16:51 GMT08 April 2020
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    Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan denounced Israel's decision to bar them from visiting the Middle Eastern nation. Qanta A. Ahmed, a British-American Muslim, non-fiction author and broadcast media commentator expressed her opinion about it.

    Sputnik: How do you assess the Congresswomen’s rhetoric? Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan denounced Israel's decision to bar them from visiting the Middle Eastern nation during a press conference. They also questioned whether Israel is a true ally of the US. How does this affect the US-Israel relations and the overall situation in the region, in your view?

    Qanta A. Ahmed: Right, so first of all, they are effective at corralling media attention towards themselves. As an American, I find a great deal of their rhetoric is just self-serving. They are getting the social media audience, the same to have put first their social media audience and second their actual voting constituency.

    I never hear them speaking about the needs of the people that they actually represent, whether it's Tlaib talking about who she represents in Michigan or whether it is Ilhan Omar about who she represents in Minnesota.

    So we saw them become elected to Congress in January - they got a lot of attention as the first Muslim American women in this country to be appointed to Congress and that is a mark for our country, but they have been exclusively promoting what I see as pro-Islamist and Islamo-left sentiment.

    What do I mean by that? The case, an example is, especially Ilham Omar but also Tlaib, their rhetoric relating to Israel. And, you have to understand that they had this press-conference at the start of this week, I'm not sure if it was Monday or Tuesday, it came after they have petitioned Israel to allow them in on a visit which they said was going to be to the West Bank but they labelled it as a United States Congressional delegation to Palestine.

    They did not even use on their agenda the word Israel, which is not an accident, it is a deliberate position that pro-boycott divestment sanction activists use as a symbol of their vision of a post-Israel world. Their vision of the eradication of Israel which is what the boycott divestment sanction movement seeks.

    So they submit an agenda to the state of Israel saying that they are making an official US Congressional visit to Palestine and then it is sponsored by virulent pro-BDS activists inside Israel, and seeing only pro-BDS activists inside the West Bank and not meeting any of the usual officials that American members of Congress should do. And the other hypocrisy is that they gave up the chance to go with fellow Democrats and Republicans from Congress on an official visit to the state of Israel a week before. So, number one - they want the attention for themselves and they want to separate themselves from their own party.

    Number two - they eschew an official opportunity to visit Israel and learn about Israel. Even if they criticize her, go and learn about Israel and then may be your criticism can be more informed, if that is your intention as a lawmaker and a politician.

    But no, I think they were going really for propaganda value, and I know, based on the events that followed, that they were not allowed to come into Israel, where domestic law since March 2017 forbids people that agitate and promote pro-BDS movements. It's seen as a national security threat to the state of Israel. They're not allowed into it, even if they're Israelis holding these views, or Jews holding these views. 

    They are not allowed to do those activities and come into Israel and do that, that's illegal in the eyes of the Israeli law. After that Rashida Tlaib said well, my grandmother is very elderly and frail, she is in her nineties, I might never see her again and I promise not to do any activities. And Israel immediately within 24 hours granted her a visa on humanitarian bases to meet her grandmother and within hours she rejected it. So, these women, they're very effective at corralling social media. Their rhetoric is empty, they are self-promoting and they are hypocrites.

    In this July 15, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, right, speaks, as U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. listens, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington.
    © AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite
    In this July 15, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, right, speaks, as U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. listens, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington.

    Now, what's much more troubling than what they do is the support they get inside the United States. Because they are portraying themselves as victims. While they are elected to Congress as American citizens, they portray themselves as Muslim victims in America, something that I as a Muslim ,a believing Muslim practising Islam in America, find hugely offensive.

    Because in America Muslims are more empowered, more protected, more privileged to worship, to proselytise, to observe Islam, than we are in almost anywhere else in the world. We have more protection here than most of the Muslim majority countries if not all of the Muslim majority countries in the world. So, it's anathema for me to hear a Muslim saying that she is a victim in America when we're so privileged, let alone a sitting lawmaker in American Congress. So that's hypocrisy. 

    The other hypocrisy is what we call a political left in America and this is not even far-left or extreme-left. We do have an appetite now in the United States for people that think that they want communism or think that they want socialism or think that they want anarchy, we do have these elements.

    But even the mainstream left gather around these women, these firebrands, to protect them because they say "Oh, commentators are vilifying women of colour, are issuing statements that are Islamophobic, that are demonizing these women because they are ethnically or racially not white", which is a falsehood. That's a total falsehood. 

    So the left has really empowered them. And I think the true threat to US-Israel relations, isn't really these two women. They are flashes in the pan. I don't see them having decades-long careers in politics, they are of the moment, but it is a true test for the American Democratic Party. And they have so far not repudiated these women and they had multiple opportunities to do so.

    So now Israel is left in position when for decades it has enjoyed bipartisan support - that means both Democrats and Republicans have supported Israel in its status in the world, in its foreign policy, in our agreements in terms of military, material aid and our commitments that Israel is an ally for us in the region.

    That now suddenly is becoming a partisan issue where we don't know what the Democratic party is going to do by tolerating this. And this is because we are in age where expressions of antisemitism, expressions of hoping to eradicate Israel, which I find appaling and obscene and offensive, that has become a sign of membership, of belonging to, it seems, people on the left. That is what really threatens us. And the reason I worry about this as a Muslim is not only because I have deep engagement in Israel with people who are Jewish, Christian and Muslim in Israel, I go there many times, I understand the country deeply, I'm affiliated with one Israeli institute, the Israel Technion Institute for Science and Technology, where I'm deeply involved and actually advocate for them. 

    So it's not just my concerns about Israel, it's my concerns as a pluralist Muslim who is constantly battling the onslaught of Islamism. These women are dangerous in this regard because they are gaining mainstream sympathies and mainstream advocacy for extreme Islamist sympathies that have been squashed and banned in Muslim countries. But are now blossoming, not only in America, but indeed in the halls of Congress. That's what I'm worried about.

    Sputnik: How did the DNC react? What precedent does it set for other politicians?

    Qanta A. Ahmed: Well, I'm still waiting for their reaction. We have not heard a statement from Speaker Pelosi, who is the most powerful woman in American politics and third in line for power after the vice-president and leader of the Democratic party with Chuck Schumer. They have not issued a condemnation to my knowledge. 

    Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 17, 2019
    © AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite
    Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 17, 2019

    I also see even before this, if you recall Ilhan Omar, these women were inaugurated in January. In February, Ilhan Omar began publishing antisemitic tweets, which she's been doing for many years, but that was when she had a series of tweets where she said she prayed to Allah, which is the Arabic word for God that America comes out of its hypnotism that Israel has done to America, which is a very old antisemitic trope accusing Jews of being sorcerers. She talks about how the relationship with American lawmakers to Israel is all about "Benjamins", which is very offensive. It's a casual term for the American dollar.

    So she is suggesting that her fellow law-makers are available for purchase by Israel. She has a catalogue of explicit antisemitic thoughts and publications as an elected lawmaker.

    And even after this, even after Israel gave Tlaib a humanitarian visa, both she and Ilhan Omar published an antisemitic cartoon, with our President and Prime Minister of Israel in this cartoon, and the cartoon had won second place in Iran's Holocaust cartoon competition, which is appaling but it's a real thing.

    So these women are absolutely invested in Boycott Divestment Sanction narratives about Islam. Let me say something about this so that your readers can understand: the idea of boycott sounds sophisticated.

    Everybody remembers the South African boycott and the end of apartheid and how that helped. Israel is not an apartheid society. Israel has more than 23% of its population is not even Jewish. Israel has incredibly egalitarian opportunities for women, both Israeli and Palestinian. We have a Christian Arab who is on the Supreme Court in Israel, who has actually prosecuted and sentenced a former Israeli political leader - so the minorities in Israel have full civil rights which therefore exclude it from an apartheid definition. That's number one.

    Number two is the Boycott Divestment movement, which's been around about 10 or 15 years, never actually boycotts. They all publish statements about Israel, their derogatory statements about Israel, using Israeli technologies whether it is an iPhone, whether it's an Intel chip in our computers. They are taking medications and drugs that have been developed and marketed from Israel, so there is actually no boycott, it's never been pursued by these people that supposedly advocate it.

    Instead, they are looking for denormalization, delegitimization and demographic eradication. They don't even speak about two-state solution and I'm someone who is in favour of a two-state solution, because I see Israelis and Palestinians as two people side by side, they both need their civil rights, they both need their national security and they both need a sense of nationhood - that was offered to the Palestinians in the Camp David accords under Bill Clinton and it was rejected by the Palestinians. So I am in the camp, that there should be a two-state solution.

    The BDS movement is not looking for that. They are looking for the unmitigated generational right of return of anyone with any kind of Palestinian heritage to claim which would lead to the demographic eradication of the Jewish and democratic state.

    So they are looking for a one-state solution for Palestinians, which will eradicate and erase Israel, that's what they are really about. Now there many people affiliated with Boycott Divestment who really care about the human rights of Palestinians, and I care about their human rights just as I care about the human rights of Israelis.

    I have visited Ramallah in the West Bank, I have visited some of the most vulnerable Palestinians - critically ill, neonatal and pediatric patients in Ramallah. I have visited and worked with Israelis to raise money for those medical services. So I understand the needs on the ground as a physician who visited there on a humanitarian basis. But that's not their intent. People that are militantly supporting BDS, like Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, are looking for delegitimization and rendering Israel as a pariah state. And they are very dangerous because they are the most visible voices, they have now penetrated Congress and they are now in the bosom of the Democratic party.

    You ask me what's the Democratic party's response to them. Going back to their antisemitic statements on Twitter in February, first, we Americans were outraged whether Republicans or Democrats. And I have many friends who deeply invested in the Democratic Party who are American Jews who were hurt by it.

    There was a move to issue a House Resolution condemning antisemitism and that was going to be voted on by the Democrats and passed. But at the last minute, of course, modifications were made and they made it a resolution against all forms of hatred one could think of, diluting the impact of condemning antisemitism. 

    The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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