Scores of America’s leading Jews, including Ilan Pappé, Naomi Klein, Ronnie Kasrils, Sarah Jaffe and Rebecca Vilkomerson have signed an open letter showing their support for under-fire US politician Ilhan Omar.
Entitled “We Stand With Ilhan,” the signatories say the Minnesota Congresswoman has been “falsely accused of antisemitism” and that there was nothing anti-Semitic about calling out the “noxious” role of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
The robust letter states: “The pro-Israel lobby has played an outsized role in producing nearly unanimous congressional support for Israel”, and criticises AIPAC and other influential lobby groups including the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the fossil fuel lobby for its “anti-democratic” legislative influence on the US political landscape.
The authors conclude by adding: “We thank Ilhan Omar for having the bravery to shake up the congressional taboo against criticising Israel. As Jews with a long tradition of social justice and anti-racism, AIPAC does not represent us.”
Omar, one of only two Muslim women elected to Congress has braved a tsunami of criticism after calling out AIPAC. So far she has been accused of anti-Semitism from both Democrats and Republicans including a rebuke from Speaker and Washington’s most powerful female politician Nancy Pelosi.
The charge of anti-Semitism comes after Omar said that the Republican Party’s threats against her and Palestinian-American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for criticising Israel was “all about the Benjamins, baby!” – a dollar reference to money used to support Tel Aviv.
When she was asked to clarify who is paying members, she cited AIPAC. Quite why so much invective and bile followed is beyond me after all AIPAC was caught red-handed boasting about the huge political influence it has on American politics back in 2016 during the making of an Al Jazeera documentary on the subject.
There is a concerted effort in America and here in Britain to call folk who criticise Israel as being anti-semitic. It’s an accusation often levelled at me and one which I refute totally. Criticising the State of Israel for its brutal occupation of Palestinians is justified because of the very actions of the military.
However targeting someone for the religion, skin colour, culture or faith is not acceptable. As these leading Jews who support Omar prove, not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jews.
Long may Omar and other politicians like her continue to speak out bravely because when politicians begin to stifle and censor their own views then that is when we are in danger of losing our hard-won democracies and the freedom of speech and thought that go with it.
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