Select Page

The Sick Double Standard In The Ilhan Omar Controversy


The following two things are true. First, Representative Ilhan Omar was wrong to tweet that the American government’s support of Israel is “all about the Benjamins.” Secondly, she’s being judged by a grotesque double standard. Her fiercest critics in Congress are guiltier of bigotry than she is.

Omar’s tweet was inaccurate. Yes, of course, AIPAC’s influence rests partly on the money its members donate to politicians. But it also rests on a deep cultural and religious affinity for Israel among conservative white Christians, who see the Jewish state as an outpost of pro-American, “Judeo-Christian” values in a region they consider hostile to their country and faith. (American conservatives have long admired small, pro-American countries in regions dominated by America’s adversaries: Think of the right’s affinity for “captive nations” like Lithuania, Latvia and Poland during the cold war, and its historic affinity for apartheid South Africa and Taiwan).

Ilhan Omar didn’t do that. Which is why she was right to apologize. And why she was right to apologize last month for a 2012 tweet in which she also evoked anti-Semitic stereotypes by accusing Israel of having “hypnotized the world” about its behavior in the Gaza Strip

But if we’re going to demand that politicians apologize for any hint of association with bigotry, let’s not stop with Ilhan Omar. Let’s hold her critics to the same standard.

Establishing two legal systems in the same territory—one for Jews and one for Palestinians, as Israel does in the West Bank—is bigotry. Guaranteeing Jews in the West Bank citizenship, due process, free movement and the right to vote for the government that controls their lives while denying those rights to their Palestinian neighbors is bigotry. It’s a far more tangible form of bigotry than Omar’s flirtation with anti-Semitic tropes. And it has lasted for more than a half-century.

Yet almost all of Omar’s Republican critics in Congress endorse this bigotry. The 2016 Republican platform declares that, “We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier” in the West Bank. In other words, governing Jews by one set of laws and Palestinians by another is fine. Last December, Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin, who has called for stripping Omar of her committee assignments, spoke at a fundraiser for Bet El, a West Bank settlement from which Palestinians are barred from living even though it was built—according to the Israeli supreme court—on land confiscated from its Palestinian owners.

For her tweets, Omar was publicly rebuked by the entire Democratic House leadership. For his enthusiastic endorsement of land theft and state-sponsored bigotry in the West Bank, Zeldin has received no congressional criticism at all. To the contrary, he’s a Republican rising star.


That’s because, in Washington today, bigotry against Palestinians isn’t merely tolerated. It’s rewarded.

So is bigotry against Muslims. When Donald Trump in December 2015 proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States, his support among Republicans increased.

In 2006, Roy Moore wrote that Muslims wishing to swear their oath of office on a Koran should be barred from Congress. His campaign spokesman reaffirmed that this was Moore’s view in 2017.

The Republican National Committee backed Moore’s Senate campaign nonetheless. In 2013, then Congressman Mike Pompeo falsely accused “Islamic leaders across America” of failing to condemn the Boston marathon bombings and then claimed that this (fictitious) “silence…casts doubt upon the commitment to peace among adherents of the Muslim faith.”

In 2016, Pompeo accepted an award from ACT for America, which scours textbooks to eliminate any positive references to Islam and agitates against the sale of halal food. Two years later, every Republican Senator (except John McCain, who wasn’t present) voted to make Pompeo Secretary of State. Read more

Read also: Bipartisan Bill Would Help Graduate Students Build Retirement Savings

The Sick Double Standard In The Ilhan Omar Controversy