Apologists for Omar: Justifying an Antisemitic Tweet

Most mainstream media were consistent in their coverage of the firestorm surrounding Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar’s tweets. They reported that the freshman politician’s tweets drew upon a clearly antisemitic trope suggesting support for Israel in Congress was bought with Jewish money.

The leadership of the Democratic Party condemned Omar’s remarks as antisemitic. Omar acknowledged this and issued an apology. (Whether one believes her or not is another matter.)

Some people have compared this incident to the antisemitism issues that have plagued Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the UK where the easiest get-out for those accused of antisemitism has been to redefine what antisemitism actually is. So maybe it is of little surprise that two of the UK’s most left-wing mainstream media outlets chose to act as apologists for Omar by reframing the story to suit their own prejudiced readerships.

What the UK press said

The IndependentTake The Independent, whose story opens with:

President Donald Trump has condemned Representative Ilhan Omar for her tweet criticising the Israeli lobby, and called on her to resign.

Except that the tweet wasn’t about criticizing the Israel lobby. It was an antisemitic trope.

Cue an excuse to ‘balance’ the story by turning the focus on to AIPAC itself as well as giving a platform for the fringe radical anti-Israel organization IfNotNow, which The Independent describes as “an organisation led by American Jews with the mission “to end our community’s support for the Israeli occupation”.”

IfNotNow is a fringe anti-Israel group that certainly does not represent the mainstream US Jewish community. So why would The Independent consider this organization to be important enough to feature in its story?

What’s more, The Independent embeds IfNotNow’s tweet which contains a screenshot of a significant amount of the organization’s press release on the subject.

And if you couldn’t already guess the part that interests The Independent?

The organisation said that while Ms Omar had poor word choice in her tweet, it acknowledged the“ attacks against her are designed to discredit a new generation of political leaders who oppose Netanyahu and his government’s racist policies.”

Obviously it’s all about Israel and Netanyahu rather than straightforward antisemitism.

The Guardian gives BDS supporter a platform

But it isn’t only The Independent whose priorities are skewed when it comes to a story involving antisemitism. The Guardian gave op-ed space for this:

What follows includes the claim that Israel is an “apartheid system” and a defense of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. According to Kotch, “Opponents have dishonestly cast it as inherently antisemitic.”

He even writes:

I was raised Jewish, so while everyone should be deeply concerned about antisemitism, I know the issue affects me personally. If there’s anything I’ve learned about Judaism, it’s that standing up against hate and oppression is about the best thing I can do to honor Jewish history. That’s why I, along with many American Jews, support BDS and unapologetically condemn the current government of Israel for its heinous treatment of Palestinians.

And, like so many on the left who are unwilling or unable to contemplate the existence of antisemitism within their own ranks, Kotch only sees the threat of ‘real’ antisemitism coming from the opposite political camp:

Labeling anyone who speaks of Jews and money in the same sentence an anti-Semite weakens our fight against the real anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi, and other white nationalist forces that have seen a resurgence in recent years.

* * *

There’s a legitimate issue to debate when it comes to the role of lobbies and money in the US political system. But trust both The Guardian and Independent to twist a politician’s antisemitic tweet and turn it into an opportunity to attack Israel, its supporters and to act as apologists for left-wing antisemitism.

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