Rantz: Why does Seattle’s Pramila Jayapal partner with an anti-Semite?

Mar 5, 2019, 5:53 AM | Updated: 8:03 am
Pramila Jayapal...
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. (Jason Rantz, KTTH)
(Jason Rantz, KTTH)

There’s a general problem with how Progressives view Jews. To many of them, we’re not minorities; we’re simply privileged white people with undue influence in global politics. It’s a bigoted way to view Jews, but an easy excuse to justify their bigotry.

So when Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) uses negative stereotypes and tropes to attack Jews and Israel, like she did again last week, she’s a Muslim woman going after privileged white people. Many of Progressive allies don’t see her attacks as anti-Semitic because we’re white and, as such, we’re responsible for the world’s problems.

One of her closest allies is Seattle Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

Jayapal frequently refers to President Donald Trump as a racist, claiming his goal on immigration is “to make America pure in the sense of not having immigrants, not having folks of color here and shutting down every form of legal immigration, all to throw a bone to those people.” This is a particularly nefarious position to assign to Trump, but Jayapal is particularly sensitive as a woman of color and she won’t sit back when she sees bigotry.

Except when it comes to Omar’s virulent anti-Semitism.

When Omar spews her venom, Jayapal comes to her defense, asking us to be polite to her friend. And in this defense, Jayapal is becoming more and more complicit in the message. Given the majority of area Jews live in Seattle, her position is problematic.

To be clear, I don’t think Jayapal is an anti-Semite, as I haven’t heard her take anti-Semitic positions. But she does associate with one and I can’t figure out why, especially since she clearly isn’t always comfortable doing so.

At a recent town hall event, Omar grinned when an audience member shouted “It’s all about the Benjamins!”–  a reference to an earlier anti-Semitic tweet she published, then pretended it wasn’t meant as bigoted. While Omar grinned, Jayapal looked uncomfortable, and it seemed like she realized it was an inappropriate comment. But she didn’t say anything. If she was with Trump and someone in the audience shouted a bigoted comment, would she also stay silent? I don’t think so.

Perhaps, because I’ve always liked Jayapal, have had a very good relationship with her, and don’t want to believe she holds bigoted positions, I’m reading too much into her facial expression. But I can’t figure out why she is an ally with this bigot.

Jayapal owes her constituents, especially her Jewish ones like me, an explanation as to why she’s comfortable working so closely with a woman who constantly uses anti-Semitic tropes to criticize Jews or Israel. Jayapal should explain why she calls out Trump, but publicly ignores Omar’s pattern of anti-Semitic language.

Repeated interview requests to the congresswoman’s staff have gone unanswered, or I’d ask these questions directly. Talk show host role aside, she’s my congresswoman and I’d like some answers.

This week, Jayapal may be forced to go on the record, not in an interview but with a vote on a resolution. Because Democrats overwhelmingly support Jews and Israel, even when some of their Progressive colleagues do not, House Democrats will bring to the floor a resolution condemning the comments by Omar in some form, though not the congresswoman directly (a cowardly way to have their cake and eat it too, but I’ll take it; this may change as congressional Democrats are still debating this point).

The resolution calls out the “dual loyalty” trope Omar frequently espouses. According to Politico:

If the House moves ahead with the vote on Wednesday as planned, it would be an unprecedented public rebuke of Omar, who was sworn into office just over 60 days ago. Omar’s office declined to comment about the Democratic resolution on Monday. […]

A resolution on the floor, regardless of whether it specifically mentions Omar, would be an extraordinary public admonishment from House leaders, particularly against a member of their own party, and speaks to the seriousness with which Democratic leaders view the ongoing controversy.

It’s unclear what the final language will be. We’ll see. But this vote may be, from this Jew’s perspective, the most meaningful vote Jayapal will take.

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Rantz: Why does Seattle’s Pramila Jayapal partner with an anti-Semite?