Due to the expediency of the issue at hand, here is my response to Representative Ilhan Omar’s comments and the milieu surrounding them. In a following blog post I will elaborate further. While I am the great grandchild of a White Jewish man and a Black Southern woman, my response is primarily pointing out the implications of Rep. Omar’s statements.
1. G_d bless Japan. There is less contention about the relationship between Japan and the U.S. than there is contention about the long-standing relationship between Israel and the U.S. Why is that? Respectfully, Japan has bombed us at Pearl Harbor. Japan has led the way in peaceable relations and demilitarization efforts as a result. We have also worked to atone for our atrocities at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The U.S. has helped rebuild the factories in Japan and paid reparations .
2. G_d bless Germany. There is less contention about the relationship between Germany and the United States than there is contention about the relationship between Israel and the United States. I want to say enough said...but I will continue. Germany has been atoning for its past and, as a result, has helped to stabilize Europe--due to the economic foreign assistance we helped provide them post-WWII .
At the hands of the Nazis, millions of lives were lost: The tortuous treatment of Jews, the horror of mass genocide, the tearing up of families, not to mention the countless lives sacrificed by American and Allied Forces. Added to this is the plunder of our socio-cultural wealth, precious artworks and heirlooms to fuel their war machines. Let it also be known that African countries in the 20th century were the testing ground for German genocide—the Herero and the Nama people, namely . As a Black Israelite on this side of the Atlantic, if I can forgive and move forward with the promise of a better tomorrow, we all can. If we can do business with, trade with and support Germany, we can do business with, trade with and support Israel—America.
A peaceful country is a country that can maintain responsible business interests and the well-being of its people . Peaceful alliances between countries are the groundwork for a world that can maintain economic activities and support the well-being of the planet. America, we want countries to petition each other for greater peace. We are global citizens!
"We have to be able to extrapolate the geo-politics from the race-politics."
3. By equating pro-Israel lobbying to the fossil fuel Industry’s lobbying, Rep. Omar is making a false analogy between a country and an industry, a country and a company. That, in its implication, is nominally diminishing the sovereignty and self-determination of a nation in traversing for its national interests.
Since many Democrats seek campaign finance reform challenging the overabundance of corporate dollars in the political arena would be an extension of campaign finance reform. Thus, that means Rep. Omar most likely would not be for the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that conferred personhood onto corporations—which meant that companies would fall under the First Amendment protections by arguing that monetary contributions function as personal speech. That essentially, removed the cap on monetary contributions used in political expenditures. Thus, Rep. Omar’s comments work to counter her party’s platforms by equating lobbying for a country’s interest with a corporation's interest.
By equating the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) activities with the lobbying done by the National Rifle Association (NRA), that positions Rep. Omar categorically with groups conflating countries and corporations.
4. By nominally attempting to conscript a nation in its attempts to garner vital needs for its people, a speaker’s words act as a form of nominal sanctions. Through advocacy of such commentary, any such speaker might be construed as attempting nominal conscription around a freely-allowed association’s ability to carry out its non-profit duties. The AIPAC is a non-profit. Read more here.
OK, to catch what I am saying here, think of our former ban on traveling to Cuba. A document said we, Americans, could not go; and, thus, that limited Cuba’s ability to garner economic resources via the tourism industry. A document of words by a politician with larger legitimated support can, in effect, stop a flow of resources to a country. Words matter. Words—especially decreed from a legitimated authority—matter.
Is it right what Israel is doing to Palestine by blocking certain vital resources from coming into the country? By harming children and babies? No. It is also not right for Egypt to do that either. Egypt is a Muslim country. According to Human Rights Watch, “Israel continued to maintain its more than decade-long effective closure of Gaza, exacerbated by Egyptian restrictions on its own border with Gaza, limiting access to water and electricity” . Who knows what geo-political issues would cause another Muslim country to constrict another Muslim countries resources. While there are spiritual arguments that are made on both sides, which law does one group support versus the other, the same geo-political activity done by one actors gets more press and attention than the other. If Israel restricts resources in the Gaza strip and points to Egypt restricting resources in the Gaza strip, does that justify anything? This is a long and mired conflict. We have to be able to extrapolate the geo-politics from the race-politics.
5. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with President Donald Trump July 2018 to renegotiate NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) during Trump’s travel to Quebec. That was a form a “lobbying”—a country’s official petitioning for its interests to another country’s official. Countries visit each other on diplomatic missions and other trips to petition for their interests all the time. It’s called trade talks. We cannot equate a country acting out its interest with oil companies acting out their interests. It is incorrectly elevating companies above countries.
Two subsequent meetings between Canada and the U.S. were canceled due to political disagreements before a renewed agreement ultimately was signed in November 2018 with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Argentina. According to the Human Rights Watch “between December 2012 and January 2018, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) received more than 4,600 complaints regarding alleged abuses by the [Mexican] military” . It shows that countries can have acrimonious talks, disagree with each other’s policies--and, yet and still, do something peaceable for their citizens toward the greater good
6. On September 11th, 2001, there were 15 Saudi nationals listed with ties to Al-Qaeda on the planes that hit the towers. A Washington Post journalist—Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi—a Saudi Arabian dissident, was kidnapped, murdered and mutilated in Saudi Arabia . Yet, we have no issue with trading with a country with human rights abuses. As a Black woman, I have no pretensions about the human rights abuses in the U.S. Yet, we have an economy. Meaning Black citizens trade with White citizens and have petitioned for equal rights and extended freedoms. That is a country trading with and advocate for itself, despite the abuses suffered. Nothing is inherently wrong with petitioning or lobbying. When I worked at the Collegiate Science and Technology and Entry Program (CSTEP), we lobbied Albany for increased funding for STEM education for Black and Latino students. Lobbying helps people of color and educational institutions get on the agenda when they otherwise might be forgotten. Let’s get passionate about corporate interest lobbying for policies that harm the environment and our principles. However, let’s also get passionate about arguing the logical conclusions to statements by politicians who traffic in false equivalencies.
7. Israel has its human rights abuses against Palestinians. Palestine has its human rights abuses against Israelis. There is a total imbalance of force here, I know...A Molotov cocktail and slingshot is in no way comparable to rocket launchers and automatic weapons. All life is imbued with inherent dignity. I am not for the abuse of power in any form. My people can attest to that. I find it especially repugnant when under the pretext of peace countries trade with another country to test out their weaponry and military industrial complexes’ arsenal. The U.S. and Israel have done this. Read more here. Those haven’t been our finest days.
No business should be made--I repeat, no business should be made, by the drumming up of unnecessary wars--especially when and if there are diplomatic options available. Two egregious wrongs don’t make a right. Two negatives do not equal a positive anywhere outside of the unrealistic, sterile operations of mathematical systems. We are not neat and pristine. No country is without sin.
As a woman of color, who is queer dating cisgender men, currently, and who is also an Israelite, American and Christian, I know what it is like to live with, at least, a double consciousness, two warring selves, as W.E.B. Du Bois outlines in The Souls of Black Folks. We are still better served by taking, in the present moment, the higher ground while healing from the past and building toward a more just society.
The United States is based on Judeo-Christian principles. Those principles have given us the freest nation—albeit inherently problematic—in the modern world. I can write this blog post without fear for my life. That is due to a long-standing, principle-based connection between Israel and America.
It is hard for me, a PhD candidate, not to have all the citations and elucidations I would prefer to have in this list or all the substantiations I would like to have in this blog post. However, what I do know is that our silences will not protects us. Audre Lorde taught me that. I am compelled to speak from my heart and intellect when there is discord in discourse as well as discord in my nation. I am pro-peace, if I am “pro” anything. For, I know that democracy dies in the dark. If they come for your neighbor by day, if we don’t condemn anti-Semitic speech but only condemn anti-Muslim speech, they will come for us at night. Shalom (שׁלום).