Singling Out the Jewish State

Ilhan Omar, Amnesty International, and selective indignation against Israel

Rep. Ilhan Omar / Getty

There are 43 countries with official state religions, and another 40 that give one religion preferential treatment over other faiths. Of the former group, 27 countries enshrine Islam as their state faith, and 13 do the same for Christianity—including nine countries in Europe. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) does not seem to have a problem with any of them; one would be hard-pressed to recall a single word of criticism. But she does have a problem—a big one—with the world's only Jewish state—a tiny country, home to just under nine million people—recognizing itself as, well, the Jewish state. Why the double standard? Maybe it's not the obvious.

Omar's most recent public criticism of Israel came during an interview on Yahoo News' "Through Her Eyes" on Tuesday. After Omar lamented how the United States strongly supports Israel and has a policy that "makes" Jerusalem "superior" to the Palestinians, whatever that means, host Zainab Salbi pressed her to provide specifics. Omar pointed to Israel's Jewish nation-state law, which was passed last year and affirms that Israel is the "nation-state of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, religious, and historic right to self-determination."

"When I see Israel institute a law that recognizes it as a Jewish state and does not recognize the other religions that are living in it, and we still uphold it as a democracy in the Middle East, I almost chuckle," Omar said. "If we see that in any other society, we would criticize it. We would call it out. We do that to Iran. We do that to any other place that sort of upholds its religion."

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Perhaps Omar can provide examples of her colleagues in Congress "calling out" Christian countries in Europe for affirming the prominence of Christianity or, more controversially, doing the same for Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East—such as her native Somalia—that define Islam as their state religion. Has she ever questioned whether Denmark is still a democracy because its constitution recognizes the Lutheran church as the state religion? Has she ever called out Jordan for establishing Islam as the religion of the state? It's not even worth going into Omar's asinine attempt to compare Israel, a true democracy, to Iran, an Islamist theocracy that abuses minorities.

In her interview, Omar went on to say, in a wonderful show of irony, that she is "aggravated" by "those contradictions," apparently blind to her own double standard. She does not seem to understand, or knows but will not acknowledge, that Israel's nation-state law, which is similar to constitutional provisions in several European countries, neither creates individual privileges for any Israeli citizens nor infringes on the individual rights of any citizens. Moreover, Israel has never even officially proclaimed Judaism as the state religion. Palestinian Basic Law, meanwhile, states that "Islam is the official religion in Palestine" and that "the principles of Islamic Shari'a shall be the main source of legislation."

So we are left with a question: why single out Israel?

Omar is not the only one to single out the Jewish state this week. Amnesty International, purportedly an organization dedicated to protecting human rights, released a new report accusing major companies in the digital travel industry of profiting from war crimes. "Online booking giants Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, and TripAdvisor are fueling human rights violations against Palestinians by listing hundreds of rooms and activities in Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, including east Jerusalem," Amnesty said. "In doing business with [Israeli] settlements [in the West Bank], all four companies are contributing to, and profiting from, the maintenance, development, and expansion of illegal settlements, which amount to war crimes under international criminal law."

Amnesty has, simultaneously, waged an online campaign to shame and pressure these companies into boycotting the Jewish state.

For the moment, forget about the fact that such accusations about Israeli settlements are misleading, if not outright false. And put aside the tragedies of the world that Amnesty should be prioritizing—like Iran publicly hanging homosexuals and China forcing one million Muslims into concentration camps. Just focus on occupied territories around the world—from Morocco's occupation of western Sahara to Turkey's of northern Cyprus. Why does Amnesty not focus on these occupations as well? Again, why only Israel?

It is painfully obvious that progressives on the political left like Omar are hostile to Israel—and make no mistake, organizations like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch belong in that group. The question is why. Many observers have offered their own explanations. Some say it is because Israel is seen as the strong oppressor, and the Palestinians as the weak and oppressed. But there is oppression everywhere of the most heinous kind. Some say it is about supporting Palestinian rights. But the Assad regime in Syria has been brutally raping, torturing, and killing numerous Palestinians, and there has not been a peep from all the usual pro-Palestinian voices. But when Israel hurts a Palestinian carrying out a terrorist attack, they are all over it.

At a certain point, one cannot help but ask these woke crusaders: is it just a coincidence that Israel happens to be the world's only Jewish state?