(Estimated Reading Time: 10-12 Minutes)
Last week, conservative news commentator Megan McCain (the daughter of the late Senator John McCain) was a guest on Seth Meyers Late Night talk show. At one point during their interview, the topic of conversation turned to Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar and anti-Semitism.
As she dialogued with Myers, McCain was basically arguing that Omar, who has made a number of controversial statements about Israel and the Jewish people since being elected to Congress, is moving the Democratic Party towards “extremism on this issue.” Myers on the other hand defended Omar. He essentially argued that she has just been a little bit careless with her words, and since she has now apologized, we shouldn’t be concerned with the type of rhetoric she has expressed on social media, and in various speeches, since the beginning of 2019.
As this story with Omar has unfolded over the last few months, I have followed it with great interest. The primary reason I have found it so compelling, is because Omar’s words and actions have brought the topic of anti-Semitism into the national spotlight in a way that I have never seen before. People are talking about this issue, and there is currently an attempt within our broader culture to try and define anti-Semitism, which includes answering questions such as, “when does a criticism of Israel cross over into the territory of true anti-Semitism?” versus, “when should such criticism simply be regarded as a differing political view etc.?”
I have personally thought a lot about these issues over the years, and I have also tried to wrestle through what I believe constitute the boundary lines of true anti-Semitism. In this article, I want to explain why I believe Congresswoman Omar is in fact spreading what is most appropriately called the “New Anti-Semitism.” I also want to cover why the Church and the Messianic Jewish community need to be aware of this dangerous trend in American politics.
Before we begin, let me also say that this article is not meant to demonize Congresswoman Omar as an individual. Nor is it meant to contribute to an already tumultuous climate of political division, hatred, and xenophobia in our country. As followers of the Messiah, we are still called to be peacemakers, and we are still called to pray for and seek the well-being of those we strongly disagree with.
That said, the primary reason I feel it is necessary to share my thoughts on this issue, is because the New Anti-Semitism is in fact spreading across the world, and it is of the utmost importance for the Lord’s people to be able to recognize some of its most distinctive features. Throughout history, from the time of Constantine, through the Middle Ages, and even into the era of Russian ghettos and Nazism in Germany, the Church of Jesus, the people who claim to follow the Jewish Messiah, have often been swept up into the broader cultural currents of anti-Semitism. In many cases, the Church has been either complicit in, or actually taken part in, the direct persecution of the Jewish people. If we don’t want to see this history repeating itself with the Church in the 21st century, understanding the nature and characteristics of the New Anti-Semitism is vital.
Here are 3 key features of the New Anti-Semitism you need to understand, which are all present in a number of recent statements made by Congresswoman Omar.
1. The New Anti-Semitism Hides Behind the Veil of Anti-Zionism.
In the past, since the Jews lived for nearly 2,000 years in exile without any national homeland, anti-Semitic attacks were predominately focused against Jewish individuals, families, and sometimes certain groups of people within Jewish society (i.e. Jewish bankers or Jewish Rabbis). However, now that the Jews once again have their own country, the New Anti-Semitism is usually focused more specifically on the nation of Israel writ large. This shift very often allows proponents of the New Anti-Semtism to conceal their prejudice behind a veneer of political respectability and ambiguous political language.
One of the primary catch-phrases that reveals the inherently anti-Zionist nature of the New Anti-Semtism, can be seen when its supporters refer to modern Israel as “the occupation.” On two recent occasions, Rep. Omar herself has personally sent out tweets referring to Israel in precisely this way.
On the surface, these statements made by Rep. Omar about Israel might seem to be nothing more than legitimate and constructive political criticism. After all, people disagree in politics all the time. Just look at the Democrats and the Republicans. Certainly every political criticism of Israel should not be equated with racism and anti-Semitism, right?
However, it is paramount to recognize that demonizing Israel as the evil occupiers of Palestinian and Arab land is part and parcel of the strategy of many terrorist groups, including Hamas. For example, in March 2019 Hamas praised a resolution passed by the UN Human Right’s Council which condemned Israel for supposed war crimes. The terrorist organization said in a statement, “Hamas welcomes the UN Human Right’s Council’s resolution that condemns the Israeli Occupation,” and hopes for “practical steps on the ground to hold the Israeli Occupation accountable […].”
Hamas, which controls Gaza, does not even recognize Israel’s right to exist. The stated mission of Hamas is to utterly destroy Israel through terrorist bombings, rocket attacks, genocide, or whatever other means may be necessary, until no Jews are left in Israel. One of the very first lines in the Hamas charter of 1988 quotes the Islamic martyr Imam Hassan al-Banna as saying, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”
Given this background information, it is important to see that when Rep. Omar refers to Israel as “the occupation,” she is simply using the language of the New-Anti-Semitism that has already been pre-fashioned by Islamic terrorist groups like Hamas. She is not merely criticizing Israel as an objective political commentator who wants to see a positive solution for all parties involved. Instead, she is directly aligning herself with those who have sworn to work towards the absolute destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.
This should come as no surprise, since Rep. Omar herself has direct ties to a group called CAIR (The Council of American Islamic Relations), which the U.S. government has proven is nothing more than the American public relations arm of Hamas. In February of 2019 The Jerusalem Post ran an article titled, “Ilhan Omar Represents Hamas in Congress?” It’s worth checking out if you want to see more evidence that Omar is connected to a number of terrorist organizations. How deep those connections go is a matter of debate, but more often than not where there’s smoke there’s fire.
So indeed, not every criticism of Israel automatically equates to anti-Semitism. Israel is not perfect, and not everything the modern State of Israel does is right. However, it is one thing to say you have a disagreement with Israel and the Jews and that you want all sides to work for peace. But it is another thing entirely to say that because of your disagreement with Israel and the Jews, there are no conditions under which you would ever make peace or compromise with them, and that they can only be justifiably killed and obliterated. Such an attitude represents the very essence of anti-Semitism, and this is exactly what Hamas believes, and it is precisely what is driving the current Arab-Israeli conflict.
Congresswoman Omar may in fact say she is not anti-Semitic, and she has done so in the past. But this is nothing more than a semantic word game that the proponents of the New Anti-Semitism are playing. If you take the same position as Hamas when it comes to the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel, you are by default spreading anti-Semitism. Practically speaking, you are on the side of those who are working towards the annihilation of the Jewish people.
Pay attention to this catchphrase: “the occupation.” It is what allows the modern day supporters of the New Anti-Semitism to conceal their prejudice against the Jewish people behind the veil of a more socially acceptable and subtle Anti-Zionism.
For anyone who still doubts the clear connection between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, consider the results of a national survey that was recently conducted in Great Britain. In January 2019, The Times of Israel reported the results of this survey, which found that there is in fact a definite link between “hostility to Israel and anti-Jewish hatred.” In other words, those who are avowedly anti-Zionist usually support other forms of more blatant anti-Semitism as well.
Why? Because the extreme nature of most criticism towards Israel that we see on the world stage today, is in fact part and parcel of the New Anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. This fact is even further proven by how anti-Israel sentiment very often leads to anti-Semitic violence against other Jewish communities outside of Israel.
2. The New Anti-Semitism Distorts the Concept of “Social Justice.”
Social Justice has become a popular idea in the last ten years, especially among Millennials looking for a cause worth fighting for. What few recognize however, is that inherent in the idea of fighting for justice, is the corollary idea of fighting against someone whom you view as the perpetrator of injustice. This means that in order to get social justice right, you have to exercise solid discernment when it comes to identifying the actual root cause of the injustice you wish to see remedied.
One of the hallmarks of the New Anti-Semitism is that it is rooted in an utterly misguided appraisal of what the real problem in the Arab-Israeli conflict actually is. Notice how in Omar’s recent tweet she speaks of the “humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” and the need for “real justice,” implying that Israel is the perpetrator of injustice and that the Palestinians are simply the victims. According to Omar’s logic, if Israel could be dealt with, then the injustice in Gaza would disappear.
What Omar fails to mention however, is that in 2004, Israel actually gave the Gaza strip to the Palestinians in a “land for peace” deal. Gaza was there for the Palestinians to make of it what they wanted. Yet tragically, in 2006, the Palestinians democratically elected Hamas to run their government, and in 2007, Hamas completely took over control of the Gaza strip.
There is indeed a real humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and the Palestinians confined to this narrow strip of land do often live in near sub-human conditions. However, the reason for this is not because of Israel. It is because of Hamas, whom the Palestinians chose to lead them.
There was no humanitarian crisis for the Arabs living in Gaza before Hamas took over. Furthermore, the Arab-Israeli population, that is to say, the Arabs (the majority of which are Muslims) who actually still live in the State of Israel, have more rights and freedoms than Arabs living anywhere else in the Muslim world. If Israel is such an oppressor, how could this be? Arab Israelis have complete freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of political association, access to healthcare, access to top universities etc. Go ask the people in Egypt, or Sudan, or Turkey, or Saudi Arabia if they have it this good.
Anti-Semitism has always been connected to a distorted sense of victimhood and a misguided perception of justice. It is this sense of victimhood, this sense of the injustice you have supposedly suffered at the hands of the Jews, that tells you it is permissible to hate, to murder, and to destroy them. Hitler and the Germans thought they were victims of Jewish corruption, when in reality, they were simply victims of their own twisted worldview. Six million Jews died, and half the world was literally torn apart before they came to their senses.
Likewise, Rep. Omar, Hamas, and many Palestinians alive today think they are the victims of Israeli “apartheid” and aggression. In reality, they are simply victims of an ideology that will not let them live in peace with their neighbors. If Rep. Omar were truly concerned with “real justice,” she would be denouncing Hamas, and boldly tweeting that there will not be any justice in the Middle East until Hamas and the Muslim world recognize Israel’s right to exist. As of now, Rep. Omar has never even publicly recognized that the Islamic terrorist organizations are the real root cause of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Hamas and the Islamic Jihadists are the occupiers and the oppressors. Israel is the only true beacon of freedom and democracy in the entire Middle East. Don’t get your social justice narrative twisted.
3. The New Anti-Semitism Reinforces the Old Jewish Conspiracy Theories.
There is an old book called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion which was originally published in Czarist Russia in the early 1900’s. It is basically a fabricated account of the minutes from a secret meeting between a group of Jewish leaders, who had supposedly met together to discuss their plans for world domination.
Both the Russian government and the Nazis used The Protocols as a major propaganda tool against the Jews in the early part of the 20th century. After all, if there is a worldwide Jewish conspiracy to try and take over the world, it is perfectly justifiable to place the Jews in ghettos, or maybe to even kill them in concentration camps.
Although The Proocols was widely distributed in America in the 1920’s and 30’s, today in the west it is widely recognized that The Protocols represent nothing more than a fictional hoax. However, this is not the case in the Muslim world. For the last fifty years, this anti-Semitic propaganda piece has been a runaway bestseller in many Muslim countries. The fabricated lies contained in this book have been disseminated in school curriculums, on television shows, and in mosques throughout the Muslim world for many decades.
Rep. Omar herself is a refugee to the United States from Somalia, and not surprisingly, she has also said that Israel has “hypnotized” and deceived the entire world. Just look at the following tweet she sent out back in 2012.
I cannot prove that Congresswoman Omar is directly referencing The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in this tweet. But what I can prove is that she is using the same sort of conspiratorial language about Israel that has been part and parcel of anti-Semitism for over a hundred years. Today, a central feature of the New Anti-Semitism in the Arab world is the idea that Israel needs to be destroyed because worldwide Jewish leadership and influence is poisoning the world.
Never mind that 20% of all Nobel Prizes awarded for unsurpassed achievement in fields such as medicine, chemistry, physics, etc., have been given to Jews, who make up less than .2% of the world’s population (that’s .2% as in point 2). Never mind that Israel today produces and exports some of the most advanced agricultural and computer technologies the world has ever seen. Never mind that Israel gives free medical care to victims of civil war and violence in Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza. Never mind that Israel is the only force for good and political stability in the entire Middle East.
The New-Antisemitism once again flips the script, and asks us to call good evil and evil good. It wants us to view Israel as the source of the world’s problems, while we simultaneously ignore the real conspiracy, which is militant Islam’s desire to take over and control the entire world. (Which is already beginning to happen in many European countries.) Why isn’t Rep. Omar tweeting about that?
Why It’s Happening and What We Can Do
As we consider the reality of how the New Anti-Semitism appears to be gaining a firmer foothold in American politics, let me also encourage us to do three other things simultaneously.
First, we need to continue to trust in the Lord. He is still on His throne, and He is still the Sovereign Protector and Defender of Israel. We don’t need to retreat into hiding or fall victim to insecure fear mongering.
Second, we need to continue to guard our own hearts against prejudice and hatred, especially when it comes to how we view and speak about those who are currently spreading the New Anti-Semitism. We are still accountable to the Lord for our words, attitudes, and actions, and we are still called to follow the example of the Messiah, who sacrificed His own life to save His enemies from destruction. The only way to overcome evil is with good, and the only way to overcome lies is with a firm commitment to the truth, and a firm reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit. We should actually pity those who have fallen into the grip of the New Anti-Semitism. They are on the wrong side of history, and in rebellion against the Lord. Pray that the Lord would have mercy on them, and spare them from the impending consequences of their hatred, racism, and rebellion against His Word.
Third and finally, we do also need to recognize how the New Anti-Semitism is related to the broader strategy of the powers of darkness in these last days. This is the only way we will avoid the growing deception that is the New Anti-Semitism.
In the Hebrew Bible, God promised the Jewish people that the Messiah would one day reign in their midst, and establish His kingdom in Jerusalem. Ever since then, Satan has done everything in his power to try and destroy the Jews, and to destroy the nation of Israel. He’s done it through the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Romans, the Medieval Church, the armies of Islam, the Russians, and the Nazis. Now more recently, he is trying to do it again through the New Anti-Semitism. Satan hates Israel and the Jewish people because he hates the idea of Jesus establishing His throne on this earth.
The New Anti-Semitism is nothing more than the latest attempt by the powers of darkness to stand against the inevitable reign of Jesus and the inauguration His kingdom. This is why the hornets nest is always swarming around Israel, and why little old Israel, a country the size of New Jersey, is always at the center of controversy on the world stage.
In the days to come, it is going to become even more important for the Lord’s people to recognize and stand against the rising tides of anti-Semitism. I encourage every follower of the Messiah and every ministry leader to educate themselves, and the people they lead, on God’s true purposes for Israel. (Here is a great resource on this topic).
Standing against the New Anti-Semitism matters because the Gospel matters, because the Jewish people and the nation of Israel are at the heart of how God is going to extend His blessings of redemption and Shalom to the entire world in the Age to Come. If we love Jesus, we should resist anti-Semitism in all of its forms.
-T.M. Snow (Founder and President, Voice of Messiah; MDiv, Regent University School of Divinity; B.A., The Moody Bible Institute).
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