Even Some of Ilhan Omar’s Somali-American Constituents Admit Her Words Were Antisemitic

Here’s a worthwhile New York Times report (yep, I said it), in which recently some of Ilhan Omar’s Somali-American constituents were interviewed about her antisemitic comments. And – sorry for the linkbaitie cliche – you won’t believe what happens next.

When Mohamed Ahmed’s third-grade daughter was assigned a school report about an African-American she admired, she chose to study her newly elected congresswoman, Ilhan Omar.

“She’s a hero to my daughters,” said Mr. Ahmed, who like the congresswoman is Somali-American. “She’s an idol. They look up to her. They aspire to be her.”

But as Ms. Omar’s comments about American Jews and Israel drew bipartisan rebukes in recent weeks, culminating Thursday with a House vote condemning anti-Semitism and other forms of hate, Mr. Ahmed had a conversation with his 8-year-old daughter about Ms. Omar.

“I told her she had a poor choice of words, which hurt people,” said Mr. Ahmed, who voted for Ms. Omar but was unsure whether he would do so again. “And words matter if you’re a leader.”

Ms. Omar’s district, which spans Minneapolis and some of its inner-ring suburbs, is a place attuned to religious tension. Longtime members of the Somali community still speak about the profiling they experienced in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and about the fear they felt after a mosque was bombed by white supremacists in nearby Bloomington in 2017. In those difficult times, they said, Jewish leaders in Minnesota made a point of stating their support.

“When religion is under attack, they stand by us, because they’ve been there,” said Zahra Ali, a Somali-American resident of Minneapolis who once saw Ms. Omar’s election as a beacon of hope but who did not plan to vote for her again.

“For her to go out there and target, on a daily basis, Jews, is very sad,” Ms. Ali said.

As much as that is heartening, this is infuriating:

And though many constituents, including some Muslims, saw Ms. Omar crossing a line and trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes, others, including members of the district’s Jewish community, said they were offended only by what they perceived as partisan, even racist, attacks on their congresswoman for legitimate criticisms of Israel.

“I feel like she’s being attacked because she’s a black Muslim,” said Ethan Wilensky-Lanford, 38, who is Jewish, and who distributed campaign literature for Ms. Omar last year.

Anne Winkler-Morey, also a Jewish resident of Ms. Omar’s district, said she had discussed the congresswoman’s comments with her Somali friends and did not find the remarks offensive.

“She’s speaking out about a foreign policy, whether you agree with her or not,” Ms. Winkler-Morey said. “It’s actually an anti-Semitic idea that the State of Israel represents Jews and you have to show your allegiance to this state. It doesn’t represent me, just as Saudi Arabia doesn’t represent Muslims.”

And this is part of our problem. There are way too many Jews these days who are providing antisemites with the “best friends” they have in the past pretended to have.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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