Capitol Hill’s newest anti-Semite

Ilhan Omar

Among the new Members of the U.S. Congress elected on November 6 is one Ilhan Omar. Previously, she was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. She was the first Somali American legislator to hold elective office in the U.S. She is now the first Somali American in the U.S. House. She and Rashida Tlaib, who was elected to the House on the same day, are the first Muslim women in the U.S. Congress. Representing a district that includes Minneapolis and several smaller cities, Omar will succeed another Muslim, Keith Ellison, who left Congress in order to run for State Attorney General of Minnesota, a race that he, too, won.

Now 37 years old, Omar denied during her campaign – specifically, at an August debate at a synagogue – that she supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. This was not a minor question, since her district, the fifth, has a sizable Jewish population. It is also by far the most Democratic district in the state, and has not voted for a Republican since 1960.

Rabbi Avi Olitzsky

Since her election, however, Omar has come out of the BDS closet. After the news came out, Avi Olitzsky, the rabbi who sponsored that August debate, expressed the hope that he could “have a dialogue with her” and thus clarify her stance. Ah, dialogue. Credulous persons who have had pleasant encounters with this or that individual Muslim are often shocked to find that that individual actually believes certain things that don’t seem terribly pleasant at all. Their initial response is often to assume that there has to be some kind of misunderstanding, because, after all, the Muslim in question seems so charming. Surely a brief friendly talk will clear it all up.

Such, alas, is the way in which many Westerners are forced to confront the largely dark reality of Islamic belief.

Keith Ellison


To be sure, it’s not as if Omar entirely hid her contempt for Israel during the election campaign. In July, Haaretz reported that she had called Israel’s government an “apartheid” regime. She had not explicitly given a thumbs-up to BDS, but she’d opposed a proposed state law banning BDS. In 2012, Omar wrote a tweet in which she expressed the hope that “Allah” would “awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

Louis Farrakhan

A halfway sensible observer might have guessed from all this that Omar is, indeed, a BDS advocate, but all too many voters – especially, perhaps, in places like Minnesota, which is known for its “niceness” – are eager to dismiss such suspicions as the product of subconscious Islamophobia, for, after all, such a lovely young woman could not possibly hold such ugly thoughts. Despite the evidence that Omar is, in fact, a nasty piece of work, the national media ran predictably glowing profiles of her, with a particularly hagiographic one appearing in The New Yorker. On Election Day, Omar won her House seat with a remarkable 78% of the vote.

This, then, is the new representative whom the voters of Minneapolis and environs have chosen to send to Washington, and will have to live with for the next two years. Perhaps her constituents can take comfort in the fact that, so far anyway, there is no sign that she is any more virulent an anti-Semite than Ellison, whose longtime ties with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, perhaps the nation’s most prominent Jew-hater, did not prevent him from being re-elected to Congress five times.

Louis Farrakhan: The music man

Louis Farrakhan

As we noted last week, Louis Farrakhan, the longtime head of the Nation of Islam and one of the most notorious white-haters and anti-Semites in America during the last few decades, began his career as a calypso musician. He quit music on orders from Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammed, but decades later he returned to it, reportedly after being encouraged to do so by yet another one of his high-placed and apparently shame-free friends – Sylvia Olden Lee, a vocal coach who was the first African-American employee of the Metropolitan Opera and who performed at the White House for the first inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Farrakan gave the first performance in his newly resumed career as part of a three-day Winston-Salem, North Carolina, event devoted to black musicians and classical music. It was reviewed in the New York Times on April 9, 1993, by Bernard Holland, who wrote:

He plays the violin.

Can Louis Farrakhan play the violin? God bless us, he can. He makes a lot of mistakes, not surprising for a man who had virtually abandoned the instrument for 40 years and has only owned one since 1974. Yet Mr. Farrakhan’s sound is that of the authentic player. It is wide, deep and full of the energy that makes the violin gleam. His thrusting sense of phrase has musical power to it….

“God bless us”? Holy cow.

That was only the beginning. In February 2002, in Cerritos, California, Farrakhan gave a violin recital entitled “A Night of Beethoven.” The years went by. Every now and then, when he wasn’t busy delivering venomous sermons or hanging out with the likes of Barack Obama and Keith Ellison, Farrakhan would return to the musical stage, apparently to the great enjoyment of many, who either shared his vile views or who were somehow willing to overlook them.

Snoop Dogg

Now his career as a performing artist has reached a new chapter. On March 15, both Haaretz and the Jewish Daily Forward reported that he’d just dropped a new seven-CD set. Artists like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Barbra Streisand have had big hits with albums of duets on which they perform with other big-name stars. Farrakhan’s new release, Let’s Change the World, follows the same formula. Among the entertainers who appear with him on the set, which sells for $260 and “features 45 songs in a variety of genres, including classical, gospel, jazz, folk, opera, rap, reggae and calypso,” are Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg, Chaka Khan, Rick Ross, Damian Marley, Stephanie Mills, and Common. Snoop Dogg, as it happens, is not only a musical collaborator of Farrakhan’s but a sometime member of the Nation of Islam, which he joined in 2009.

Well, as they say, music is the universal language. It transcends place and time and culture. And, sometimes, simple moral decency.

Fighting the Jewish state from the Golden State

We’ll spend this week surveying a few of the more egregious useful stooges in the Golden State. We’ll kick off our tour with the faculty members of four northern California institutions.

Jess Ghannam

Jess Ghannam has a curious combination of academic posts. While serving as a professor of Psychiatry and Global Health Sciences at the University of California at San Francisco’s School of Medicine, he’s also UCSF’s Chief of Medical Psychology. But in addition, bizarrely, he’s a professor of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University (SFSU). An official of several fiercely anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups, he supports the so-called BDS movement, which seeks to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. He considers Israel an apartheid state, has accused it of genocide and ethnic cleansing, champions an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, and serves on the executive committee of a group, Al-Awda, that calls for Israel’s eradication. He’s a vociferous supporter of Samer Issawi, a member of a terrorist group called the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who is currently serving time in an Israeli prison for manufacturing pipe bombs and attempting to kill Israeli civilians during the second Intifada. In 2010, according to the Canary Mission website, he “signed a petition to have an Israeli scholar ejected from an academic conference in Los Angeles.”

Sunaina Maira

Over at UC Davis, Sunaina Maira, a professor of Asian American Studies, is “an international leader” of the BDS movement as well as a co-founder of both Pakistanis for Palestine and the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. In recent years she has lent her support to a French boycott of Israeli products, advocated the shuttering of UC’s Israel Abroad program, called for an Israeli scholar to be thrown out of an L.A. academic conference, and publicly condemned the chancellor and provost of UC Davis for not opposing Israel. She’s complained about the “Israel lobby” in the U.S. While defending vile and violent anti-Israeli demonstrations as “peaceful,” she’s routinely leveled baseless accusations of brutality against peaceable Israel and Israelis. In one article she referred to jihadists, harmlessly enough, as “international aid activists” and She denies that the Jews are indigenous to Israel, calls Israelis “our enemies,” and has described Israel’s security fence as an “apartheid wall.”

Magid Shihade

Among Maira’s colleagues at Davis is her husband, Magid Shihade, a research fellow in Middle East/South Asia Studies. He is also, notably, on the faculty at Birzeit University on the Gaza Strip. Canary Mission describes Birzeit as “a hotbed of Jew-hatred” – in 2014 it ejected a fiercely anti-Zionist Haaretz reporter, Amira Hass, from a conference “for being an Israeli Jew”; in 2015 and 2016, terrorist Bilal Barghouti, who is currently in prison for his involvement in suicide attacks (and is famous for masterminding the Sbarro cafe bombing), became Honorary Chairman of its student council. Like Mairi, Shihade has denied the Jews’ historic ties to Israel (or, at least, to Hebron); he has spread Hamas propaganda and has used virulently anti-Semitic materials in his courses; and he has urged Palestinian to boycott U.S. products. In a 2006 essay, he wrote: “I was among many Palestinian-Israelis who cheered for Iraq whenever a scud missile hit Israel.” In a 2012 post for the Economist blog, originally headlined “The Auschwitz Complex,” he mocked Israel’s concerns about Iran’s determination to destroy it. Like his wife, he has told students and other audiences bald-faced lies about the history of Israel and Palestine, representing Israel, for example, as the aggressor in ever war it has fought and as “a violent state by nature.”