After a deadly shooting at a southern California synagogue over the weekend, several Republican lawmakers and prominent conservatives have bizarrely chosen to focus their criticism on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
The suspected shooter in Saturday’s attack, John Earnest, reportedly left behind a manifesto in which he says he was inspired by the gunmen who attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year and the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month. His manifesto was filled with virulently anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-black, and Islamophobic remarks, and in it, he claims he set fire to a nearby mosque just a few weeks before he attacked the synagogue.
In the aftermath of the shooting at Chabad of Poway — which left one person dead and three others injured, including the rabbi — Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Chip Roy couldn’t help but criticize Omar, after she shared her condolences to survivors of the shooting.
“The anti-Semitic Left . . . is getting worse,” Cruz tweeted Sunday afternoon, noting that the freshman congresswoman “repeated anti-Israel slurs” and that Democrats “need to say Enough is Enough.”
The anti-Semitic Left—whether @IlhanMN repeated anti-Israel slurs or @nytimes apologizing for Hamas terrorists (eg, on 3/14/18) & running racist cartoons—is getting worse. And the House can’t even pass an anti-Semitism resolution. Responsible Dems need to say Enough is Enough. https://t.co/ca99Mcq9Ij
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) April 28, 2019
A couple hours later, Roy tagged Omar in a response to a tweet from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), which noted that “Anti-Semitism is real in this country and we must not be silent.”
— Chip Roy (@chiproytx) April 27, 2019
Cruz and Roy weren’t alone. On Sunday morning, The View’s Meghan McCain brought up Omar in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.
“I do think when we’re having conversations about anti-Semitism, we should be looking at the most extreme on both sides,” McCain said. “I would bring up Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and some of her comments that got so much attention.”
Certainly, anti-Semitism isn’t just a problem on the right, and it has a long history in America. As The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer has noted, anti-Semitism is “older than the very conception of left and right in politics. It’s how Jews, in the anti-Semitic imagination, can be both the Bolshevik revolutionaries and rapacious capitalists at the same time.”
And criticizing anti-Semitism only when it comes from people you disagree with isn’t a meaningful way to eliminate such hatred.
Omar has faced accusations of anti-Semitism for rhetoric she used when talking about U.S. foreign policy towards Israel — specifically, when she said that Republican support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins” and talked about lobbying groups that “push for allegiance to a foreign country.” Many noted that the language played into anti-Semitic tropes of secret Jewish power in politics and the so-called “dual loyalty” of the Jewish diaspora. Omar has since apologized for the comments.
But what’s interesting is that despite their criticism, Cruz and Roy haven’t even expressed their own outrage or condolences for the shooting — or the details we’ve received about the suspected gunman.
The California synagogue shooting suspect, 19-year-old Johnathan Earnest, wrote in a purported manifesto that he could not tolerate non-white people, criticizing Jews, Muslims, black people, and Latinx people. He specifically says that black and Latinx people are “useful puppets for the Jew in terms of replacing Whites,” and criticizes the “politicians and organizations who use mass immigration to displace the European race.”
Earnest also reportedly wrote that he was inspired by the suspect who killed 50 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques, intimating that the killer had made a “sacrifice.”
“[He] was a catalyst for me personally,” he wrote. “He showed me that it could be done.”
As a reminder, Omar is many of the things Earnest also criticized. A refugee, she is also one of the first Muslim women in Congress and the first Somali American in Congress.
IfNotNow, a grassroots progressive Jewish organization, responded to the attacks on Omar, writing on Twitter that “The right is weaponizing antisemitism to divide the progressive movement, criticism of Israel, and distract from the ways they have emboldened the white nationalists causing the violence.”
For her part, Omar referred to Islamophobia and anti-Semitism “two sides of the same bigoted coin” after the attack, highlighting the suspected synagogue shooter’s ties to the earlier mosque arson attack.
To Cruz, she simply said: “A white nationalist literally terrorized a synagogue during Passover yesterday and you have yet to say anything. Shame on you.”
This piece was updated to note that Earnest did not criticize Omar directly. Rather, Omar is many of the things that Earnest criticized. It was also updated to clarify the language Omar used to discuss the influence of lobbying groups in U.S. politics.