On December 12, a group of progressive Jewish groups issued an open letter opposing now-Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy’s pledge to remove Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee due to, in the letter’s words, “false accusations that she is anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.” The signatories include radical organizations like Americans for Peace Now, but also the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby J Street, the Zionist youth group Habonim-Dror, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism—the last being the activist wing of America’s largest Jewish denomination. Benjamin Kerstein responds:
The . . . assertion that the accusations against Omar are “false” is a lie. With the best will in the world, Omar’s claims that American Jews buy control of Congress via their “Benjamins” and that support for Israel constitutes loyalty to a foreign country cannot be viewed as anything other than explicitly anti-Semitic.
Omar has never repudiated or apologized for these statements. She clearly believes that she is merely speaking truth to power—which in this context can only be viewed as “Jewish” power. This is how all anti-Semites—of whatever political stripe—view themselves, and to claim that Omar has been falsely accused is, in effect, to endorse such attitudes as legitimate and defensible. The profession of Omar’s innocence, in other words, is anti-Semitic in and of itself.
[Omar’s career] is the first step towards the legitimization and institutionalization of systemic anti-Semitism in the American political establishment. The battle against her is therefore an existential struggle for American Jews. The Reform leadership has now made it clear that not only will it refrain from this struggle, it will actively impede it. It has become, in other words, part of the problem.
The Reform leadership has a right to fight for progressive values. It has a right to criticize Israeli policies should it so desire. It does not have the right to enable those who would.