10 03 2019

For me, one of the big stories of the last month continues to be the attempt to suppress  Rep. Ilhan Omar for  speaking the truth about two of America’s biggest “third-rail” issues–the things no public official wants to talk about because, as Rep. Omar has discovered, anyone who touches them will be shocked, simply shocked, by all the people who are shocked, simply shocked that you would dare mention them. In dysfunctional families, one of the primary rules is “don’t talk about what’s really going on,” and America these days is just one big, unhappy dysfunctional family, in which speaking the truth about, among many other things, Israel and US-Israeli relations is shouted down with screams of “anti-Semitism,” and bringing up a government insider’s history of lies, lawbreaking, and human rights abuses is shushed as extremism. Those two are just a couple of tips of the ol’ iceberg, but they’re the ones I’m going to focus on.

Let’s talk about “anti-Semitism” first. I was brought up Jewish. I was taught that the basis of Judaism is “the golden rule,” “That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow.” The state of Israel is clearly not practising that maxim in its relations with the Palestinians or its other neighbors. Therefore it seems to me to be hypocritical for the state of Israel to wrap itself in Judaism and attack any criticism of its vicious, aggressive conduct  as “anti-Semitic.” It’s worth noting, as The Guardian did, that Congresscritters’ willingness to criticize Rep. Omar as “anti-Semitic” rises in direct proportion to the amount of money they receive from AIPAC.

After I started writing this, the UN issued a report calling what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.” I think we ought to take a moment to appreciate how far the State of Israel has come. It was founded over seventy years ago as a refuge for the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and now it’s all grown up and committing war crimes and crimes against humanity itself.  Ain’t it wonderful what happens when the victims of persecution don’t adequately integrate their trauma? Let’s hear it for Israel!

Just as an aside, when I did a search for a story on the UN’s war crimes accusations against Israel, all the mainstream Western media–BBC, NYT, WaPo, CNN–headlined the story as “Israel may have committed war crimes.” Al Jazeera was the only one that highlighted the phrase “crimes against humanity,” although they, too, said”‘may have committed war crimes.” After all, everybody’s innocent until proven guilty–unless they’re black or Palestinian.

After Rep. Omar’s initial statements about Israel, although she had clearly indicated that she was criticizing The State of Israel and not those who practice the Jewish religion, the US House’s Democratic leadership passed a resolution condemning “anti-Semitism.” Then, in the wake of Rep. Omar’s further fearless and well-defined criticism of Israel, Democrats in the House started work on yet another resolution condemning “anti-Semitism,” i.e., Rep. Omar, but then a funny thing happened. Enough people expressed their appreciation for Rep. Omar’s candor to change the wording of the resolution to  condemnation of bigotry against “African-Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants and others,”, making it in effect both a slapdown and a defense of her. She felt good enough about it to vote for it, as did all but 23 House Republicans. My question is: if the House leadership was using “anti-Semitism” as code for “anti-Israel,” were they using “anti-Islamic” as code for “anti-Saudi”? It is also worth noting that “Russophobia” was not condemned, although it is playing a prominent role in American politics and international relations these days.

Republican Rep. Steve King, an unapologetic bigot who has been stripped of his committee assignments by the GOP for his white supremacist views, voted “present” on the resolution. The Democrats have not introduced any resolutions calling for his censure.


It’s also worth noting that, while Congress and a special prosecutor have been searching for two years to uncover Russian influence in US politics, the same people who are horrified at the prospect of such interference are only too happy to do the bidding of another foreign government–Israel. Just like in the old days, our modern Pharisees are “straining out gnats and swallowing camels,” as the original Christian is said to have said. And so, in dysfunctional family mode, Rep. Omar is the “designated problem,” who must bear the brunt of everyone’s displaced anger for “misbehaving”–commonly, as in this case for committing the cardinal sin of telling the truth.

It’s kind of a technical point, but I want to examine the “Semitism” part of “anti-Semitism.” A great many Jews–me, for example–have no genetic connection with the people of the Middle East, aka the Semites. I am descended from Slavic tribespeople who converted from paganism to Judaism about a thousand years ago, as are a great many American Jews and Israelis.  I had my DNA tested, and my ancestors last lived in the Middle East about 40,000 years ago, when they had just left Africa, and passed through on their way north to the peri-glacial steppes of what we now call southern Russia, where their swarthy skins grew pale and the former Africans became “Slavs.” Did you know that “white” skin on humans is a very recent development, dating back only about eight thousand years? And remember, when you get down to it, we’re all from Africa, all descended from the same “mitochondrial Eve,” and thus, not only are we all Africans, we’re all related to each other.

She’s your great-great….grandma, and everybody else’s, too. “Racism”? Get over it.

With that caveat, let’s get back to the origins of the world’s Jews. Western European Jews are also mainly converts, few of whose ancestors, and mostly male ones, have any genetic connection to Palestine. So, most people who identify as “Jewish” do not, in fact, have any ancestors who once lived in “The Jewish homeland” at the relatively recent time that it was inhabited by the twelve tribes. Ironically,  the Palestinians, who are genuinely Semites, were originally Jewish, but converted to Christianity and later to Islam because of the social pressure of living in first a Christian, and then an Islamic state. So, as far as they are concerned, the current situation is a repeat of the classic motif of The Old Testament, in which strangers from elsewhere descend upon Canaan/Palestine/Israel, using the land for their own benefit and making the children of Moses suffer.

On the other hand,, Congresswoman Omar, who comes from North-eastern Africa, is far more “Semitic” than the typical Israeli, or the typical American defender of Israel. So, if you want to get technical, by oppressing the Palestinians and criticizing Ms. Omar, it’s the mostly Western European and Slavic state of Israel and its American friends who are being “anti-Semitic.”

Let’s get back to Rep. Omar, who said this in response to her critics:

“I am told everyday that I am anti-American if I am not pro-Israel. I find that to be problematic and I am not alone. I just happen to be willing to speak up on it and open myself to attacks.”

US support for Israel is generally defended on the grounds that “Israel is the only functioning democracy in the Middle East.” Israel is a “democracy” in the same sense that the apartheid regime in The Union of South Africa was a “democracy”–one that carefully excludes a large portion of its citizens from any meaningful participation in their governance. For instance, Israeli Arabs have been banned from fielding candidates in the upcoming Israeli election, although they have been electing members to Israel’s parliament without incident for twenty years.

Israel’s aggressive stance towards the Palestinians and its other neighbors, and the enormous amount of US $upport for that aggressiveness, creates a level of tension that appears to demand a military solution, but, as is always the case, the more military force is applied, the more further military force appears to be necessary to keep down the resentment and rebellion provoked by military force. Round and round we go!

If, instead of dropping bombs on “terrorist” populations, the US dropped the money the bombs cost, we would have a lot more friends in the world than we do now. Has anyone ever become your friend because you let yourself into their house, ripped them off, and then threatened them when they complained?

Why doesn’t that happen? Because, when the US and its allies drop bombs, our tax money goes to the oligarchy.  If the US quit behaving aggressively and used its wealth to fix the problems that are causing the unrest, then the oligarchy’s money would be going to the people, and that is not acceptable to the oligarchy. To return to the dysfunctional family metaphor, Big Daddy doesn’t have a drinking habit, or a drug habit. Big Daddy has a money habit, and he can never get enough. He’ll tax you, he’ll frack the land, he’ll fill the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and methane to the point where the oceans drown our civilization while the air chokes us, but he won’t let go of those Benjamins.

Speaking of “The Butcher Getting His Share,” let’s look at Rep. Omar’s other big no-no: trashing Elliott Abrams. As one conservative commentator put it,

Omar’s comportment at the hearing, as well as her obvious belief that the United States is an imperialist and reactionary nation that by its very nature abuses human rights, should alone be reason enough to have her removed (from the House Foreign Affairs Committee) before she can do real damage.

The flip side of that coin was expressed by Jon Schwarz in a recent Intercept article:

Abrams chuckled at the ludicrousness of such a concept. That would require, he said, “putting all the American officials who won the Cold War in the dock.”

Abrams was largely right. The distressing reality is that Abrams is no rogue outlier, but a respected, honored member of the center right of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. His first jobs before joining the Reagan administration were working for two Democratic senators, Henry Jackson and Daniel Moynihan. He was a senior fellow at the centrist Council on Foreign Relations. He’s been a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and now is on the board of the National Endowment for Democracy. He’s taught the next generation of foreign policy officials at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He didn’t somehow fool Reagan and George W. Bush — they wanted exactly what Abrams provided.

So no matter the gruesome particulars of Abrams’s career, the important thing to remember — as the U.S. eagle tightens its razor-sharp talons around yet another Latin American country — is that Abrams isn’t that exceptional. He’s mostly a cog in a machine. It’s the machine that’s the problem, not its malevolent parts.

So, when Rep. Ilhan Omar attacks Elliott Abrams, the response is not about him. Like President Turnip, he is not the problem, but a symptom of a deeper problem, the  (yes, Mr. Conservative) “reactionary, imperialist” rationale for US foreign policy. Once again, Rep. Omar has put the dysfunctional nature of the US right out front, where it is never supposed to be.

I am profoundly impressed by her eloquence, her bluntness, and her courage. When I went to check out her campaign website, I was pleased to discover her commitment to a wide array of foreign and domestic policy possibilities far to the populist, socialist left of typical American politics. I hope this is the start of a much-needed major shift in the way this country sees itself, runs itself, and treats its own citizens and the whole world.

Rep. Omar, if you and your steadfast band of supporters in Congress and elsewhere get so ostracised by the Democratic Party’s leadership that it looks like time to leave, The Green Party would be glad to have you. We Greens have been saying “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” and it seems that you, too, are one of the ones we’ve been waiting for. If you end up sticking to your principles and turning the Democratic Party into The Democratic Socialist Green Party, that’s fine too. We Greens are about changing the paradigm much more than we are about holding positions of prominence and power. Any way it happens, as long as it happens.

I can’t think of any better way to conclude this than with the words of Rep. Omar herself (My apologies for not being able to provide an audio version of this. You can hear her say this and much more at the link.):

….when people say, “You are bringing hate,” I know what their intention is. Their intention is to make sure that our lights are dimmed, that we walk around with our heads bowed, that we lower our face and our voice.

But we have news for people. You can call us any kind of name. You can threaten us any kind of way. Rashida and I are not ourselves. Every single day we walk in the halls of Congress, we have people who have never had the opportunity to walk. They’re walking with us. So, we’re here. We’re here to stay and represent the voices of people who have been silenced for many decades and generations. And we’re here to fight for the people of our district, who want to make sure that there is actual prosperity—actual prosperity—being guaranteed, because there is a direct correlation between not having clean water and starting endless wars. It’s all about the profit and who gets benefit of it. There’s a direct correlation—there is a direct correlation between corporations that are getting rich and the fact that we have students that are shackled with debt. There is a direct correlation between the White House and the people who are benefiting from having detention beds that are profitized.

So, what people are afraid of is not that there are two Muslims in Congress. What people are afraid of is that there are two Muslims in Congress that have their eyes wide open, that have their feet to the ground, that know what they’re talking about, that are fearless, and that understand that they have the same election certificate as everyone else in Congress.

If Representative Ilhan Omar is the start of a trend, then we can look forward to having a government that’s about doing the right thing for the world and our grandchildren, instead of a government that’s “all about the Benjamins.”



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