Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin: What My Father Would Have Said About Ilhan Omar

Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar, with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, right, speaks about the party’s legislative priorities when Democrats assume the majority in the 116th Congress in January, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, on Nov. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

This week, I have been sitting shiva for my father, George Salkin.

Several people approached me and asked: “Was your father ‘religious’?”

No — certainly not in any ritual sense.

My father’s Judaism was all about memory — historical memory.

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when I marched against the Viet Nam war, my father would caution me. True — he was also anti-war, even as much as he disliked the aesthetics of the movement.

But, on several occasions, he would say to me: “Be careful. Your radical friends might turn against Israel, and against the Jews.”

I laughed him off.

I shouldn’t have.

Dad — I am sorry.

You were right.

  • You were right, because it happened in Russia in the late nineteenth century.
  • You were right, because it happened after the Russian Revolution.
  • You were right, because it happened in the days of the New Left.

You are right, because, well, Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Several weeks ago, Rep. Omar criticized Israel and AIPAC. She said that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has paid politicians to be pro-Israel.

“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she tweeted. As in hundred dollar bills.

Omar accused the Jews of buying support for Israel — and worse, of controlling Congress with their money.

It wasn’t the first time that she expressed her concerns about Israel in problematic tones. In 2012, she commented that “Israel has hypnotized the world.”

Now, most recently, she has said that pro-Israel activists were pushing “for allegiance to a foreign country” — a reprise of the ancient antisemitic trope of “dual loyalty.”

My father, of blessed memory, had a simple and even simplistic world view.

“Fool me once,” he would say, “shame on you. Fool me twice — shame on me.” Rep. Omar has apologized for her earlier remarks. But, she keeps making them. Apology not accepted.

You would say to my father: “There has been far too much attention to Rep. Omar’s statements. It is coming off as racist and Islamophobic.”

My father would have responded: “Hatred is hatred, and it doesn’t matter who says it.”

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Source: Religion News Service