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Omar’s criticism can’t be confused with anti-semitism

Melvin B. Miller

During the Civil Rights Movement Jews and blacks were inseparable allies. Both groups wanted the same result — the elimination of legal support for racial and religious discrimination. With the approval of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, that objective was substantially achieved. However, because of the innate hostility to people of color in this country, African Americans had to continue their fight. It was natural for blacks to identify with Rep. Ilhan Omar in her conflict in the Congress over policies in Israel.

The close association between blacks and Jews had modified after the civil rights victories, but there was little expectation that some Jews would then join with Donald Trump, the nation’s racist-in-chief. When Trump became the leader of the Birther Movement there was little doubt of his rejection of racial equality. The sole goal of that effort was to challenge Barack Obama’s right to be president by alleging he was born in Africa. Article II of the U.S. Constitution requires the president to be “a natural born citizen” of the United States.

Trump was able to generate considerable attention with the birther campaign, even though the allegation was ultimately proven to be false. Nonetheless, Trump was able to mobilize America’s bigots into a political power base. Undoubtedly, this core group enabled Trump to be elected president.

Racists quickly recognized that they had a strong supporter in the White House. White supremacist leaders organized a “Unite the Right rally” for Charlottesville, Vargina on Aug. 11, 2017. The stated objective was to prevent the removal of statues of the leaders of the Confederacy. Racist protesters from across the country came and marched menacingly with lighted torches.

This was a violent rally. Those demonstrating in opposition to the white racists were attacked. The National Council of Churches and Black Lives Matter, along with other liberal organizations, risked being attacked for protesting against the message of white supremacy. One chant of those in support of “Unite the Right” was “Jews will not replace us.” The national press criticized the rally and criminal procedures were begun against those who were violent. Yet Trump stated that “there were very fine people on both sides.” His comment was viewed as an affirmation of the conduct of racists who were abusive in the Charlottesville rally. Trump’s remarks were generally considered to be inappropriate, especially since Heather Heyer, a participant who was peacefully opposed to the rally, had been intentionally run down by a car and killed.

According to the press coverage, Nazi symbols were resplendent in the Charlottesville event, and the tone was distinctly anti-Semitic. Trump was openly supportive of the rally, yet he was not accused of sanctioning anti-Semitism. In fact many of Trump’s associates and members of his administration are Jewish. With a number of prominent Jews closely associated with a racist, and there is little objection, how can Omar reasonably be criticized for her brief comments?