In the wake of yet another false accusation of anti-semitism against Rep. Ilhan Omar, we are reprinting her full remarks from a DC event on Feb. 27. These are the words which the Democratic establishment attempted to condemn her for. Read our statement of support for Rep. Omar here.
Q: [Moderator] We have a couple of questions from the audience on Venezuela.
[Audience Member] What do you and the Progressive Caucus or Congress in general think you can be doing or should be doing to fight this administration’s super hard line on this?
Rep. Omar: I must confess I spent many years watching hearings, Congressional hearings at home and screaming at the TV. Thinking about all the questions people should be asking and no one was. So when I got the opportunity I could not resist. And I had to go for it.
We have foreign policy that really has been detrimental to our security, detrimental to uplifting and living up to American ideals, one that has been detrimental in having positive American outlook around the world. It’s almost as if people in Congress and many of these administrations – regardless of whether it's Republican or Democrat, even progressive and not progressive – there’s just this facile memory. It’s like everybody has their statements ready and they just insert the name of the country. And there is no thought that goes into what our involvement in this nation is going to look like, what are the collateral damages, what happens after we engage? And today I had the opportunity to ask these questions to Secretary Albright, who came to committee, because I was concerned that we seem to be engaging in the same kinds of policies over and over again. There’s a country that has a government we don’t like, there’s a complaint, there’s some sort of humanitarian crisis that’s happening, there’s a civil war that might take place, and we just decide – these are our allies, this is what our interest is, and we go in. The risk of 100,000 people dying might have existed, that we end up killing or being part of the deaths of 300,000 half a million, or more. And then it’s like, “Oh, we helped!” and there’s the destruction of hospitals, of schools, of every kind of infrastructure.
And she was in agreement that there’s really no thought process that goes into thinking through, 'Oh if we engaged in this kind of way, what happens 6 months, 8 months 6 years, 10 years from now? And so, when it comes to Venezuela, for me it is an opportunity for us to really awaken the peoples’ conscience to this kind of sad reality of our foreign policy. We shouldn’t just issue our press releases with a new name on it, with a new country on it. We should say “what is really happening in this country?” If we are for the advancement of democracy, what does this country’s constitution actually call for? You can’t be in the business of recognizing a country’s new leader, when you would not allow that for yourself. None of this are happy with the kind of president we have. If a foreign country said “we think because Hillary got lots of votes, we’re just going to acknowledge Hillary as the leader of the United States, we would have a problem with that because you would say ‘our constitution says that it’s not about the number of votes you get', but… [audience answers – electoral college]. Fortunately and unfortunately that is what our constitution says. We govern within the constitution. So we should be in the business of allowing people to govern within their constitution. So for me I acknowledge there is a humanitarian crisis that’s taking place. And it is not only okay for us to acknowledge that but we also have to reckon with the fact that there are humanitarian crises going on in Yemen and we have not blocked our mind and threatened an intervention because of it. Because the people who are causing the humanitarian crises are our friends. So I’m not in the business of sitting around because my friend is killing, and I’m not in the business of screaming because my enemy is killing. I’m in the business of saying no human life is worth less than the other. And as much as we care about our sovereignty about the protection of our constitution, we should afford other people the same dignity and respect to do that. And yes we have a responsibility as the leader of the world, but our responsibility should be one that is guided by morality, one that is guided by justice, one that is guided buy ethics, one that is guided by humanity. And not by profits, by interests. So I get upset about these things and everybody says “You know Ilhan, you’re not Palestinian, why are you screaming about Palestine?” “Ilhan, you’re not Saudi, why are you screaming about Yemen and what is happening in Saudi Arabia? Ilhan, you’re not Venezuelan. Well I’m a member of Congress. And in Congress we’re debating these issues. You might want to continue to see me as Somali, but I am a member of Congress. An American member of Congress. And people will just have to deal with it.
Q: Moderator: I want to pivot a little bit and talk about an issue that tends to keep cropping up over and over again and that’s the issue of antisemitism. I know that’s a sensitive topic and I now it’s an issue that has been out there and is used oftentimes to quiet people, to disparage them, to isolate them, and to make them feel like they’re not connected to something bigger. Can you please speak to the process by which this happens and what can we as a community do to help support you, so that when we are criticizing Israel for some of the war crimes it has done, it is not seen as ‘you’re anti-Semitic,’ because you’re not criticizing the religion, you’re not criticizing Jewish people, you’re criticizing government policies. It’s like we criticize different polices here in the US when our government doesn’t do something right. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Ilhan: I know that I have a huge Jewish constituency. And every time I meet with them, they share stories of safety and sanctuary that they would love for the people of Israel. And most of the time when we’re having the conversation, there is no actually relative that they speak of [Rashida Tlaib had just spoken of her grandmother who lives under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank]. And there is still lots of emotions that come through because it’s family. My children still speak of Somalia with passion and compassion even though they don’t have a family member there. But we never really allow space for the stories of Palestinians seeking safety and sanctuary to be uplifted. The dehumanization and the silencing of a particular pain and suffering of people should not be okay and normal. You can’t be in the practice of humanizing and uplifting the suffering of one if you’re not willing to do that for everyone. So for me, I know that when I hear my Jewish constituents or friends of colleagues speak about Palestinians who “don’t want safety” or Palestinians who aren't deserving, I stay focused on the actual debate about what that process should look like. I never go in the dark place of saying ‘here’s a Jewish person, they’re talking about Palestinians, Palestinians are Muslim, maybe they’re Islamophobic.' I never allow myself to go there because I don’t have to. What I am fearful of, is that because Rashida and I are Muslim, that a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel [is] anti-Semitic because we are Muslim. To me it becomes something that is designed to end the debate.
I know what intolerance looks like and I’m sensitive when someone says, “the words you use Ilhan, are resemblance of intolerance.” And I am cautious of that and I feel pained by that. But it’s almost as if every single time we say something, regardless of what it is we say, that it’s supposed to be about foreign policy or engagement, our advocacy about ending oppression, or the freeing of every human life and wanting dignity, we get to be labeled in something, and that ends the discussion, because we end up defending that, and nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of “what is happening with Palestine?” So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask, why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil-fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby that is influencing policy?
I mean, most of us are new, but many members of Congress have been there forever. Some of them have been there before we were born. So I know many of them, many of them, were fighting for people to be free, for people to live in dignity in South Africa. I know many of them fight for people around the world to have dignity, to have self-determination. So I know, I know that they care about these things. But now that you have two Muslims who are saying, “here is a group of people that we want to make sure they have the dignity that you want everyone else to have!”…we get to be called names, we get to be labeled as hateful.
No, we know what hate looks like. We experience it every single day. We have to deal with death threats. I have colleagues who talk about death threats. And sometimes…there are cities in my state where the gas stations have written on their bathrooms “assassinate Ilhan Omar.” I have people driving around my district looking for my home, for my office, causing me harm. I have people every single day on Fox News and everywhere, posting that I am a threat to this country. So I know what fear looks like. The masjid I pray in in Minnesota got bombed by two domestic white terrorists.
So I know what it feels to be someone who is of faith that is vilified. I know what it means to be someone whose ethnicity is vilified. I know what it feels to be of a race—like I am an immigrant, so I don’t have the historical trauma that some of my Black sisters and brothers have in this country, but I know what it means for people to just see me as a Black person, and to treat me as less than a human. And so, when people say, “you are bringing hate,” I know what their intention is. Their intention is to make sure that our lights are dimmed. That we walk around with our heads bowed. That we lower our face and our voice.
But we have news for people. You can call us any kind of name. You can threaten us any kind of way. Rashida and I are not ourselves. Every single day we walk in the halls of Congress, we have people who have never had an opportunity to walk – they are walking with us. So we’re here to represent the voices of people who have been silenced for many decades and generations. And we're here to fight for the people of our district, who want to make sure that there is actual prosperity being guaranteed. Because there is a direct correlation between not having clean water and starting endless wars. It’s all about the profit and who gets benefits. There is a direct correlation between corporations that are getting rich and the fact that we have students that are shackled with debt. There is a direct correlation between the White House and the people who are benefitting from having detention beds that are profitized. So what people are afraid of is not that there are two Muslims in Congress. What people are afraid of is that there are two Muslims in Congress that have their eyes wide open, that have their feet to the ground, that know what they’re talking about, that are fearless, and that understand that they have the same election certificate as everyone else in Congress.
Condensed version of Ilhan's remarks and full copy of the entire event below: