5 Inspiring Jewish Voices for Peace Who Support Ilhan Omar

Matt Orfalea
5 min readApr 6, 2019
5 Inspiring Jewish Voices for Peace

When Ilhan Omar voiced criticism of Israel and the American-Israel lobby, AIPAC, she was smeared as anti-semitic.

For decades in America, such accusations have been used to silence any criticism of the Israeli government. But the tactic is no longer working.

Here’s 5 inspiring Jewish individuals and groups who effectively debunk the ridiculous notion that criticism of Israel is anti-semitic.

1. Senator Bernie Sanders

Look, my father’s family was wiped out by Hitler in the Holocaust. I know about what crazy and radical, and extremist politics mean. I learned that lesson as a tiny, tiny child when my mother would take me shopping, and we would see people working in stores who had numbers on their arms because they were in Hitler’s concentration camp.

I’m very proud of being Jewish. And that’s an essential part of who I am as a human being.

In response to the attacks Omar received for her tweets Bernie Sanders wrote:

Anti-Semitism is a hateful and dangerous ideology which must be vigorously opposed in the United States and around the world. Rather, we must develop an even-handed Middle East policy which brings Israelis and Palestinians together for a lasting peace.

What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate. That’s wrong.

We must say loudly and clearly that to oppose the reactionary policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu does not make us anti-Israel!

2. Jewish Voice for Peace — Phyllis Bennis

The pro-peace Jewish group held a demonstration supporting Omar in Washington and the groups’s board member Phyllis Bennis spoke to the media to explain why.

So many people are looking at what is being reported about what Ilhan Omar said without reporting what she actually said. The context was very clear. She was talking about the influence of pro-Israel lobbies on members of congress. She wasn’t talking about Jews. It had nothing to do with Jews , Jewish people, anything else.

The Congressman out in California, a day or 2 ago, said questioning the U.S.-Israel alliance is “unacceptable” — unacceptable to question it! Yet that relationship leads to us spending $3.8 billion a year on the Israeli military; it leads to the U.S. protecting all Israeli’s from being held accountable in the United Nations; it leads to the U.S. providing all the military support for Israel to maintain its often war crime level violations of international law in how it uses those weapons against Palestinians. So the U.S. is complicit in all of that.

So if we don’t question the U.S.-Israeli alliance, we are more complicit than ever. We need to question it. We need to challenge it. And the notion that that’s anti-Semitism really boggles the mind.

3. Jews Against Zionism

My father’s parents were killed in Auschwitz. The holocaust survivors — our communities mainly are.

Here is Rabbi Dovid Israel on why his group came to Washington to support Ilhan Omar.

Because we are Jewish we differentiate between Judaism and Zionism.

Judaism is to serve God — be subservient to God and live in friendship and solidarity with our Arab and Muslim neighbors, as we had in all the Arab and Muslim countries. And to accuse somebody of being anti-Semitic because they oppose the occupation of Palestine, or the oppression of the people, and accuse them of being anti-semitic is revolting and unacceptable, and it hurts us, because it is being done in the name of the Jewish people.

She is being attacked as being anti-Semitic or making anti-Semitic statements and we feel as Jews we need to clear her name.

4. Jeremy Ben-Ami (Founder & President of J-Street)

Loving and supporting Israel doesn’t mean you have to always agree with whatever the government of Israel says and does.

Ben-Ami is the founder of a moderate pro-Israel lobby called J-Street, which disagrees with right-wing pro-Israel lobbies like AIPAC on a number of issues and advocates for open dialogue rather than using accusation of antisemitism to silence debate.

Well, I think there is a pattern, and there are some in Israeli politics, I think there are some in the politics of this country, who do try to weaponize the charge of anti-Semitism in order to shut down debate.

And I think there are instances where language goes too far…There are those instances. But there are many other instances and many more where the charge of anti-Semitism is used in order to delegitimize the critic or the journalist or the person who is talking, and it does shut down debate.

It stifles the discussion of the actual issues that matter. How do we best end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? What are the actions that can be taken to help Palestinians and Israelis find a better future? And, sometimes, we can’t have that discussion because the, first time you criticize Israel you’re called an anti-Semite.

5. Gideon Levy

Levy is a journalist famous for being an outspoken critic of of his own country, Israel. Despite being the son of a holocaust survivor he’s been accused of being “pro-Nazi” and had is life threatened.

There was not one single Israeli government who stopped for one day building those criminal settlements.

On Democracy Now he shared his thoughts on the recent Ilhan Omar controversy.

It’s wonderful that the house condemns antisemitism. Antisemitism should be condemned. But the context is very suspicious and very troubling. We have to say the truth. The Israeli lobby, the Jewish lobby, are by far too strong and too aggressive. It’s not good for the Jewish community, it’s not good for Israel.

New voices are emerging from Capitol Hill raising legitimate questions about Israel, about America’s foreign policy toward Israel, and about the Israel lobby in the States. Those are very legitimate questions and it is more than needed to raise them.

This does not mean that we are anti-semites. We are not ready to play this game anymore in which they shut our mouths with those accusations which in most of the cases are hollow.

I’m Matt Orfalea. Thanks for watching.

What we do see is somewhat good news. People are starting to ask these questions about, as the NY Times put it, “Does AIPAC have too much power and influence?”, and then proceeded to write an article who’s tone was kind of “Yeah, they do.”

That’s crucial because for so long it’s been considered outside the bounds of acceptable discourse, particularly in Washington.

There is more than one way to be Pro-Israel.

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