Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) appeared on Van Jones’s show on CNN Saturday to talk about a number of issues, including the impeachment debate and their teaming up together to combat white nationalism.

During the segment on the outcry over Omar’s anti-Semitic comments from earlier this year and what she says she learned from the push back she received, the two appeared at odds over a suggestion by the freshman Minnesota Congresswoman that some of her critics were using accusations of anti-Semitism as a weapon with which to “shut down debate.”

According to video from the interview as well as the transcript, Schakowsky, who is Jewish, told Jones that Omar “totally heard” and “totally understood” the criticisms against her. Schakowsky also said that they “are both victims of the kind of discrimination that’s going on and the kind of hate talk that is going on” and noted that was the reason they joined together for the op-ed they wrote last month on anti-Semitism and white nationalism.

Omar responded to Schakowsky’s remarks by saying she knew there were people “genuinely interested in fighting anti-Semitism” but she also claimed, without evidence, that there are “those that are interested in weaponizing anti-Semitism to shut down debate on whatever they might not agree on and vilify anybody that they might not want to have any kind of platform to have influence.”

During Omar’s response, Schakowsky’s body language spoke volumes, as you can see from the video clip below. She was clearly agitated with the suggestion by her colleague that some critics – including, presumably, some of their Congressional colleagues – were not genuine in their criticisms.

Schakowsky gently but firmly pushed back on Omar’s claims:

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, let me just say though I think some of the people who were upset about what they heard as anti-Semitism keyed in to were not necessarily trying to weaponize them. That this was this was a genuine feeling. So in part my —

OMAR: Not just some, but a lot of the people. It’s a genuine feeling.

SCHAKOWSKY: Yes. This is genuine feeling and a genuine concern and —

OMAR: There’s a lot of very loud people who may not have a genuine concern.

SCHAKOWSKY: But one of the motivations for me to be public along with Ilhan was to help those people understand where I was coming from, but even more importantly, where she’s coming from.

Watch the segment below:

First things first, Jones should have asked Omar to name the names of those who she feels are “weaponizing” accusations of anti-Semitism. Omar has not been shy in the past about ridiculing Republicans with whom she disagrees in interviews and on social media, including Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), one of the founders of the recently formed Black-Jewish Congressional Caucus.

Since she didn’t name names, it could mean she’s referring to her fellow Democrats in the House. Both Omar and Tlaib have said previously (and without being pressed on specifics) that there were Democrats who they believed were Islamophobic. Who are they?

Jones not pressing Omar on the matter doesn’t mean other mainstream media journalists should give her a pass on this, though. Unfortunately, they will, because she’s a Democrat who in the media’s eyes should not be called to answer for her claims beyond vague generalities.

Secondly, Omar mentioned during the interview that one of the first things she did after getting elected to Congress “was to write an op-ed in my local newspaper about the rise of anti-Semitism when the FBI report came out and the work that we have to do.”

Is that supposed to excuse the anti-Semitic tropes she’s repeatedly used since she was elected, as well as her support for the anti-Semitic BDS movement? I don’t think so. In fact, Omar contradicts her stated concerns about the rise of anti-Semitism every time she uses anti-Semitic tropes.

Someone genuinely concerned about fighting anti-Semitism is not going to speak using bigoted terms that marginalize and endanger Jewish voices.

Thirdly, Omar accusing anyone of using incendiary accusations as a weapon with which to shut down debate is like the pot calling the kettle black, considering how often she uses the “incitement” accusation and the “I’m a woman of color” card to shut down any and all critics of her reprehensible comments and actions.

Unfortunately, Schakowsky has acted as an apologist of sorts for Omar since she was sworn in in January, including in this interview segment from March where she absurdly insinuated that Omar was culturally ignorant about anti-Semitic tropes:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made similar excuses for Omar in March in the aftermath of the House’s passage of the watered-down “anti-hate” resolution. Omar also has used the “lack of understanding” excuse ever since, including in her interview with Jones, like a get out of jail free card.

One gets the impression that Schakowsky’s working relationship with Omar is becoming strained under the pressure of having to make excuses and explain away Omar’s insistence that everyone else is in the wrong and that she’s just misunderstood.

Just how much more of Omar’s obstinance Schakowsky will endure publicly is anybody’s guess, but Democrats should take note of Omar’s unsubstantiated claims of critics using anti-Semitism accusations as a weapon. They are yet another indicator that when it comes to finding common ground and understanding where her critics are coming from, Omar is genuinely not interested.

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —


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