Ilhan Omar: Congressional Profile in Courage
Omar is the rarest of political exceptions in Washington, a first-term congresswoman, early in her tenure, speaking truth to power on vital issues.
Yet she’s unjustly smeared as anti-Semitic for genuinely supporting peace, equity and justice, including BDS activism, for opposing Israeli apartheid ruthlessness, calling its persecution of Palestinians “evil doings.”
Senator William Fulbright was first among US politicians to call Congress “Israeli-occupied territory,” adding: “Israel controls the United States Senate. We should be more concerned about United States’ interests.”
Palestinian/American scholar, activist for justice Edward Said once said “(v)irtually the entire Senate can be marshaled in a matter of hours into signing a letter to the president” supporting Israel on most everything.
James Petras revealed the influence Israel and its lobby have over US policymaking in his important book titled “The Power of Israel in the United States.”
Able to get their way on major issues time and again, Petras called the Israeli lobby the most influential in Washington – “Zioncon” ideologues and policymakers making the Middle East a “US-Israeli Co-Prosperity Sphere” through phony promoting of democracy building, what both countries abhor and tolerate nowhere.
Former US Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Thomas Moorer long ago said “I’ve never seen a President – I don’t care who he is – stand up to (the Israelis). It just boggles the mind. They always get what they want.”
“The Israelis know what is going on all the time. If the American people understood what a grip those people have got on our government, they would rise up in arms. Our citizens certainly don’t have any idea what goes on.”
Few congressional members ever confronted Israel forthrightly. Rep. Paul Findley long ago challenged AIPAC and other Zionist lobbies in his book titled “They Dare Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby” – the first book to go where no congressional representative dared go before.
His article headlined “The Open Secret About the Israeli Lobby” said the following:
He “learned it well during (his) 22-year” congressional tenure. “All members swear to serve the interests of the United States, but there is an unwritten and overwhelming exception: The interests of one small foreign country almost always trump US interests. That nation of course is Israel,” adding:
“…Members of Congress today loudly reward Israel as it violates international law and peace agreements, lures America into costly wars, and subjects millions of Palestinians under its rule to apartheid-like conditions because they are not Jewish.”
“It is time to call politicians to account for their undying allegiance to a foreign state.”
“Pro-Israeli groups subvert democracy when they engage in smear campaigns that intimidate and silence critics.”
“America badly needs a civilized discussion of” Israel’s destructive role in shaping US foreign policy, notably in the Middle East.
Despite Israeli lobby power attempts to defeat him, Findley served 11 terms in office, what’s highly unlikely today for anyone forthrightly challenging the Jewish state.
Occasionally criticizing its policies cost Senator Charles Percy his Senate seat in 1984. The Israeli lobby took credit for defeating former congresswoman, Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney.
Throughout her 12 years in Congress, she “strove to make respect for human rights a central feature in the formulation of US foreign policy.”
Despite “minor successes,” her advocacy fell on deaf ears. Republicans and undemocratic Dems have other priorities – “diametrically opposed to the values of the people of the US,” McKinney explained.
Her involvement in international human rights activism, along with sharp criticism of Israel made her a key target of its lobby.
She once said since coming to Congress in 1992, efforts were made to silence her voice – “told to ‘sit down and shut up’ over and over again. Well, I won’t sit down and I won’t shut up until the full and unvarnished truth is placed before the American people,” she courageously said.
McKinney was a rare profile in courage in Washington, speaking truth to power, continuing today in private life. Few in the nation’s capital and elsewhere ever spoke out more forthrightly, saying the following as well:
“What I was doing was servicing the needs of my constituents and I was not allowed to do that because I did not toe the line on US policy for Israel.”
She denounced Israel’s politicized illegal Gaza blockade. Involvement with a humanitarian boat to Gaza trying to deliver vital medical supplies got her and other activists onboard forcibly arrested and detained under harsh conditions in Ramle prison for seven days – guarded by soldiers, their personal possessions confiscated, treated like criminals for courageously doing the right thing.
Omar reflects McKinney’s activism, strongly denying she’s anti-Semitic for criticizing Israeli apartheid viciousness, opposing its occupation harshness.
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,”she said – stressing her opposition to the notion, adding:
No one “should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support for a foreign country” to sit in Congress. She slammed undemocratic Dems for “remaining silent” while her “Americanness is questioned by (Trump) and the GOP on daily basis.”
“Being opposed to Netanyahu and the occupation is not the same as being anti-Semitic. I am grateful to the many Jewish allies who have spoken out and said the same.”
On Thursday, pro-Israeli House members passed a meaningless nonbinding anti-hate measure – despite the vast majority of its members supporting imperial wars, ignoring Israeli persecution of Palestinians, and staying silent about exploitation of ordinary Americans in service to privileged ones.
Introduced to censure Omar, it became a watered down resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, not mentioning her by name or explaining that criticism of Israel isn’t anti-Semitic.
It was a politicized gesture achieving nothing, overwhelming adopted by a 407 – 23 majority, one of countless examples of deplorable US policymaking.
CREDO Action co-director Heidi Hess called the measure “a dangerous waste of time,” adding Dems “should be spending their time in Congress investigating the purveyors of hate in the Trump White House, not pushing platitudes in order to implicitly condemn one of their own.”
The measure should have stressed the legitimate right to criticize US geopolitical policies – notably its forever war agenda, imperial rage for global dominance, one sided-support for Israel, and dismissiveness toward long-suffering Palestinians.
My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”