On June 23, 2015, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke at a historic African-American church in Missouri. She was met with a great deal of applause when she spoke about religion, racism and access to quality education. But three words got her in trouble: “All lives matter.”
Before using the phrase, Clinton was retelling an anecdote about the lessons she learned from her mother:
“I asked her, ‘What kept you going?’ Her answer was very simple. Kindness along the way from someone who believed she mattered. All lives matter.”
Although Clinton’s campaign pointed out almost immediately that Clinton had previously said that “black lives matter,” this didn’t prevent a torrent of criticism and complaints on social media from Clinton’s use of that phrase.
And the reality is that much of this criticism was well deserved. Well before June 2015, African-American civil rights activists had explained why responding to African-American concerns about police violence directed disproportionately at African-Americans or the very real danger faced by young male African-Americans for simply being perceived as suspicious by law enforcement with the phrase “all lives matter” is insulting.
They had explained that while it is certainly true that “all lives matter,” saying that in this context — the context of the unique history of discrimination and bias faced by African-Americans in the United States — serves to remove focus from the specific grievances of African-Americans, their concerns and community experiences. It also serves to gloss over the particular issues and concerns of African-Americans and make them seem as if their concerns are faced equally by all people — when they plainly are not. As one African-American on Twitter aptly wrote:
Yet now, many of those same people who aggressively responded to any person who dared utter or repeat the phrase “all lives matter,” including when Clinton did so in her anecdote about her mother, are now in effect saying “all lives matter” when it comes to Jews and our unique and lived experiences with anti-Semitism.
Over the past few months, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has repeated one anti-Semitic slur after another. After lying during her campaign about her support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that targets only one state on the planet — the Jewish one — Omar then came out in favor of BDS (all while she opposes sanctions on truly heinous regimes, like Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela).
Subsequently, Omar defended an earlier tweet of hers in which she asserted: “Israel has hypnotized the world. May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Only after numerous people, including Bari Weiss, in an excellent op-ed in The New York Times, noted how the conspiratorial myth of the Jewish powers of hypnosis for use in sinister and duplicitous plots has been used for literally thousands of years to incite and justify the persecution and murder of Jews, did Omar begrudgingly apologize for this tweet.
Shortly thereafter, clearly not fazed by the controversy, Omar tweeted that American politicians’ support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins.” When asked on Twitter by a writer for the left-leaning Jewish publication The Forward, who she thought was paying American politicians to support Israel, Omar responded: “AIPAC!”
Setting aside that the largest pro-Israel donor to political candidates in the most recent election cycle was the left-leaning JstreetAC (which gave only to Democrats); that AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) was listed as the 147th highest-ranked entity in lobbying spending in 2018; and that pro-Israel lobbying expenditures in total at $5,022,028 ranked behind entities like Toyota ($7,150,453), the Recording Industry Association of America ($5,642,155), the Association of International CPAs: ($5,200,000) as well as tens of millions of dollars behind entities such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($94,800,000), the National Association of Realtors ($72,808,648), pro-South Korea lobbying groups ($70,500,000) and pro-Japan lobbying groups ($51,400,000); the notion that American politicians’ support for Israel is “all about” (meaning solely because of money) implicitly spent by Jews, is not a “dog whistle” to an age-old anti-Semitic slur about Jews pulling the levers of power with their “Jewish money,” it’s an outright scream.
It’s an age-old slur against Jews; one that led to the anti-Semitic text written by the czar of Russia’s secret police, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” purported to describe a secret conspiratorial Jewish plan to take over the world and achieve global domination, including by using nefarious and evil Jewish bankers to control politicians, world economies and ultimately destroy civilization. And like the screed or slur of Jews with hypnotic power, the slur of Jews and their money controlling politicians often has led to the persecution and murder of Jews, and it’s a slur often used by those murdering Jews today (be they Hamas terrorists or white supremacists).
Within 18 days of her making her vile “all about the Benjamins” tweet, Omar said — at an event held in a restaurant owned by a man who once claimed that the U.S. is “getting its marching orders from Tel Aviv” (echoing David Duke, another anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist) — “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
After getting some (thankfully) serious pushback from some of her congressional colleagues for invoking yet another anti-Semitic slur, Omar decided to double-down on her anti-Semitism, tweeting three days later: “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.”
To be clear, nobody has asked Omar or anyone else in Congress to “swear allegiance” to Israel or any other foreign country. Not for Japan, which the U.S. supports in numerous ways; not Kuwait, when the Congress backed sending hundreds of thousands of American troops to fight for Kuwait’s sovereignty; and not to Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, which last year received a combined $3 billion in foreign aid from the U.S.
And Omar knows this. But like her colleague Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Omar can’t help but accuse Americans who support the only Jewish state of doing so for pernicious reasons; and of supporting policies or positions that favor Israel, not because, for example, that they genuinely believe it’s the right thing to do; that Israel is the sole democracy in a sea of brutal autocracies; that Israel’s environmental and medical innovations and inventions save lives; or that because Israel and the U.S. are critical military allies, sharing intelligence and important military innovations (such as Israel’s Iron Dome defense technology).
Omar also doesn’t even give American Jews the benefit that is afforded to millions of other Americans who are of Nigerian, Kenyan, Italian, Polish, Irish, Japanese, etc., descent, the right to be Americans first and foremost, but to also want to see their ancestral homeland — particularly ones that are strong U.S. allies — do well, too.
No. For Omar, people in Congress or in the U.S. who support Israel are different than those who support Japan, Kenya, Ireland, etc. Their support for Israel is based on a nefarious “pledge of allegiance” to Israel, something that every person becoming an American citizen is supposed to give only to the U.S. Well, there is a name for this anti-Semitic slur; and it is a pretty infamous one: the “dual loyalty” canard.
Like the other two slurs invoked by Omar, this one also can be traced back millennia and has been used for centuries, including in the past one by Hitler and Stalin, as a justification for persecuting, rounding up and murdering Jews. For more on the role that the mendacious and vile “dual loyalty” slur has played for thousands of years for Jews, as one of the most persecuted and oppressed groups in history, one should read Alex Zeldin’s excellent piece in The Forward on Omar’s all too familiar attack on Jewish “allegiances.”
Yet in the face of Omar repeatedly spewing anti-Semitic slur after anti-Semitic slur, and Jew-hate inspiring canards, which have literally plagued and caused the persecution and frequently the mass murder of Jews (and only Jews), what has been the reaction of much of the so-called progressive left?
All lives matter. Or worse.
Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour’s response to a proposed resolution in Congress that was to condemn the unique and pernicious hate of anti-Semitism, opened with a tirade against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) as a supposed tool of the “white patriarchy” — which Sarsour plainly thinks includes Jews (although David Duke, who called Omar the most important member of Congress, disagrees) and ended with a call for, at most, a generic resolution against all forms of bigotry (“You want a resolution? Condemn all forms of bigotry. All forms of bigotry are unacceptable. We won’t let them pin us up against each other. We stand with Representative Ilhan Omar.”)
Not to be outdone by Sarsour, the newly crowned queen of the “progressive left” and phone buddy with the king of the British political anti-Semites Jeremy Corbyn, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (also known by the moniker AOC) jumped into the Twitter fray defending Omar, too.
AOC tweeted: “One of the things that is hurtful about the extent to which reprimand is sought of Ilhan is that no one seeks this level of reprimand when members make statements about Latinx + other communities (during the shutdown, a GOP member yelled “Go back to Puerto Rico!” on the floor).” Notably, what AOC didn’t write was that this (silly) comment was in reference to certain House Democrats going on a boondoggle to Puerto Rico during the government shutdown, not race or ethnicity.
Knowing perhaps that this Puerto Rico comment was not going to cut it, AOC then tweeted: “But incidents like these do beg the question: where are the resolutions against homophobic statements? For anti-blackness? For xenophobia? For a member saying he’ll ‘send Obama home to Kenya?’ ”
Plainly, for Sarsour and AOC, a member of the most powerful legislature in history, calling Jews disloyal Americans who require allegiance to a foreign power all while they spread around their “Jew money” to buy that allegiance for a country that has conspiratorial Jew-power to hypnotize people to ignore their evil, at best warrants a resolution that condemns “all forms of bigotry.” Because “all lives matter.”
The sad thing is not that Sarsour or AOC made these morally obtuse “all lives matters” comments to defend Omar. That was expected. In the bizarre world of regressive identity politics, Omar as a Muslim immigrant woman from Africa simply outranks Jews. Just as Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan must be defended by the likes of Sarsour and Tamika Mallory (and even called the G.OA.T. by Mallory) no matter how many utterly vile things he says about Jews, Omar, too, must be defended.
The sad thing, the truly awful thing, is how quickly other Democrats folded on even the idea of a specific resolution condemning anti-Semitism and also jumped to Omar’s defense.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the Democratic Whip and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, defended Omar by saying her experience was “more personal” than Jews whose parents survived the Holocaust. As an apparent defense of Omar’s repeated use of anti-Semitic slurs, Clyburn suggested that Omar’s personal experience of having fled war-torn Somalia as a child was more pertinent and relevant than the experiences of the descendants of Holocaust survivors. And that is relevant to her blatant anti-Semitism — how?
Imagine, this scenario: A Holocaust survivor comes to the U.S. and is elected to Congress. Instead of learning from his horrible experiences, this particular survivor is a vile racist who repeatedly references many slurs that are uniquely hurtful and even dangerous for African-Americans. Would Clyburn give this Holocaust survivor a pass on his racist comments because his experience as a Holocaust survivor was “more personal” to him the experiences of the descendants American slaves?
But even worse than Clyburn’s obscene defense (which also ignores the dozens of Jews who have been murdered and violently attacked in anti-Semitic hate crimes in just the past year in the United States and Europe), was the obsequious and disingenuous efforts of Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who defended Omar by deflecting from Omar’s comments and repeated use of the most vile and base anti-Semitic slurs, by claiming that the people deeply offended and concerned about Omar’s conduct were trying to stifle debate about America’s foreign policy toward Israel. Warren even went further to claim that those hurt by Omar’s comments were “branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic,” which, she added, “has a chilling effect on our public discourse.”
“Criticism of Israel”? “Debate on foreign policy”? Really? Is that what Omar was doing when she claimed Israel (home to 50 percent of the world’s Jews and the only Jewish state) has the power to “hypnotize the world” to ignore its “evil”? Was Omar criticizing Israeli policy when she alleged American politicians’ support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins” (Jewish money)? Was Omar encouraging a debate on foreign policy when she asserted to a cheering crowd that was shouting “all about the Benjamins,” when she alleged that Americans who support Israel have an allegiance to a foreign country?
Of course not. She was trafficking in the worst anti-Semitic slurs. She was using age-old anti-Semitic canards not to encourage debate, but to stifle it. To label all who oppose her views as “evil.” After all, if you believe Omar’s statements about Jews and others who support Israel are true, then what is there to debate? If support for Israel, an evil country with hypnotic powers, is only because of disloyal American Jews who bribe corrupt politicians to ignore Israel’s “evil,” then shouldn’t the debate be over?
Sanders, Harris and Warren should be ashamed of themselves. Unless their moral compasses are completely broken, they have to know that none of the slurs that people are objecting to by Omar had anything to do with legitimate criticism of Israel or debate on foreign policy. What they did was cave-in to the worst elements in their party out of fear of losing their “progressive” base. They failed to stand up to the worst anti-Semitism voiced by a member of Congress in modern American history. They capitulated to the “all lives mattering” by AOC and Sarsour. They have taken the Democratic Party a giant step closer to becoming as infamously anti-Semitic as today’s Labour Party in England. What they have told us is that while “all lives matter,” Jewish lives matter less.
Micha Danzig is a practicing attorney in San Diego and an advisory board member and local chairperson for StandWithUs.