The Real Substantive Issue

IlhanAn excerpt from the article “How targeting Ilhan Omar instead of white supremacy furthered both anti-Semitism & Islamophobia” at by Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Margari Hill, Rakel Joseph, and Asha Noor:

The false charges of anti-Semitism divert public attention away from the real substantive issue at hand: human rights abuses by the Israeli government in Occupied Palestine and Israel itself. According to the UN Human Rights Council, over 6,000 unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, including children, journalists and medical personnel, were shot by military snipers during the “Great March of Return” protests in Gaza in 2018.

Israel also maintains its blockade of Gaza, where 1.9 million Palestinians struggle to survive in what has been called the world’s largest open-air prison as the movement of all people and goods in out of Palestinian territories is controlled by Israel. Meanwhile, Israel continues the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes through supporting illegal settlements in the West Bank.

Within Israel, Arab-Israelis live as second-class citizens—as recently declared proudly by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—and anti-Blackness is present and systematic. Ethiopian Jews face systemic discrimination and police brutality. Netanyahu also attempted to deport every single non-Jewish African asylum seeker last year, and Israel is currently dragging its feet in granting group protection for Darfuri refugees.

But instead of talking about what Israel is doing, there is a bipartisan push to police how this can even be discussed. This further perpetuates both forms of bigotry by obscuring their roots: white supremacy. For example, Donald Trump has used anti-Semitic tropes throughout his campaign, but this did not prevent him from ascending to the presidency—in part due to his unequivocal support of Israel.

Like anti-Semitism, Islamophobia also traffics in dehumanization, and justifies everyday and systemic violence against Muslims. In the United States, Muslims don’t necessarily get pegged as the root of society’s problems, but rather as the most potent threat to society’s very existence. Indeed, this was the message of the anti-Muslim poster displayed at a GOP event in the West Virginia Capitol that falsely linked Omar to 9/11. The poster marked Omar as “evidence” that we [Americans] have “forgotten” [what the Muslims did to us on] 9/11, and thus we have forgotten the threat Muslims pose to the American way of life.
About the Authors:
Su’ad Abdul Khabeer is a scholar-artist-activist. She is senior editor of and associate professor at the University of Michigan.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a theoretical physicist. She is proud to be a member of a Boston-area synagogue as well as the Boston Workmen’s Circle.

Rakel Joseph tries to live out her values and commitment to Black liberation and Judaism every day. Rakel is a social worker, researcher, adjunct lecturer and organizer.

Margari Hill is the Co-founder of Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), a human rights education organization.

Asha Noor is a racial justice and human rights activist, with a background in conflict analysis, and resolution. Asha currently serves as the Safe Spaces Director with CAIR-Michigan to implement inclusive policies statewide.

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