Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Omar: The One in Every Generation - Bruce Portnoy

by Bruce Portnoy

Facing danger from the far right, far left, radical Islam and disgruntled and disenfranchised individuals, Jews must once again be alert for any signs of rising ethnic and religiously based hate.

During Passover, Jews recount the details of their departure from 430 years of Egyptian captivity and bondage. Many recite a warning lest they got too comfortable with their current situation and forget their history: "In every generation, one shall rise up against us, to destroy us..."

With dangerous hostility towards Israel and her Jewish supporters escalating, the potential for lethal violence is ever present. Jews have no choice but to be vigilant.

In the past few years a virus-like, anti-Israel malady has been brewing on college campuses across the United States. It has targeted pro-Israel, Jewish students, faculty members and speakers brought on campus to educate anybody willing to listen about Israel realities.

In the beginning, the confrontations appeared relatively civil. However, as coverage by press and television crews expanded, the rhetoric appeared to intensify. The hostile exchanges that followed were largely ignored by campus authorities among others.

Characterized as "mere" anti-Israel policy actions, angry protestors could be heard spouting recognizable anti-Semitic characterizations, some laced with intimidation and some with violent threats. The demonstrators shouted down any perceived oral challenges to their anti-Zionist platform. This stifled opportunities for rational discussion. The perpetrators became bolder and acted as if the First Amendment gave them an entitlement to intimidate others.

Without a clear legal understanding of anti-Semitism from which to draw potential protections, Jewish students became vulnerable to the whims of hostile protestors. Jews were denied the justice offered to other discriminated students under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, because it only prohibited discrimination based on race, color, and national origin, not specifically recognizing organized and repetitive acts of religious discrimination.

Representative Ilhan Omar (MN -5D) is a critical part of the Israel/ Jewish equation. Although it was understood that Omar was a supporter of the Palestinian cause, her hostility towards Israel and all it represents is alarming. Without any apparent filters, she unleashed a number of anti-Semitic characterizations which fed the flames of hostility; understandably infuriating her Jewish constituency and others nationwide as well. These attacks had an instant appeal to existing disparagers of Israel and Jews, including the likes of Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam and briefly, David Duke.

Omar is a politician and not in the positive sense of the word, if that even exists anymore. After taking her seat in Congress, she declared herself a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement that solely targets Israel.

This can pose an existential threat to Israel and her citizens well beyond the Jewish majority. The boycott aspect of BDS was effectively utilized within Nazi Germany in the 1930s, with the intent of gradually delegitimizing Jews, socially, politically. and economically. This ultimately reduced them to poverty, at which point Jews were portrayed as pariahs, enabling their enemies to rise up against them without meaningful objection.

Her political campaign allegedly accepted contributions from Hatem Bazian, founder of Students for Justice in Palestine and American Muslims for Palestine, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Arab-American Institute, and, each appearing to one degree or another to possess strong anti-Israel bias, with at least one attempting to stifle anti-BDS legislation and another participating in hostile college campus confrontations. What obligations has Omar accumulated to these entities in light of her appointment to the powerful U.S House Foreign Affairs Committee? This committee oversees U.S. foreign policy, including foreign aid allocations, national security, peacekeeping, and according to Omar, "...war powers."

That's a lot of power to give to any person who has demonstrated hostility towards Israel and Jews and resorts to, "...a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, (think) that everything we say about Israel (is) anti-Semitic because we are Muslim." This makes Omar appear to assume a victim role, and when taken to task draws fellow Democrats and others into the fray to stand up for and defend this media personality. While this may gain her sympathy, it is divisive and polarizing, which in our current environment of violent anti-Semitism can inspire further bias against Israel and Jews.

Facing danger from the far right, far left, radical Islam and disgruntled and disenfranchised individuals, Jews must once again be alert for any signs of rising ethnic and religiously based hate.

Bruce Portnoy


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