And what about Ilhan Omar’s bigotry?

The left seems to think racist prejudice is okay if it comes from a cool Muslim.

Brendan O'Neill
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Topics Politics USA

Many on the woke left have been making excuses for Ilhan Omar’s anti-Jewish prejudices for a long time. But in the wake of the Trump v Omar controversy, culminating in those creepy chants of ‘Send her back!’ at a Trump rally, they’ve gone a step further. They’re now arguing not only that her prejudicial views aren’t prejudicial at all, but that anyone who claims they are is helping to fuel the ‘far right’. Yes, if you try to draw attention to Omar’s promotion of anti-Semitic tropes and her feverish, disproportionate obsession with Zionists, you will be denounced as the racist. Taking Orwellian contortionism to new levels, we’re now told it is racist to speak of Omar’s racism.

This shift became palpable following President Trump’s intemperate attacks on ‘the squad’, the four supposedly progressive Democratic congresswomen, which includes Omar. Trump said that if these women hate the US so much, they should ‘go back’ to their countries of origin, fix the problems there, and then come back to the US to share what they learned. His comments gave rise to numerous outbursts of prejudice against the four women, all of whom are non-white, including the ‘Send her back!’ jibes aimed at Omar, who has been an American citizen since 2000. Perfectly rightly, Omar’s supporters have pushed back against these bigoted attacks. Wrongly, however – and alarmingly – they have also used this scandal to make light of Omar’s own bigotry, and even to insist that any focus on her bigotry is itself bigoted.

So Omar’s head of communications, Jeremy Slevin, says that ‘if you have been smearing Ilhan as an anti-Semite… you’re part of the problem. Trump may have led a fascist chant, but you created the conditions that allowed it.’ Think about what is being said here: if you challenge or criticise Omar’s promotion of anti-Semitic tropes, you are facilitating fascism. If you think Omar has said things which echo old obsessions with Jewish people’s malign influence on world affairs, you are paving the way for far-right hatred. It is a deeply cynical silencing tactic, designed to ringfence Omar’s problematic views from the kind of rigorous dissection and challenge that every other expression of prejudice receives these days.

Slevin’s ugly intervention – his smearing of people concerned about Omar’s views as fellow travellers of fascism – is in keeping with the woke left’s blind spot on Omar and on the problem of Muslim anti-Semitism more broadly. Numerous defenders of Omar argue that criticism of her is primarily driven by Islamophobia; that even accusations of anti-Semitism against her are fuelled by the prejudiced belief that Muslims are given to anti-Semitic views. As one left-wing magazine put it, the ‘anti-Semitism charge’ is driving ‘an Islamophobic campaign against Omar’. In short, it is now Islamophobic to talk about anti-Semitism, in particular Muslim anti-Semitism.

But the truth, as spiked’s US correspondent Sean Collins has outlined, is that Omar holds very questionable, highly prejudiced views. And in the past, leftist opponents of racial thinking and conspiracism would have recognised this. Omar has pushed numerous tropes that echo old anti-Semitic views. She infamously argued in 2012 that ‘Israel has hypnotised the world’. She called upon Allah to ‘awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel’. This view of Jewish power as hypnotic, as casting a spell over the non-Jewish world, is a central anti-Semitic trope. It has fuelled virtually every conspiracy theory about Jewish power. The wily Jew, we are told, is behind everything from the execution of Christ right through to the Iraq War of 2003. He’s always there, hypnotising people, tempting them to ‘evil doings’.

Not content with troping about Jewish hypnotism, Omar also breathed life back into the racist idea that Jews use their money – of which they have a great deal, of course – to buy off Western politicians. She tweeted ‘It’s all about the Benjamins’ to justify her claim that elected officials defend Israel for cash. When she was asked who provides these ‘Benjamins’, she replied ‘AIPAC’, the American Israel Political Action Committee. But of course, AIPAC does not make donations to political candidates. What we had here was the classic hateful idea of a Jewish entity, in this case The Jewish Lobby, corrupting otherwise rational actors with cash.

In her justification of these claims, Omar pushed anti-Semitic tropes even harder. She said she was simply drawing attention to the way some people ‘push for allegiance to a foreign country’. As Jonathan Chait said, this idea that politicians, especially Jewish politicians, are siding with a foreign regime ‘directly invok[es] the hoary myth of dual loyalty, in which the Americanness of Jews is inherently suspect, and their political participation must be contingent upon proving their patriotism’. It is deeply ironic that the left hammered the Trumpites who questioned Omar’s loyalty to the US, which they say is Islamophobic, and yet they ignore or even celebrate Omar’s questioning of certain Jewish people’s loyalty to the US, which is anti-Semitic.

The Dems have condemned Omar for her comments. And Omar has apologised, half-heartedly. We know her apologies were half-hearted because when she was speaking at an event in a DC bookstore and an audience member shouted ‘It’s all about the Benjamins’, she smiled. That knowing smile that says, ‘Yep, we know the truth about those people’. But things have been made infinitely more difficult for those who want to hold Omar and other people with anti-Jewish prejudices to account now that we are told that calling her out is a smear, Islamophobic, even helpful to the far right. Who will bother? Perhaps it is best just to keep quiet about Omar and about the problem of anti-Semitism among sections of the Muslim community in Western nations.

The left’s apologism for Omar’s racially charged tropes exposes the limits to its claims to be against hateful prejudice. When it comes to the problem of Muslim anti-Semitism, which is rising in Europe in particular, they turn away. Worse, they actively demonise anyone who talks about it. There is an ironically racist streak to their discomfort with criticising Muslim anti-Semitism: they seem to think Muslims cannot really be prejudiced because… well, why? Because they’re mostly non-white? Because they’re a minority? Because they’re good, innocent people? These are all naive, infantilising views, based on a conception of Muslims as pure and child-like and beyond criticism, which is as racist a view of Muslims as that which says they are a corrupting force in Western nations.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe and the US. Some of it comes from the old racist right, some of it comes from the new, supposedly woke left, and much of it comes from Muslims who have a backward, religiously derived view of Jews as a corrupting force in global affairs and everyday life. Anyone who cannot admit this might be contributing to far-right hatred far more than critics of Omar are.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Comments

Thomas Smith

24th July 2019 at 3:58 pm

Keep on repeating the anti-Muslim, nationalist, Big Lie that anything Ilhan Omar has said has been not just anti-Zionist but anti-Semitic. Have you no shame, Brendan?

Northern 1312

23rd July 2019 at 4:42 pm

An article with the words ‘what about’ in the title somewhat gives the game away don’t you think, Brendan?

Strange that my earlier comment on this article is still in moderation. Quietly posted that ‘commitment to free speech’ down the memory hole along with your moral compass, have we?

Amelia Cantor

23rd July 2019 at 12:14 pm

It’s okay! Chill out, people! All Ilhan Omar and her posse need to do is sit down for a “Battle of Ideas” with Brendan O’Neill and Andrew Doyle.

Inevitably, Brezza and Doylzy will carry the day and the misguided coloured girls will realize the error of their ways. I can hear Ilhan Omar already: “I see it all now, Massah O’Neill and Massah Doyle! I wuz a bigot! I was hatin’ on dem powerless Jewish folk! But now bad Ilhan’s gonna turn ovah a noo leaf, thanx to the mighty mojo of your magisterial mansplaining!”

That’s how it always works: cisgender white males explain to communities of colour where said communities are going astray, and said communities thank their massahs for enlightenment and vow to follow the right path in future.

Hana Jinks

24th July 2019 at 9:08 am

LADJOKES MARKETS: MEETING OF THE MINDS.

4-6 : Brezza and Doylzey

5-4 The Idiot Squad.

Nasty Knickers

29th July 2019 at 9:26 am

So you excuse her anti-Semitism?

christopher barnard

23rd July 2019 at 9:40 am

Nothing to do with Islam.

Eliot Jordan

23rd July 2019 at 7:51 am

An evil evil woman

James Chilton

22nd July 2019 at 5:47 pm

The intellectual and political elites are paralysed by guilt. That why Omar and her three companion nonentities can get so much solemn attention and publicity for their nonsense.

James Knight

22nd July 2019 at 5:25 pm

Why are people screaming racist at Trump’s tweets? Before his last tweets we have been told many times that Trump was racist, so why were his last tweets even news? Maybe Trump thought cynically that if he is being labelled as racist so frequently, he may as well start acting like one. That is no kind of excuse as he could have focused on the dubious politics of his opponents rather than their background. As it is he fed the trolls with exactly what they hoped for.

Jim Lawrie

22nd July 2019 at 10:39 pm

He doesn’t have to focus on their politics. He just has to draw attention to what they say and who they are in order to make sure his supporters turn out in numbers.

Jonathan Marshall

23rd July 2019 at 2:27 pm

Exactly. The “Squad” will be his best weapons in his re-election campaign.

Jim Lawrie

22nd July 2019 at 5:02 pm

Islam is an ideology and as such it must bear the same scrutiny and challenge as any other.

By classing it as a race, you are feeding the fake notion of Islamophobia by saying that our objections are based on irrational prejudgement of persons based on what they are by birth. That is to say, something they had no say over. Islam is a choice.
Ditto Judaism.

Peter Ascroft

23rd July 2019 at 1:38 pm

“Islam is a choice.”
You sure about that? Thats not the impression I get .However-your argument still stands.
“Muslims cannot really be prejudiced because… well, why? Because they’re mostly non-white? Because they’re a minority? Because they’re good, innocent people?”-yes on all scores but also because they are “victims”-unlike the Jew who refuses to pander to that form of identification.

Hana Jinks

24th July 2019 at 9:16 am

Peter.

Jim has no idea what he’s on about.

art guerrilla

22nd July 2019 at 3:29 pm

1. if the author does not know, aipac is most definitely a donation-seeking machine, they just TECHNICALLY don’t touch the donation, they simply solicit them, guide them, and bundle them… it is REALLY a deceptive practice and a dissembling lie they constantly tell, the author is a propaganda victim…
2. a salient quote: tell me who you can’t criticize, and I will tell you who controls your world… *supposedly* we have free speech (we don’t, we have fee speech), but there is one country that NOBODY is allowed to criticize… why is that ? ? ?
3. as an aside, I REALLY don’t get the concept of dual citizenship… I get how it happens to kids, etc under some circumstances, BUT, at the age of adulthood 18-21, you have to flip a coin and pick one… how is dual loyalty possible ? ? ? (it isn’t) how is it numerous kongresskritters have dual citizenship with Israel (or ANY country, but it always seems to be Israel) ? ? ?
4. by the way, “HERE” is a simple example of how MY world is constrained by YOU, dear web page owner: I don’t WANT you to ‘correct’ my spelling and capitalizations, yet I have no choice, do I ? ? ? a small thing, not a big deal, but even this eensy weensy, teeny tiny avenue of expression is closed to me by ‘well-meaning’ grammar Nazis who want to force me to write what YOU want, not what I want…
there is no self-awareness anymore…

paul cusworth

22nd July 2019 at 7:21 pm

What the fuck is a “grammar nazi”.

art guerrilla

22nd July 2019 at 9:26 pm

1. on the inertnet tubes, and you have never heard of grammar Nazi ? ? ? have you had a beer yet, too ? ? ? oh well, I will pwetend you are sincere… the issue is, the input box of spiked has auto-correct features to automagically capitalize stuff I don’t capitalize (eg Nazi) because that is my inimitable style… (an homage to john dos passos, in point of fact)
2. a common failing of too many who value style over substance… there is no GOOD reason to ‘correct’ my writings, except for a fascist-lite propensity for order…
3. as far as that goes, have to surf nekkid since spiked is one of the 99% of websites who hate their users and essentially force you to turn off all your safety features like adblock, noscript, etc in order to effectively use the site… that has NOTHING to do with what their readers want, and TOTALLY to do with moronic schemes to generate clicky-clicks and slurp up info to sell for the website… thanks for ‘helping’ your readers, spiked (and everyone else)…
(freakin incompetent web programmers dependent upon css and javascript because the alternatives are h-a-r-d… lazy nerds are lazy…)

Martin Bishop

22nd July 2019 at 9:33 pm

I dont know. Shall we keep a eye on this thread an see if one turns up.

Thomas Forrest

22nd July 2019 at 3:10 pm

I don’t see how believing that Muslims has a corrupting view on western countries is racist?
For 1. ‘Muslim’ is not a race. 2. Three UK mayors have been sent to prison for electoral fraud in the last decade (and a lab councillor voting twice recently) all Pakistani Muslim. That’s an insane occurrence for a minority.

Richard Barrett

22nd July 2019 at 2:44 pm

Moderator, my comment has been “awaiting moderation” since 10.50 am while much later comments have been put up. What is the problem please?

Richard Barrett

22nd July 2019 at 2:43 pm

A disappointing piece of whataboutery from the normally incisive Brendan O’Neill. Here he follows the same path as the “anti-semitism” witch hunters who are out to get Jeremy Corbyn, and like them, he is unable to cite any anti-semitism which is not in reality an entirely reasonable anti-zionism. The only possible exception, the “Benjamins” remark, cannot be shown to be aimed at Jews at all. In any case, Spiked has repeatedly displayed a worrying blind spot for the Labensraum state of Israel. I really cannot see why.

Steve Gray

22nd July 2019 at 7:04 pm

Richard,

I would suggest that the main issue regarding blind-spots arises from how certain politicians wish to be treated – as ‘rock-star’ type figures, with adoring ‘fans’, rather than as elected representatives, who have to earn their mandate.

Jerry Owen

23rd July 2019 at 9:22 am

Your comment reminds me of May doing her little jig in Africa.. she certainly danced like a rock !

Thomas Smith

24th July 2019 at 8:32 pm

Richard you really hit the nail on the head. sp!ked has a ridiculous double standard. If any other ethnic group–ESPECIALLY MUSLIMS, NOTA BENE–argues that by attacking their practices, or their leadership, or their influence over liberals, you evince a “phobia” about them, they are slammed. But the Zionists? They get carte blanche here. You don’t like the Zionists and their influence over the U.S. and other governments? You’re an anti-Semite. Case closed.

Nasty Knickers

29th July 2019 at 9:33 am

Anti-Zionism is often a mask for anti-Semitism just as criticisms of Islam are often a mask for anti-Muslim bigotry. You have to look carefully at what’s being said to distinguish rational criticism from prejudice. Even then it’s not always clear either way.

Willie Penwright

22nd July 2019 at 2:04 pm

Why is my post of 11.25am still awaiting ‘moderation’ when five subsequent posts have been published. Was it something I said?

Jerry Owen

22nd July 2019 at 2:06 pm

Same with me !

Jerry Owen

22nd July 2019 at 1:44 pm

I have had a comment on this article under moderation for five hours , unfortunately this is a common thing now and usually they never appear.

Richard Barrett

22nd July 2019 at 2:45 pm

Same here. What is going on?

Jim Lawrie

22nd July 2019 at 4:56 pm

Maybe the editorial bot debars certain words.

Danny Rees

22nd July 2019 at 1:13 pm

So on the one hand Brendan believes the racist abuse aimed at this woman was racist but on the other leftists are just crying “racist” to silence people who criticise her political views.

Which is it Brendan?

James Knight

22nd July 2019 at 5:27 pm

Who said they are mutually exclusive?

gershwin gentile

22nd July 2019 at 1:10 pm

“She called upon Allah to ‘awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel’”

And Allah spake thus backly to her: “Wot abaht all em homos getting chucked off buildings?”

Hana Jinks

22nd July 2019 at 12:06 pm

“Far-right hatred” presumes there is any outside of the likes of the politically-illiterate that attempt to smear Tommy Robinson and his supporters as such.

And how is it “creepy” to want her sent back? I mean, it’s not as if she actually can be. Wasn’t creepy andy just saying something about how the left take things too literally? People never voted for refugees from islamic shitholes to be coming in and being anti-American and anti-semitic anyway.

Danny Rees

22nd July 2019 at 1:12 pm

Do you ever wonder if people actually take what you seriously?

Hana Jinks

22nd July 2019 at 2:27 pm

No, but l do wonder why you’d ask the same question as someone else did the other day. I also wonder at the kind of society that would produce someone as weird as you Jerry Oven-Kraut and Sleeve Gay.

Hana Jinks

22nd July 2019 at 2:28 pm

you, Jerry

Miss Anne Throp

22nd July 2019 at 6:26 pm

Well I for one don’t take anything you say seriously. Your unhealthy obsession with Brendon makes me think you might have some mental issue. I think if Brendan stated that soot was black you would somehow take issue. Whilst I’m here I might also add Hanna’s comments are far more sensible than yours!

Jim Lawrie

22nd July 2019 at 4:54 pm

I think Mr O’Neill was looking for a slur and “creepy” came to mind. He probably meant eerie. As in eerily reminiscent of the 1930’s. But he know he is not allowed to allude to The Nazis. He fails to deal with the views expressed, preferring to take off on another tangent of whataboutery.

He is unnerved by white, working class people voicing their views unequivocally. Unlike Brexit, there is no wriggle room to tell us what they really meant to say.

His instinct tells him, correctly, that was a seminal moment.

Jerry Owen

22nd July 2019 at 5:43 pm

Jim Lawrie
I think your post is quite astute, ‘creepy’ is indeed a strange word. I suspect BON is possibly a little distrusting of lower white working men, they in many instance do verge on being guilty of all the ‘isms’ and ‘phobias’ middle class woke’s love to accuse them of ( I don’t mean BON ).. but then again they are the most vulnerable embattled group in society today, and they do feel the need to lash out somewhere.
A fair article though and we can all pick and poke !

Hana Jinks

22nd July 2019 at 6:35 pm

What’s your class Jerry Oven-Kraut? Do scumbags get assigned a separate class? How about nazi’s?

I’d love to hear how you feel qualified to sneer at “them” as being vulnerable and embattled. Mustn’t hear of any lashing out tho. Anyone would think that someone had been falsely imprisoned. Ne’er you mind tho. You’ll be able to rely on your nazi mates.

Selena Jameson

22nd July 2019 at 4:57 pm

“People never voted for refugees from islamic shitholes to be coming in and being anti-American and anti-semitic anyway.”
You actually said that? What a breathtakingly ignorant remark!

Hana Jinks

22nd July 2019 at 6:44 pm

If you’re gonna say something like that, then you should at least substantiate it.

Hana Jinks

23rd July 2019 at 4:27 am

*minds, not ‘likes’

Willie Penwright

22nd July 2019 at 11:25 am

“She infamously argued in 2012 that ‘Israel has hypnotised the world’… This view of Jewish power as hypnotic, as casting a spell over the non-Jewish world, is a central anti-Semitic trope.”

Brendan here equates Israel and Jewishness, a slander on the many, many Jews worldwide who insist that Israel doesn’t speak for, or represent them.

And “calling her view of Israel’s influence “a central anti-Semitic trope” is stretching reason beyond breaking point.

Hana Jinks

22nd July 2019 at 6:49 pm

Not wrong. It’s interesting to see how blinded they are by these long-discredited and archaic ideologies. Either that, or they don’t really research anything. Or have any idea what’s going on.

Omar actually married her brother.

Neil McCaughan

22nd July 2019 at 11:10 am

Is she any worse than a rabid bigot like Naz Shah? The habit of excusing these obnoxious creatures is shared by the Labour Party in the UK.

Amelia Cantor

22nd July 2019 at 10:56 am

“When it comes to the problem of Muslim anti-Semitism, which is rising in Europe in particular, they turn away. […] Muslims who have a backward, religiously derived view of Jews as a corrupting force in global affairs and everyday life.”

If it’s true that Muslims are such toxic bigots, no wonder O’Neill is so strongly opposed to Muslim immigration.

No — wait! He isn’t. He welcomes it with open arms. That’s logical. Jews are at threat from Muslims, therefore let’s have more Muslims! Problem solved.

Consistency. Not something one can expect from the hate-community.

Hana Jinks

22nd July 2019 at 6:51 pm

Interesting point.

Jerry Owen

22nd July 2019 at 10:53 am

I wonder what the ‘go to get’ views of Corbyn are on this issue ? Perhaps he’s invited her over for a meeting already !
Is Omar a disruptive force for the cohesion of community relations in America..yes of course, and being so visibly public her views are amplified unlike ‘ the old right racist right ‘ who are visible to one man and his dog.
Trump says it as it is .. go home ! I agree with him. it’s not about colour as we have clearly established.
The phrase you used .. ‘that knowing smile’ is exactly the phrase I thought of to myself the other day when watching a YT video of her with reference to the ‘Twin Towers’ terrorist attack..’some things happened’ , the expression on her face and the timing of what she said was clear goading .
A despicable evil woman , Cortez and the others on the other hand are just dimwitted clots.

Richard Barrett

22nd July 2019 at 10:50 am

A disappointing piece of whataboutery from the normally incisive Brendan O’Neill. Here he follows the same path as the “anti-semitism” witch hunters who are out to get Jeremy Corbyn, and like them, he is unable to cite any anti-semitism which is not in reality an entirely reasonable anti-zionism. The only possible exception, the “Benjamins” remark, cannot be shown to be aimed at Jews at all. In any case, Spiked has repeatedly displayed a worrying blind spot for the Labensraum state of Israel. I really cannot see why.

Northern 1312

23rd July 2019 at 1:29 pm

Spiked’s ideological blind spots are for sale to the highest bidder.

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