US President Donald Trump, a man never shy of lecturing politicians around the world on human rights and freedom of speech, has once again found himself at the center of a media scandal. He has recently launched an all-out campaign to destroy Ilhan Omar, the first congresswoman in America to wear the hijab.
Despite being regularly accused of discrimination declarationshimself, Trump is now accusing Omar of inciting anti-Jewish hatred and even urging her to resign over her critique of the Israeli lobby.
Omar hit back against the President on Twitter, countering that he was the one inspiring hatred: “You have trafficked in hate your whole life—against Jews, Muslims, Indigenous, immigrants, black people and more. I learned from people impacted by my words. When will you?” she wrote.
The FIRST CONGRESSWOMAN IN a HIJAB
Omar, a refugee from Somalia, was elected a member of Congress in November 2018. During her short time in office, she led discussions regarding hijabs being worn in the American parliament. The Democrats, who received a majority in the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections, prepared a new internal statute, which abolished an article preventing members of Congress from wearing head-scarves on the basis of their religious beliefs. As a result of this step, on January 4, 2019, for the first time in US history, Omar wore a hijab into parliament.
CRITICISM OF WASHINGTON’s actions IN VENEZUELA
The second reason for the administration’s harsh treatment of Omar is her opposition to Washington’s interventionist policy in Venezuela. Criticizing the US’ recognition of Venezuelan interim president opposition leader Juan Guaido, Omar said that a “US-backed coup in Venezuela is not the solution to the terrible problems of the Venezuelan people.” This statement caused serious anger and backlash by both Democrats and Republicans.
While Trump is hardly known for his adherence to the truth, what about Omar’s resilient dedication to it made him so angry?
Where did the accusations of anti-Semitism against Omar come from, and why has she been singled-out for attacks and criticisms since the moment she took her position?
IN THE CENTER OF SCANDAL – A DISCUSSION ON ANTI-SEMITISM
It all started after Omar tweeted a few critical comments about a pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The Congresswoman wrote that Israel enjoys broad support among US lawmakers thanks to financial donations from AIPAC members.
In response to the comments, Omar was harshly criticized by both Republicans and Democrats. The leader of the Republican minority in the lower house of Congress, Kevin McCarthy, called on Democratic leadership to “take action” against Omar and another Michigan Muslim congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. In turn, one pro-Israeli journalist tweeted the following comment:
“Would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess. Bad form, Congresswoman. That’s the second anti-Semitic trope you’ve tweeted.”
Following a flurry of criticism, Omar did apologize for her words. “Antisemitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of antisemitic tropes… My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole… This is why I unequivocally apologize“, she tweeted.
However, she added that she would not cease to oppose the “problematic role” of lobbyists in the highest circles of power. Omar said that this concerns not only AIPAC but also those who promote the interests of the National Rifle Organization (NRA) or the oil industry. “It`s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it,” Omar wrote.
DISCUSSION ON “DOUBLE STANDARDS” IN THE US
The broader discussion about anti-Semitism led to debates on the double standards in America’s relationship with Israel.
After Trump called on Omar to leave her position in the House of Representatives (despite her apologies) a number of politicians and members of the media reminded him of his own Islamophobic statements. Omar attempted to thoroughly explain her position using evidence rather than simply relying on relying on discriminatory emotional appeals as the President had.
HARD ANSWER TO TRUMP
In his article in the Washington Post, political columnist Eugene Scott recalled the words of Iowa Republican Steve King. In a recent interview, King stated: ” White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
According to Scott, although King did not apologize for these statements, he was not subjected to a barrage of criticism like Omar had been.
CNN also pointed out that Trump did not react to King’s statements at all, and that he himself repeatedly used similar troubling rhetoric. The New York Times also published an article titled “Trump, No Stranger to Jewish Stereotypes, Rejects Ilhan Omar’s Apology,” which highlighted his hypocrisy.
In a written statement, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin called Trump’s attack on Omar ” disgraceful and, unfortunately, unsurprising.”
“As a candidate and now president, Donald Trump has consistently and unapologetically trafficked in white nationalism, Islamophobia, sexism, and racism. Let us not forget that this president referred to violent neo-Nazis as ‘very fine people”, they stressed.
The youngest congresswoman in the House of Representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, tweeted that she was “proud” that Omar had “raised the issue of lobbyists in politics & equally proud of her sensitivity to affected communities.” At the same time, the legislator stressed that Omar had “demonstrated a capacity to acknowledge pain & apologize, use the opportunity to learn about history of antisemitism.”
Lots of people here proclaiming to be “woke” trying to police communities on what they are/aren’t allowed to be upset by.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 12, 2019
SCANDALOUS EXPRESSIONS by TRUMP AND REPUBLICANS
Trump, while still a presidential candidate, often indulged in scandalous statements. In 2017, Trump also said that some of the participants in the ultra-right marches in Charlottesville were “wonderful people.”
Trump has also repeatedly made statements collectively targeting Muslims. He even placed a ban on followers of the religion from Muslim countries entering the United States shortly after assuming office.
While still a member of Congress in 2013 in the wake of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack, Mike Pompeo (now Trump’s hawkish Secretary of State) made blanket accusations against Muslim leaders in America saying that they “had not forcefully condemned the bombing.”