Over the weekend, concerns over anti-Semitism in Congress were once again revived when Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) exchanged charged words on Twitter over Omar’s continued insinuations about the supposed “dual loyalty” of Jewish lawmakers toward Israel.
Lowey, who is Jewish, tweeted, “No member of Congress is asked to swear allegiance to another country. Throughout history, Jews have been accused of dual loyalty, leading to discrimination and violence, which is why these accusations are so hurtful.” Lowey added, “I believe we can debate important policy without using offensive, painful stereotypes.”
The Twitter confrontation came after repeated statements by Omar that have relied on anti-Semitic tropes and the suggestion that her “Jewish colleagues” may level accusations of bigotry against her in order to hinder debate over Israel.
While some in her party have tried to downplay the Congresswoman’s perceived antagonistic attitude toward Jews, her dalliance with bigoted and baseless stereotypes should not be so cavalierly dismissed. Anti-Semitism is thriving, in the United States and around the world, and to ignore its perpetuation by a U.S. Representative is a dangerous move, not just for Jewish Americans but for society as a whole.
Anti-Semitism has been on the rise for some time, but recent events, including the horrific massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October, have granted the issue more media attention. In America, anti-Semitic attacks increased nearly 57 percent in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
New York has seen a spate of hate crimes directed at Jews in recent months, particularly towards New York City’s considerable Orthodox Jewish community, who have been targets of especially violent attacks. According to The New York Times, “There were 55 hate crimes reported in New York City this year as of Feb. 17, an increase of 72 percent over the same period last year, the police said. Anti-Semitic crimes made up almost two-thirds of that.”
Recent attacks include the shocking assault on a 51-year-old Jewish man who was brutally beaten by a three young men in the street and the bludgeoning of a 26-year-old Jewish man by an assailant armed with a stick. Both events took place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Europe has also experienced an alarming rise in anti-Semitism. In recent weeks, France has seen several Jewish cemeteries and memorials desecrated. Most notable, perhaps, have been the accusations of systemic anti-Semitism that have plagued the British Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn, which has led to multiple MP’s leaving the party in protest. MP Joan Ryan, who is not Jewish herself, has faced threats following her departure from Labour, even being told that she should be “shoved right back in the ovens.”
Anti-Semitism is a form of racism rooted in ignorance, envy, and misinformation. It is commonly cloaked by conspiracy theories or political abstractions. While this bigotry is clearly unfair and harmful toward Jews, it also does tremendous damage to our society as whole. It tears at the moral fiber of our communities. It encourages people to stereotype and scapegoat. By dehumanizing others, it rots away at the humanity of the perpetrators themselves.
While there is hope for improvement (the Trump administration recently appointed a new anti-Semitism envoy), Members of Congress must make clear that Anti-Semitism will not be tolerated. For all our sake’s, politicians from across the political spectrum must not only condemn anti-Semitism in the strongest possible terms but take action when it rears its ugly head.
Nora Sullivan is a Digital Communications Writer at the MRC and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Ms. Sullivan holds a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from University College Dublin.