In defense of Ilhan Omar…

The myth of the « exceptionalism » of the United States, a messianic power with a universal democratic message, is becoming more and more like a moral and political train wreck.

Le texte en français en dessous.

In the United States, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives (one of the two houses of Parliament, along with the Senate) voted (218 to 211) to remove Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee. The grounds for removal include public accusations of politicization of the Intelligence Committee, security risks and years-old comments of an allegedly anti-Semitic nature. That’s all… but no further details.

The truth is that Ilhan Omar is being sanctioned and indicted in particular because of her very strong criticism of Israel’s policies. She had used the following words: « Israel has hypnotized the world » and added « May Allah wake people up and help them see the evils of Israel ». Ilhan Omar has apologized for some of the controversial phrases, but the accusation of anti-Semitism is clearly bogus. Ilhan Omar has voted in favor of parliamentary texts explicitly condemning anti-Semitism, and she stressed that « being opposed to Netanyahu and the occupation is not the same as being anti-Semitic ». She also stated that « drawing attention to the Israeli apartheid regime is a far cry from hating Jews.

We note that she got the support of Bernie Sanders (who is Jewish), and even Nancy Pelosi (former Speaker of the House of Representatives) who said: « I don’t think her intention was anti-Semitic ». Clearly, Ilhan Omar is being punished for her (legitimate) attacks on continued U.S. support for Israel, and certainly for her support of the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement against Israeli policy.

Democrats also insist that Ilhan Omar’s expulsion from the Foreign Affairs Committee is the result of a « promise » made by Kevin McCarthy during his election campaign. McCarthy, elected from California, became Speaker of the House of Representatives. Before Ilhan Omar, he had already expelled two Democratic members from the same committee. It should be noted that his « promise » was made in retaliation for the expulsion of two far-right Republicans decided by the previous Democratic majority.

Finally, if Kevin McCarthy is putting all his energy into sanctioning a black American elected official, an ex-immigrant from Africa (of Somali origin), he has refused to sanction Lauren Boebert, elected official (by a narrow margin) from Colorado. Lauren Boebert is a right-wing ultra-conservative who, in her first term, fought to carry a gun in the Capitol and did not hesitate to heckle President Biden when he was talking about his dead son. What elegance…

Finally, Ilhan Omar has obtained the clear support of Jewish NGOs. According to the Israeli daily The Times of Israel (February 2, 2023) « …several Jewish groups, including the activist branch of the Reform movement, had denounced remarks made by McCarthy about Omar. The tone of the letter that was circulated last December was unusually combative for Jewish NGOs, and it suggested that McCarthy himself has flirted more with anti-Semitism than Omar has. As American Jewish organizations, we object to Kevin McCarthy’s pledge to strip Representative Ilhan Omar of her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee based on false accusations that she is anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, » the letter noted. « We ourselves may disagree with Congresswoman Omar’s views, but we categorically reject the notion that her political positions or statements of any kind warrant disqualification from serving on the committee.

Kevin McCarthy (perhaps a candidate and potential rival of Donald Trump for the November 2024 presidential election) is often presented as a politician who is less brutal and less vulgar than Trump, which in itself is not a great achievement… but it is clear that his hatred of Ilhan Omar places him in a less than stellar ideological category.

If we needed another demonstration of this radicalized drift of the right in the United States, a radicalization that can be found in many other configurations, in Israel, in Europe and elsewhere, we can recall the obsession of the Republican governor of the state of Florida, Ron DeSantis, who categorically refuses (but without explicit argument) the program (in a pilot phase) of African-American studies proposed to students in American high schools in order to improve their knowledge before university. The program covers history, including slavery and the Haitian revolution, as well as science, art, geography and politics, with contributions from prominent African Americans. Rejection of this program is considered discriminatory.

When Ilhan Omar appeared before the House of Representatives to explain herself and how she claims to « be an American »… the Republican representatives did not give her much of a chance. This is not a coincidence. Obviously, some people want to reject her not for what she says (or not), but for what she is: an African-American woman, Muslim, progressive… Enough to make American « democracy » tremble… The myth of the « exceptionalism » of the United States, a messianic power with a universal democratic message, is looking more and more like a moral and political wreck. 06 02 2023

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