An Open Letter to Hot Docs: Antisemitism isn’t a Cause for “Superhero” Title for Ilhan Omar
A disturbing new trend in our culture is to ignore antisemitism, as long as the story line serves a useful political narrative. This seems to be the case for Toronto’s Hot Docs Cinema’s new film series, “Game Changers”, a series featuring significant figures in history and current affairs. One documentary, called “Time for Ilhan”, about Ilhan Omar, the controversial Democratic Congresswoman from Minnesota. The series is described as follows:
“At key moments in history, remarkable individuals find the courage to reinvent the world as we know it. Get inspired by real-life superheroes who point the way forward in a moment of profound social change.”
Other individuals covered in this series include Orson Wells, Simone de Beauvoir and Michelangelo -- names that spark instant recognition for their contributions to Western civilization.
There are two problems with this documentary on Ilhan Omar. First, what exactly has she accomplished? Second, the film doesn’t just whitewash her flaws or the controversies around her, such as her spewing blatant anti-Semitic tropes, it ignores them completely.
To the first point, Omar has been in Congress less than a year. To expect her to have produced significant legislation in a system with a democratic balance of power in the Senate, in such a brief time is completely unrealistic. This is reminiscent of Barack Obama’s being awarded the Noble Peace Prize following his 2008 election. The man was anointed a harbinger of peace on his first day, yet over the next 8 years in office he failed to find a peaceful solution to the Israeli/Arab conflicts or to end the war in Afghanistan. His withdrawal from Iraq was so disastrous that it resulted in the re-deployment of troops there after the rise of ISIS, and his ill thought-out plan to bomb Colonel Gaddafi out of Libya resulted in a broken country, rife with terrorism and the re-institution of slave markets for black Africans. It is a bad precedent to reward politicians for their words, not actions.
This brings me to what I see as the much bigger problem in featuring Omar as a “super hero”, and that is the actual content of Ilhan Omar’s rhetoric. She may be seen as “heroic” for her strident anti-Trump statements. Perhaps it is her very radical stances that appeal to some people as she is one of the few people in Congress advocating for the complete abolition of all border security, enforcement and administration in her “abolish ICE” (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) stance. This is foolish in the extreme. It is akin to saying that hospital-borne illnesses are among the leading causes of death and some doctors are jerks (both maybe true statements), therefore we must abolish the healthcare system.
This gets us to the crux of the issue. Ilhan Omar pushes a very far-Left agenda, so one ought to ask, is it ok to promote one of America’s most ardent antisemites as a “superhero”? Is this really “progressive"?
Ilhan Omar has produced multiple antisemitic statements. In 2012, she tweeted out “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel”. As I am unaware of Israel’s “massive hypnosis ray project”, I would venture to say this is merely a retread of centuries old antisemitic propaganda veiled as criticism of the Jewish state. However, that was 2012 and everyone should get a second chance.
As soon as Omar got into office, the antisemitic conspiracy theories only increased. Replying to an article in which she questioned why America supports Israel, the only Liberal Democracy in the Middle East, Ilhan Omar tweeted out that “it is all about the Benjamins” i.e. money. When asked to clarify this statement as to, who exactly is manipulating American politics, she enthusiastically replied “AIPAC!”(The American- Israel Public Affairs Committee). This hit two more antisemitic tropes: Jews use money to control the American political system, and Jews are not real Americans. It is worth noting that AIPAC takes no money from Israel, it is funded by pro-Israel Americans from both parties. Strike two. Following her “sorry, not sorry” apology she was right back at it, insisting that her “Jewish colleagues” only call out her and Rashida Talib, because they are Muslim, and to advance the Israeli narrative. Her replay of the dual loyalties trope was in the open, and in fact on camera.
This level of antisemitism is far from heroic, and to insist that she has contributed anywhere near 1% of what Michelangelo did for Western Civilization, is laughable. Is her heroism simply that she is a Somali woman who made it into politics? In that case Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a prolific author and human rights advocate, who was elected to the Dutch Parliament in 2003, beat Omar by 15 years. Both were refugees of the same civil war, yet Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s CV makes Ilhan Omar seem like an illiterate. Ali’s AHA Foundation has been at the forefront of the human rights movement inspiring millions to adopt western Liberalism. Omar’s tweets have inspired David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan, who named her the most important person in Congress. Ali authored 3 books. Omar authored 3 antisemitic conspiracies on twitter. Ali has stood up to terrorism, being forced to flee the Netherlands when the terrorist’s knife that killed Theo Von Gogh had a note stuck to it naming her as the next target. Omar has refused to acknowledge that she represents the district with the highest terrorist recruitment rate in the nation. She has written letters to judges to advocate for lenient sentencing on convicted ISIS fighters, and laughed at the prospect of calling Al Qaeda and Hezbollah terrorist groups.
Ilhan Omar and her defenders have a tendency to be fast and loose with the truth. This was most prominently on display during her infamous CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) address, in which she claimed that CAIR (founded in 1994) was founded after 9/11 (2001) when “some people did something”. It should be noted that CAIR, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial for terrorism funding, is a listed terrorist group in the U.A.E. CAIR is also a registered lobby organization and contributed to her campaign. For the record, lobbying is the great sin of which Omar accused AIPAC.
It is for these reasons that CAEF asks that there be a platform for someone to express the dissenting opinion on Ilhan Omar’s contribution to changing the world. We firmly believe in free speech and in no way want to ban this movie. It is clear that this film will not present an authentic game changer nor be true if representing Ilhan Omar as a superhero. Perhaps a panel with a truly neutral moderator could be offered in conjunction with the film and be videotaped and played thereafter at every showing of this film. HotDocs has done this before, pairing a film & a post screening discussion.
It is unreasonable to expect everyone in Toronto to be tuned into the issues that affect the Jewish community. However, while she may be a hero to Somali refugees, Omar is also a hero to David Duke and other anti-Semites. The truth about Omar should be explored more deeply if HotDocs is truly committed to promoting the achievements of individuals in society. As it stands, the idea of including someone who is promoting some nasty rhetoric and who has thus far achieved very little, unless we consider self-promotion and the promotion of Jew-hatred an accomplishment, is rather stunning.
CAEF Letter to Prime Minister and MPs re IHRA and Antisemitism
CAEF notes that the Federal Government took the first step, but it's not enough to counter antisemitism.
Below is an excerpt from our letter calling on the government to adopt antiBDS legislation and more:
“Join the initiative taken by the German Bundestag which has demonstrably the best case for urging the world to adopt anti-BDS legislation.
Governments of democratic countries must not support the funding of BDS associated NGOs, attend events that promote defamatory and prejudicial anti-Israel rhetoric, endorse candidates that spew forth the lies of BDS, nor do any business with a company that adopts a BDS policy. BDS is not merely a strategy towards denigrating Israel but has the intention of destroying the State itself, as is well documented in the literature of its founders and main proponents.
Prime Minister and Members of Parliament, the other measure that would confront antisemitism and bias against Israel would be for our government to acknowledge that Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel and has been the capital of the Jewish state since 1948. Since time immemorial, Jews have viewed Jerusalem as their capital which it was in antiquity, and no other nation has ever called Jerusalem its capital.”