Ilhan Omar Controversy: Where Does She Get Her Views?

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As Hamas was attacking Israel in 2012 and bombarding its civilian population with Grad and Qassam rockets, Ilhan Omar — who was recently elected to Congress (D-MN) — tweeted “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evils of Israel.”

During her campaign, she defended that statement, saying it was not anti-Semitic. “Drawing attention to the apartheid Israeli regime is far from hating Jews,” she declared.

Israel an apartheid state? Israel is evil? Where did she get these views?

We know from writers such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali that Islamist anti-Semitism in Somalia runs deep. (There is also the country’s history of discriminating against their own Bantu people, an ethnic minority in Somalia.)

I learned too, from first-hand experience, about Islamist anti-Semitism in Somalia when I did prison interviews in Minneapolis’ Hennepin County Jail. The Somalians there had never even met a Jew nor knew anything about what Jews believe.  Yet they were virulently anti-Semitic. (It was a classic case of learned anti-Semitism – the “anti-Semitism- without-Jews syndrome.”)

At the core of anti-Semitism is paranoia and self-hate. Somali Muslims who are anti-Semites project their own rage onto the Jew, casting off to the Jew what they hate about themselves.

With the advent of brutal Islamism in Somalia (which began clandestinely in 1975, then openly in 1991 when the state collapsed) on top of a horrendous clan system perpetuating violence (especially against little girls whose genitals are mutilated), there is no longer a stable, pluralistic society in Somalia composed of diverse ethnicities and religions as there once was.

Believe it or not, there were once Christians and even Jews in the Somalian Horn of Africa for thousands of years. More recently, in the 19th century, Somalia was home to a diverse trading network, which extended from New York to Yemen to Somalia and continued all the way to Indonesia.

With the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli Six Day War in 1967, the Jews were summarily deported from Somalia, forced to leave everything behind as they fled for their lives. This outrageous deportation took place only seven years after Israel so graciously and bravely become the first country to recognize the newly independent nation of Somalia in 1960.

Israel has taken in Somalis who have sought asylum in their country. Some of these immigrants are receiving help to pursue higher education. The president of Somalia also made an unofficial visit to Tel Aviv several years ago.

Yet Omar believes Israel is hypnotizing the world to do evil? Omar manifests a typical kind of destructive and limited Islamist thinking and behavior.

When Omar greeted her audience after the election with the words “As-Salam-Alaikum,” she unwittingly disclosed more of this bias. Instead of maintaining professional neutrality and inclusiveness (she is now a public servant for all Americans), she used words she knew well that would exclude many.

During her campaign, Omar claimed that she did not support the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel. Yet just days after she was elected, she stated that she, in fact, believes in and supports the BDS movement, exhibiting a stunning duplicity.

Omar needs to think again. As the Somali proverb goes: Waran Kugu Soo Noqon doona lama Rido, don’t throw a spear that can come back to you.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin’s recent book, The Last Two Jews of Mogadishu Living Under Al Shabaab’s Fire, sketches out the history of the Jews in Somalia from ancient times forward including the tragedy of the deportation of an engaged vibrant Jewish trading community and tells the sad story of a Somali-born Jewish man Avraham Mordechay and his mother Ashira Haybi, the last two Jews of Mogadishu. The Haybi’s are observant Jews yet forced to live as crypto-Jews, psychologically trapped in Mogadishu. The book is based on 300 emails exchanged between the Haybi’s and Hartevelt Kobrin.



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