Commenting on the controversy sparked by freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D – Minn.) suggesting that Jews bought support for Israel and subsequently that allegiance of American Jews was to Israel, noted Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt said that “Jews can be victims of prejudice,” in an interview with NPR on Wednesday.
The interview was prompted by talk of a resolution condemning anti-Semitism in response to the imputations made by Omar. It appears that the resolution will be voted on Thursday. However, it will not name Omar, nor will it be exclusively focused on anti-Semitism.
Lipstadt explained that the problem with Omar’s comments wasn’t that they were critical of Israel but that she was “relying on anti-Semitic stereotypes, anti-Semitic tropes, anti-Semitic memes.”
For example, when Omar said that support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins,” or later, when she that American Jewish allegiance was to Israel, Lipstadt said, “Those go back to, at their root, the notion of a Jewish conspiracy, Jewish dual loyalties.”
The scholar pointed out that it was these comments, not criticisms of Israel, that led to charges that Omar was anti-Semitic.
While Lipstadt allowed that Omar may have come to harsher treatment because of her faith, she also noted that “there are many people on the progressive left” who would excuse the comments because they “look at Jews and see white people who are privileged and decide, ipso facto, they can’t be victims of prejudice.” She asserted, “We know that it’s the case that Jews can be victims of prejudice.”
“There’s a sense,” Lipstadt said of the rationale of Omar and her supporters, “that when Jews claim anti-Semitism, they’re trying to cover up.”
However, she emphasized, “It’s not true. Jews know that you can be a subject of anti-Semitism…”
The complete interview is embedded below.
[Photo: TEDx Talks / YouTube ]