greatness. Palestinian kids should be in classrooms learning to contribute to society and not burrowing. The blame on the situation in Gaza partly falls on Palestinians who refuse to corral their people into a strong progressive bloc.
By now, Palestinians should have been able to make a strong case that they are also entitled to have Jerusalem or part of it as their capital. But their inability to govern themselves and renounce violence seems to demonstrate otherwise. It is never too late to begin working towards that.