Rabbi’s Note: The following is one of the letters Rabbi Klayman sent to the NY Senators and to Congressman Tom Suozzi:
I am writing to you with deep concern for the ongoing statements made by Representative Omar and what I perceive to be a somewhat tepid response from her colleagues (aside from an initial criticism of her statements). As befits our democracy, Congresswoman Omar has a complete right to express her views and certainly to criticize Israel. However, despite her apologies-offered for the sake of political expedience and pragmatism-her words are disturbing on several levels. First, in all her anti-Israel statements Omar demonstrates little understanding of Israel. Although I also believe in a two state solution, it is vital for any representative to back up criticism with facts and accurate information. The Congresswoman’s demonizing of Israel extends well beyond accurate facts. Second, the language she has employed reflects not only her hatred of Israel but her hatred of Jews. When a national representative uses language, which reflects classic antisemitic thinking (equated Jews with money and referring to AIPAC’s financial hold on Congress), no brief apology is acceptable. Her actions concern many of us in the Jewish community, because they suggest possibility of a new wave of Democratic legislators, whose opposition to Israel runs contrary to important values of the Democratic Party. Support of Israel is invaluable to the United States; legislators like Congresswoman Omar need to be educated in that reality.
In yesterday’s New York Times, Bret Stephens wrote the following:
Ilhan Omar, the freshman representative from Minnesota, more than meets the progressive American version of that standard.
Like many self-described progressives, Omar does not like Israel. That’s a shame, not least because Israel is the only country in its region that embraces the
sorts of values the Democratic Party claims to champion. When was the last time there was a gay-pride parade in Ramallah, a women’s rights march in
Gaza, or an opposition press in Tehran? In what Middle Eastern country other than Israel can an attorney general indict a popular
and powerful prime minister on corruption charges?
I hope Representative Omar reads the column. She needs to understand that people and nations supporting BDS focus exclusively on Israel while ignoring the more egregious human rights violations in countries like Russia, China, Syria (indeed, the entire Middle East) and Venezuela. Such focus is not about social justice but about singling out Jews.
I represent my faith community in urging you and your colleagues to be vigilant in distinguishing between legitimate criticism of an Israel policy and illegitimate (and dangerous) statements and language, which remind us of the antisemitic fervor of the past.
Thank you very much,
Rabbi Michael Klayman
Lake Success Jewish Center (blocks from the site where the UN debated Partition)