Politicians often lie. Islamists often lie. But Islamist politicians? If U.S. Representative-elect Ilhan Omar is any indication, they lie like a rug.
It is now being widely reported that in an interview with the website MuslimGirl, Omar stated that she supported the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel. This was in stark contrast to Omar’s statement before the election, in a debate at Beth El Synagogue in Minnesota, that BDS “is not helpful in getting the two-state solution. I think the particular purpose of [BDS] is to make sure there is pressure, and I think that pressure really is counteractive.”
Omar’s Jewish constituents feel quite reasonably that they were deceived. Challenged on the discrepancy via text, Omar responded that she both supports BDS and believes that it is not effective in “accomplishing a lasting solution.” This is quite different from her statement during the debate, yet Omar denied concealing her true views out of expediency, saying only that the moderator “didn’t ask for a ‘yes or no answer’.”
Omar and her defenders call her support of BDS a free-speech issue, and her opinions about Israel mere opposition to its policies. True, coordinated boycotts raise thorny issues about First-Amendment rights; however, the legislation opposing BDS typically applies to universities and governments, which are subject to nondiscrimination laws and principles that BDS would violate. If a university really wants to boycott Israel, it is free to do as Hillsdale College does and refuse all Federal money; otherwise, it cannot discriminate against Israel, free speech notwithstanding. To advocate for universities and other nondiscriminatory institutions to adopt BDS is not free speech, it is bigotry—the claim that Israel is somehow uniquely evil and beyond the protections of our laws.
Opponents of Islamism are often accused of cherry-picking isolated statements by suspected Islamists in order to smear them. The Omar case shows why extrapolating from isolated data-points is often the best early warning we have. In 2012, Omar tweeted that Israel had “hypnotized the world” and was guilty of “evil doings.” As a state representative, Omar had also voted against a bill banning the Minnesota state government from using vendors who supported BDS, which passed by large bipartisan majorities. In 2017, she was one of only two votes in the legislature against a bill that would limit life-insurance payouts for deceased terrorists. Furthermore, Omar was receiving large campaign donations from prominent Islamist activists, including Yaqub Mirza, one of the ringleaders of the terror-linked SAAR Network.
These early clues were enough to worry us about Omar’s true beliefs; and since Omar was a prominent politician who had ambitions to even higher office, we were unlikely to get more data than that to form a conclusion with. But such visceral dislike of Israel (a supposed “evil hypnotist”) is so rare to see in a politician that its mere presence, even once, was enough to tilt the scales in our judgment. And that judgment has now been vindicated.
Those who waved away the signs of Omar’s Israel-hatred, or that of Rashida Tlaib (who, now that she is safely elected, admits to supporting the destruction of Israel), should learn from their mistakes. Public Islamism or bigotry in any measure might just be a one-off, but is usually a sign of deeper problems in private. And we can only make the mistake of misplaced forbearance so many times. After all, there are only 435 seats in the House.