Smearing Black, Muslim Women as Anti-Semites
Aug 19, 2019.
U.S. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were barred from entering Palestine/Israel by the Netanyahu government. Citing the two lawmakers’ support for the boycott of Israel, the Israel regime prevented their planned official trip.
Ever since Omar, a Somali American, and Tlaib, a Palestinian American, became the first two Muslim women to be elected to the U.S. Congress in 2018, the two have been targeted with racist attacks. The Israeli government’s decision came immediately following U.S. President Trump’s latest twitter tirade against Omar and Tlaib.
The U.S. President tweeted:
“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”
Once again, Omar and Tlaib were smeared as dangerous anti-Semites. The two lawmakers’ criticism of the Israeli government’s structural oppression of Palestinians and their support for the implementation of universal human rights in Palestine/Israel has largely been dismissed as anti-Semitic hate speech by supporters of the Trump-Netanyahu alliance.
The Trump administration has intensified the traditional labeling of critics of Israeli policies as anti-Semites, perpetuating the idea that calling for universal human rights is anti-Semitic. This paradoxical way of thinking seeks to eliminate the difference/opposition between Judaism and Zionism. In doing so, it falsely suggests that Israel’s military occupation, colonization, and apartheid regime are related to Judaism.
As Rabbi Alissa Wise recently wrote, the Trump administration “has been laying the groundwork to use Jews as a shield for racism and attacks on free speech for a long time.” Wise explained that “[a]nti-Semitism is being distorted beyond all recognition to mean nothing more than something ‘against the right-wing agenda.’” This makes it consequently harder to recognize actual anti-Semitism, which is alive and kicking.
The distortion of anti-Semitism is particularly visible when it comes to containing dissent voiced by minorities. According to Israeli-American writer Yoav Litvin,
Israel and the United States work similarly and synergistically, employing reactionary tactics to suppress dissent and ensure dominance of a ruling class over ‘others’ – black and brown people, women, indigenous groups, LGBTQI, Muslims, disabled people and intersectional political opponents of all varieties, including Jews – whom they scapegoat as a means to distract from personal corruption and capitalist looting of the public sphere.
This comes as no surprise, as Israel has continuously targeted people of color and enabled the oppression of diverse population groups, including Jewish populations, in and beyond Palestine/Israel. It is, thus, only logical that “Zionists, Republicans and other reactionaries fear a convergence of intersectional forces, which would challenge the propaganda and agenda of the capitalist white supremacist patriarchy,” as Litvin outlines.
In contrast to the racist attacks against Omar, Tlaib, and other Black, Brown, Muslim, Women critics, actual anti-Semites are regularly embraced by the Netanyahu regime and warmly welcomed to Palestine/Israel.
In fact, the Israeli government has made it clear that it is ready to collaborate with anti-Semites as long as their policies are in line with Zionism. Politicians can easily harbor and promote anti-Jewish racism, while expanding economic and political ties with the state of Israel.
Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, who has generally fueled racist, anti-migration and homophobic discourses, has also praised former Hungarian Nazi collaborator Miklos Horthy, who oversaw the killing of half a million Jews in Hungary. Since Orban’s ideology intersects with Netanyahu’s, relations between Israel and Hungary have been flourishing. In response to the growing cooperation between Netanyahu and Orban, Israeli newspaper Haaretz issued an editorial entitled “Israel Sides with anti-Semites” in July 2017. The editorial criticizes that
The more nationalistic Israel becomes, the more the hatred of those carrying the banner of moral values and a universalist identity will grow, and they will be perceived as enemies even if they are Jews. At the same time, Israel’s affection will grow for those who promote nationalism and xenophobia, even if they are anti-Semites.
Another example is Netanyahu’s collaboration with Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, who made racist, homophobic, and sexist remarks, some of which encouraged his military to rape women. In 2016, Duterte compared his fight against drug dealers with the Holocaust, saying “Hitler massacred 3 million Jews … there’s 3 million drug addicts. … I’d be happy to slaughter them.” Insulting Jewish Holocaust victims and minimizing the Holocaust, Duterte reiterated that he seriously sees himself as akin to Hitler. “If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…,” he added, pointing to himself. Following criticism over these remarks, Duterte apologized to members of the Jewish community at a Manilla synagogue. In his speech, he attempted to be pardoned for his antisemitism by acquiring weapons from Israel:
Please, ask your people who are here to sell us arms… All of my equipments… I’ve always told the national security… I said, Buy it from the Israel companies. Because we are safe. Why? Because we are friends… What is the common denominator that makes us be friends? God. We believe in righteousness. We believe in karma[.]
Duterte later visited Israel and participated, together with Netanyahu, in a memorial service at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum. His visit included the signing of an oil exploration license and new arms deals.
Representatives of evangelical Zionism, who have peddled anti-Semitism, have as well been very welcome in Israel. According to Netanyahu, they are Israel’s best friends.
At the opening ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem in May 2018, evangelical pastors Robert Jeffress and John Hagee delivered prayers. Both have made anti-Semitic comments in the past. Prominent televangelical Jeffress once claimed: “you can’t be saved being a Jew.” He propagated: “You know who said that, by the way? The three greatest Jews in the New Testament: Peter, Paul and Jesus Christ. They all said Judaism won’t do it. It’s faith in Jesus Christ.” He denounced Islam, Mormonism, and Judaism. Hagee, a megachurch televangelist and founder of the Zionist organization “Christians United for Israel,” the largest pro-Israeli organization in the United States, had used the Bible in order to rationalize the Holocaust, claiming that “God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter.” He added: “How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.” Yet, there was hardly any outrage over the participation of these individuals at the embassy opening, which coincided with Israel’s massacre of Palestinian protesters in Gaza. Since their political goals intersect with that of the Netanyahu government, their anti-Semitism did not seem to matter.
These are but examples of the structural affinity between the Israeli government and anti-Semites.
It is safe to assume that, if Omar and Tlaib really hated the Jewish people – as Trump suggests – they would sadly have no problem landing at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, but only if they aligned themselves with Netanyahu’s policies.