Anti-Semitism Is Hard to Unlearn, but It’s Possible—Even for Ilhan Omar

Born in Somalia, and having spent her childhood in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, Ayaan Hirsi Ali never heard the word anti-Semitism until she came to Western Europe as an adult—but she was exposed to abundant expressions of anti-Semitism itself. No doubt, writes Hirsi Ali, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, also born in Somalia, had similar exposure to anti-Semitism in the country of her birth, or in the refugee camp in Kenya where she spent four years as a child, or in the Muslim community in Minneapolis. Any of these possibilities would explain the antipathy toward Jews expressed by Omar in various public statements. Yet many in the West, Hirsi Ali goes on to argue, fail to understand the extent to which anti-Semitism permeates much of the Muslim world:

When I was a little girl, my mom often lost her temper with my brother, with the grocer or with a neighbor. She would scream or curse under her breath “Yahud!” [Jew!] followed by a description of the hostility, ignominy, or despicable behavior of the subject of her wrath. It wasn’t just my mother; grown-ups around me exclaimed “Yahud!” the way Americans use the F-word. I was made to understand that Jews—Yahud—were all bad.

No one took any trouble to build a rational framework around the idea—hardly necessary, since there were no Jews around. But it set the necessary foundation for the next phase of my development. At fifteen I became an Islamist by joining the Muslim Brotherhood. I began attending religious and civil-society events, where I received an education in the depth and breadth of Jewish villainy. . . .

[In many Muslim countries], corrupt rulers play an intricate game to stay in power. Their signature move is the promise to “free” the Holy Land—that is, to eliminate the Jewish state. The rulers of Iran are explicit about this goal. Other Muslim leaders may pay lip service to the peace process and the two-state solution, but government anti-Semitism is frequently on display at the United Nations, where Israel is repeatedly compared with apartheid South Africa, accused of genocide, and demonized as racist.

Media also play their part. There is very little freedom of expression in Muslim-majority countries, and state-owned media churn out anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda daily—as do even media groups that style themselves as critical of Muslim autocracies, such as Al Jazeera and Al-Manar. Then there are the mosques, madrassas, and other religious institutions. Schools in general, especially college campuses, have been an Islamist stronghold for generations in Muslim-majority countries. That matters because graduates go on to leadership positions in the professions, media, government, and other institutions.

But, Hirsi Ali notes, she has long since ceased hating Jews. So there’s hope for Omar as well.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: Anti-Semitism, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ilhan Omar, Muslim Brotherhood, Muslim-Jewish relations

 

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority