The poet James Whitcomb Riley was the first to coin the “duck test.” He wrote, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”
The duck test can be easily applied to US Rep. Ilhan Omar and her remarks about Jews and Israel. If she postures like an anti-Semite, invokes anti-Semitic tropes, and speaks like an anti-Semite, then she probably is an anti-Semite. And it is time her colleagues stopped dancing around the fact and called her what she is without whitewashing the facts.
In looking at the facts, it is worth reviewing the working definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance some years ago:
Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities
Wilhelm Marr, the socialist founder of the League of Antisemites, popularized the term ‘anti-Semite’ itself. The inventor of anti-Semitism’s arguments used the same ones put forward by Marx, Fourier, H.G. Wells, Lenin and countless other socialists. The Jews were all about the ‘Benjamins’. They started wars. They were disloyal and manipulated society. They were a dangerous foreign element.
These same tropes were uttered by Rep. Ilhan Omar and defended by her socialist allies in the House Progressive Caucus and across the media.
For those like Omar who couch their anti-Semitism in what they want the rest of us to believe is just criticism of Israel and not of Jews, Natan Sharansky used an even clearer definition. He said comments about Jews and Israel have to be examined through the prism of the three D’s – Demonization, Deligitimization and treating Israel/Jews with a Double Standard. By any measure, Omar’s comments meet all those criteria.
However, she is not the only problem. While all of the attention over the last weeks has been directed at her, she is just one of three new members of congress whose views of Jews and Israel are in concert. Before she was defending Omar, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez was cozying up to Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn who has been widely condemned for his anti-Semitic remarks and for backing anti-Semitic allies whose hatred has been even more open than Omar’s. And of course, there is US Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the third leg of this unholy trio fighting to change how Jews are perceived in the US.
Rep. Omar would much rather tap into anti-Semitism and turn the conversation to Israel, than discuss her past sympathy for Islamic terrorists. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez would rather turn the conversation away from why she believed we should not have gone after Al Qaeda in Afghanistan with a defense of Omar. In addition, both Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are scheduled to appear at events sponsored by CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Tlaib on March 17th at their annual banquet and Omar later in the month at their Valley Banquet in Los Angeles. CAIR has a checkered history with many believing that they have ties to Hamas and other groups advocating for the destruction of Israel.
History tells us loud and clear that we dare not listen to the palliatives spouted by the congressional leadership in the US over the past week. According to the Speaker of the House, the House Majority Leader, the House Whip, the Senate Minority Leader, and at least three Democratic presidential candidates, Ilhan Omar is not an anti-Semite—and, in the view of some, people are saying so dishonestly for the purpose of shutting down debate on legitimate matters.
Speaker Pelosi said Omar’s words were not “intentionally anti-Semitic.” On a C-SPAN interview on Friday, Speaker Pelosi said the following:
I don’t think our colleague is anti-Semitic. I think she has a different experience in the use of words and doesn’t understand that some of them are fraught with meaning that she didn’t realize.
Seriously? Whom is the Speaker trying to convince? Herself? Perhaps, but she certainly did not convince this author who believes that Omar knew exactly what she was saying and why she said it. Remember, nobody forced Omar to tweet that “Jews were hypnotizing the world”, or that Jews were controlling American politics with their money (i.e. the Benjamins), or that Jews were engaged in a conspiracy to force her to apologize for her words. Choosing to speak like this not once, not twice, but regularly before she was elected and since is, frankly, as anti-Semitic as it gets and everyone needs to stop making excuses for her behavior.
Our collective voices must ring out loud and clear that this type of behavior has no place in the Congress of the US, no place in America, and no place in the world because we know exactly where this language leads.
Elie Wiesel said it best: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” And protest we must…loudly and soon!!! Time is not on our side.
Sherwin Pomerantz is a 35-year resident of Israel, past National President of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel and president of Atid EDI Ltd., a Jerusalem-based business development consultancy.