Freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar trades in a primitive brand of anti-Semitism that’s almost unknown in this country, let alone in Congress. To recap, in 2012, she tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Only last week, the Somali-born Omar defended her tweet during a CNN interview. That’s six years of remorseless bigotry.
But since that interview, someone must have convinced Omar that she needed to do some damage control. On Tuesday, she took to Twitter once again—this time, responding to the New York Times’ Bari Weiss, who wrote a column on Monday detailing Omar’s offense. Omar offered an apology of sorts for what she claimed was former ignorance.
“In all sincerity, it was after my CNN interview that I heard from Jewish orgs. that my use of the word ‘Hypnotize’ and the ugly sentiment it holds was offensive,” she wrote. “It’s now apparent to me that I spent lots of energy putting my 2012 tweet in context and little energy is disavowing the anti-Semitic trope I unknowingly used, which is unfortunate and offensive.”
She “unknowingly” offended Jews by saying that Israel hypnotized the world not to see its evil? Nonsense. In the Greater Middle East, from which Omar’s family hails, conspiracy theory is the coin of the realm, and much self-inflicted grief is blamed on dark Jewish magic. It’s ludicrous to think that she didn’t know what she was saying. Omar composed her offending tweet during Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza and was, in all probability, speaking foremost to an audience that truly believes in the evils of Jewish sorcery.
We’re talking here about people who embrace a strain of superstitious anti-Semitism that sees Jews as non-human agents of the Devil. In January 2015, for example, after Islamist terror attacks rocked Paris, a Daily Beast writer interviewed some French Algerians who blamed the attacks on “magical shape-shifting Jews that were master manipulators that could be everywhere at the same time.” We’re talking about the Iranian cleric and Tehran University professor who went on television and claimed: “The Jew is very practiced in sorcery. Indeed most sorcerers are Jews.”
This is the crowd that Ilhan Omar—an American congresswoman who now serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee—was speaking to. In their language.
The history of mystical anti-Semitism is long indeed. It predates Christendom and thrived, at times, long afterward. Martin Luther wrote that “a Jew is as full of idolatry and sorcery as nine cows have hair on their backs, that is: without number and without end.” Such notions were popular throughout Medieval Europe and survived in various forms into the modern age. The Third Reich was, in part, an occult operation. Official Nazi publications discussed phenomena such as the “Jewish evil eye.”
Omar’s talent for untruth is evident in the way she went about pretending not to be a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which advocates actions aimed at delegitimizing the existence of the world’s only Jewish state. After she was safely elected, Omar freely confessed her support for the BDS movement—a tacit acknowledgment of its controversial nature.
Today, in the West, ideas about Jews as shape-shifting lizard-people have purchase almost exclusively among cranks on the fringe (and, perhaps, with Alice Walker). But in the U.S. Congress, we now have Ilhan Omar. If you take her claim of benign ignorance as sincere, she’s pegged you correctly as the ignorant one. Or you’ve been hypnotized.