Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has faced a number of attacks over the past month for her support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights and for pointing out the role of the Israel lobby in US foreign policy.
Like Rep. Omar, many of our clients at Palestine Legal face false accusations of antisemitism. These smears are used to deflect attention from Israel’s human rights violations and to intimidate activists from continuing their advocacy for Palestinian human rights. In 2018, Palestine Legal responded to 142 incidents where Israel advocates levied false accusations of antisemitism based solely on speech supportive of Palestinian rights. This represented a majority of the incidents we responded to.
The attacks against Rep. Omar have been rooted in misogyny, anti-Blackness, and Islamophobia. As a Black Muslim woman, Rep. Omar has been targeted and held to higher standards than the president and other white public figures who have taken harmful stances against Muslims, women, people of color, and LGBTQ people. We have noted similar trends in other attacks on advocacy for Palestinian rights, including the recently dismissed lawsuit against the American Studies Association, in which almost all of the individuals ultimately targeted as defendants were faculty of color and/or queer, despite a large number of white professors supporting the academic boycott of Israel.
In the leaked Al Jazeera documentary about the Israel lobby in the US, pro-Israel lobbyists and Israeli government officials admitted three things that shed light on the current attack on Rep. Omar:
That AIPAC spends money to ensure politicians support their hardline agenda on Middle East policy;
That they see growing solidarity between Palestinians, Black Americans and other people of color as a dangerous trend;
That because the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is winning on college campuses, the Israel lobby made a strategic decision to shift from fighting BDS on campuses to targeting it with state and federal legislation.
Congresswoman Omar finds herself at the crossroads of these strategic interests of the Israel lobby. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, she would be one of the first representatives to address a House version of the anti-boycott bill that passed the Senate earlier this month. Based on her recent actions online and in committee, she is fully expected to be a vocal opponent of this legislation. Three weeks ago, she condemned US support for the coup in Venezuela, and just yesterday she took Elliot Abrams to task for supporting right-wing Latin American regimes in the 1970s and 80s. Rep. Omar’s powerful voice and her willingness to confront hypocrisy in the US’s respect for human rights are a clear threat to the Israel lobby and other right wing forces.
Ilhan Omar represents a growing number of Black public figures who have faced condemnation due to their support for Palestinian human rights in recent months, including Marc Lamont Hill, Angela Davis, and Michelle Alexander. This leads us to understand that Black-Palestine solidarity is growing and is working, and we aim to safeguard the right of these two movements to develop robust relationships towards their liberation.
Palestine Legal supports Ilhan Omar, the right to engage in boycotts for Palestinian rights, and the growing community of people who believe in freedom, equality and justice in Palestine.
Take Action: There are a number of petitions from movement organizations, including Adalah Justice Project, and CODEPINK. Submit your own #StandWithIlhan photo to JVP. You can offer your support to Rep. Omar’s offices at (202) 225-4755 (DC) and (612) 333-1272 (Minneapolis). You can also give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a call at (202) 225-4965 (DC) or (415) 556-4862 (San Francisco).