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Op-Ed

A Tale of Two Bigots

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These last two weeks have seen political scandals with bigotry at their core that have rocked the Democrat party.  This is particularly embarrassing for a party that has made identity politics, inclusivity and diversity its primary message. Touting itself as the champion of resistance to the “oppression of straight, white, male patriarchal, Christian majority,” attracting African-Americans, women, gays, illegal immigrants, Muslims and any others fitting the “approved” list of victims”, ( Jews need not apply, despite their minority status) it has been quite a spectacle to witness the party being hoisted on its own petard.
Democrats who cry “racism” at every criticism of their policies stammer indefensibly when it is revealed that a sitting Governor and Attorney General both reveal themselves to have worn “blackface” (or possibly even a white Klan hood) years ago, a true mark of racism. In addition, a black Lt. Governor has been credibly accused of sexual harassment and rape, by two women, despite being a member of the party that says “all women must be believed” and is their self-proclaimed protector from the “Republican war on women”.
 And then a “freshman” Congresswoman, a Muslim woman, who has repeatedly made anti-Israel and anti-Jewish statements (“Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel” [Nov. 2012]); who openly supports BDS, which calls for the elimination of Israel, and in 2018, as a Minnesota state legislator voted against the state’s BDS bill (it passed with a large bipartisan margin anyway) and that same year called Israel an “apartheid regime”; now days ago opens the anti-Jewish box to release more scurrilous calumny. She accuses AIPAC of paying Congressmen and women to be pro-Israel (“Its all about the Benjamins, Baby”), invoking the spectre of the antisemitic charge of Jews buying influence, a charge as old as antisemitism itself.
Finally, after much pressure and prodding, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, publicly rebukes Cong. Omar, calling her “use of antisemitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters…deeply offensive” and called upon her to apologize. Her back against the wall, Omar tweets “This is why I unequivocally apologize”.
Whether her apology is genuine or the forced words of an errant child trying to save her own skin when caught with her hands in the cookie jar, is up to each individual to decide for themselves. But what is instructive is the media’s response to these two political scandals- the Governor’s and the Congresswoman’s.
The response to the blackface scandal was swift and severe. Despite immediate apologies by Gov. Northam, calls for his resignation were and still are unrelenting. It was made clear in multiple mainstream media outlets, including the “Big 3” networks ABC, CBS, and NBC, cable stations CNN, MSNBC and FOX as  well as the major newspapers, that the Governor did not understand or feel the pain of black Americans in seeing a sitting governor dressed either in blackface or wearing a white Klansman hood on his medical school yearbook page. This is especially painful for African-Americans given that Virginia was the home to the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Although these photos were taken 35 years ago and the governor’s contrition appears to be genuine, (though his tone deafness continues, failing to call out slavery for what it was, calling it indentured servitude in a recent interview) calls for his resignation continue, and rightfully so. In fact, it is clear to all unbiased observers that if not for the sexual attack charges leveled at Lt. Governor Fairfax and the subsequent revelations by the Attorney General Herring that he too applied blackface years ago, the Governor would have been forced to resign immediately. Even now his refusal to resign and his lack of understanding and perception of the “oppressive black experience in America” remains perplexing and vexing to many, on both sides of the political aisle.
Contrast that with the response to Omar’s remarks made, not 35 years ago, but now, today. There was no doubt she made them (unlike the uncertainty of whether Northam was the person in those photos) and it follows her long history of similar anti-Jewish and anti-Israel statements (unlike Northam who ironically won the election on an anti-racist platform, and has never been accused of racism). There was no immediate condemnation of Omar or calls for her resignation. Speaker Pelosi dithered before issuing her rebuke and a careful reading indicates that what got her ire was not the antisemitic and anti-Israel nature of Omar’s comments but that she offended members of Congress. “Prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters is deeply offensive” said Pelosis letter, and Omar’s comment “it’s all about the Benjamins, Baby”. Well who are Israel’s supporters and who got the “Benjamins’? Why the men and women of Congress! How dare you impugn our integrity, Congresswoman!
But yet, at the same time, though scolded, Omar’s comments were excused.  She’s only a “freshman” Congresswoman. She doesn’t know better. She has to learn which antisemitic “tropes” are acceptable and which aren’t.
But what she actually said or implied about the Jews or Israel- to call Israel an “apartheid regime” or talk of the “evil doings of Israel”, that’s OK.  And that’s how it is reported in the media:
“Omar apologizes for tweets on Israel lobbyists” (AP in Newsday, Feb.12)
“Muslim Democrat apologizes after Pelosi’s rebuke” (Boston25 News, Feb.12)
“Pelosi admonishes freshman Omar over Israel tweets (multiple outlets, Feb.12)
No calls for resignation or the removal by Speaker Pelosi of Omar from the influential House Foreign Affairs Committee, save two. One, a call for her resignation from President Trump (Feb.9) and calling her apology “lame” (Feb.11). And two, a demand from the Speaker that Omar be removed from the Foreign Affairs Committee, from Morton Klein, National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Neither of these things is likely to happen for several reasons.
The Democrat party of today is not the Democrat party of years ago. Pew Research Center polls show only 27% of Democrats support the Jewish state, while 25% support the Palestinians, a roughly 50-50 split (the rest support neither or both). Two years ago it was 43% pro Israel and 29% pro Palestinian. (The Republicans on the other hand show 79% pro Israel over the Palestinians.) With such a large demographic of their party either unconcerned about Israel or actively anti-Israel, there is no way the party leadership, including its Jewish leaders, will offend its majority supporters by forcing Omar to resign or remove herself from the Foreign Affairs Committee.
In addition, the media majority which makes up the mainstream media as well as most internet news and opinion outlets, is committedly anti-Trump. If Trump calls for her resignation, it is assured that these media will oppose it, facts or feelings be damned. Most telling is, that it is clear sadly, none of the players, the Democrat leadership, Jew or non-Jew, and their media enablers get it. In contrast to the blackface scandal, they don’t comprehend the pain felt by American Jews when antisemitic and anti-Israel language is used with impunity. Could it be that they really do believe that there is truth to Omar’s comments? That would be the real tragedy, and the ultimate victory for continued antisemitism.
Dr. Alan A. Mazurek, MD is a neurologist and Jewish activist

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