As a progressive Jew, a strong supporter of Palestinian rights, and a lifelong advocate of economic and social equality, I am delighted by the presence of two bold, progressive and highly intelligent Muslim women in the House of Representatives. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents the 5th congressional district of Minnesota, was born in Somalia and is the first naturalized citizen from Africa ever elected to the U.S. Congress. She is also the first woman to wear a hijab (a traditional Muslim head covering) on the House floor. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who represents the 13th congressional district of Michigan, is the first Palestinian-American woman ever elected to Congress. Tlaib, like myself, is a member of Democratic Socialists of America.
I especially like Omar’s outspoken critique of the nefarious role played by AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) in garnering U.S. support for Israeli aggression, as well as her devastating interrogation of war criminal Elliot Abrams, whom Trump recently appointed Special Representative for Venezuela. I especially approve of Tlaib’s open endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is a nonviolent effort to end Israel’s 70-year oppression of Palestinians.
It comes as no surprise that both Omar and Tlaib have been attacked as anti-Semites. This politically motivated attack comes from persons unable or unwilling to distinguish between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. The purpose of the assault is certainly not to defend Jews, but rather to sidetrack discussion of Israel’s persistent misbehavior, and how U.S. economic, military and diplomatic support for Zionism enables egregious subjugation of the Palestinian people. I find it rather ironic that many U.S. politicians, who affect hypervigilance about anti-Semitism, seem totally unconcerned about Israel’s repeated slaughters of Palestinians in Gaza, ongoing theft of Palestinian West Bank land and accelerating consignment of Palestinian residents to a grossly inferior political status.
The Muslim population of the world is now 2.2 billion, or about 29 percent of existing humanity. The Muslim population of the United States is 3.3 million, or about 1.1 percent of total U.S. population. Islam is currently the world’s second largest faith (Christianity ranks first), but it is also the fastest-growing faith and is likely to become the largest within three decades. At the same time, Islamophobia (hatred of Muslim people) is a growing pathology in both Europe and the United States. In fact, Islamophobia bears an eerie resemblance to the pre-genocidal anti-Semitism of the 1930s. For all these reasons, it is vitally important to have intelligent and effective Muslim representation in the U.S. Congress.
By far the largest cause of contemporary anti-Semitism is the outrageous behavior of the state of Israel toward the Palestinian people. Anyone who facilitates such behavior is actually encouraging anti-Semitism and is, objectively speaking, an enemy of the Jewish people. On the other hand, anyone who supports the rights of the Palestinian people by nonviolent means is actually attacking the main source of contemporary anti-Semitism, and thereby enabling the long term survival of Jewish culture and Jewish people. These considerations make me, as a progressive Jew, regard AIPAC as an objective enemy of the Jewish people. They also induce me to consider Reps. Omar and Tlaib as true friends of the Jewish people, for which they have my whole-hearted thanks.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.