Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Ilhan Omar, February 9, 2020.

While ostensibly expressing concern in the wake of reports of war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, with the aim of enhancing U.S. leadership in the fight against human rights abuses, and in support of international criminal justice, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) recently introduced a series of resolutions in Congress calling on the United States to become a full member of the International Criminal Court.1

Omar tweet

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She also proposed that Congress repeal previous legislation prohibiting cooperation with the International Criminal Court and proposed establishing within the State Department a new “Office of Global Criminal Justice.” The aim of such an office would be to advise department officials on issues related to atrocities, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide; to assist in formulating policy; and to coordinate United States Government positions relating to prosecution of persons suspected of atrocities around the world.

Let no one be deluded by such legislative actions by Rep. Ilhan Omar and her congressional allies.

Her resolution is cosponsored by Representatives Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), André Carson (D-IN), Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

Her motivation has little to do with war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, nor with any deep-felt urge for the United States to lead the fight against human rights abuses and support international criminal justice.

The United States has never veered in its support of international criminal justice and has been at the forefront of international activity in this sphere, especially recently in light of the Russia-Ukraine war.

But the U.S. position with regard to the International Criminal Court has been consistent, since the very establishment of that Court in the 1998 Statute of Rome, in opposing the danger and likelihood that the Court will be politically manipulated by states seeking to harm those engaged in international military actions.

U.S. reticence regarding the ICC and its fear of politicization of the Court became all the more evident when the Palestinian leadership started to politicize the court, to turn it into their own private Israel-bashing tribunal, and to target the Court as a convenient means of leading their campaign to delegitimize the State of Israel. It was in this context that the United States opposed the acceptance of a non-existent Palestinian state as a state-member of the Court and viewed this as incompatible with the requirements of the Court’s Statute which limits membership of the Court to states only.

Thus, it is clear that the U.S. position regarding its involvement in the International Criminal Court is an issue of foreign and military policy, and has no linkage to the Russia-Ukraine war.

As with the huge bulk of Rep. Omar’s legislative efforts in the field of international affairs, a major factor that generates and fuels her activity and that serves as a main objective is her basic fixation and obsession with Israel, India, and Saudi Arabia – all pillars of American interests. Nor does she spare the United States itself, when she asks “Where are people supposed to go for justice?”

Representative Omar’s Twitter Criticism of Saudi Arabia, India, and Israel

Omar tweet
Omar tweet
Omar tweet

Her primary aim is to find a way to enhance U.S. activity against Israel through the creation of mechanisms within the U.S. Administration that she could use as platforms to hound Israel.

Her cynical attempt to camouflage this fixation and obsession with Israel by linking it to Ukraine and by couching this in language and terminology that she knows will generate sympathy and wide identification is intended to mislead Congress, the American public and media.

Her goal is to advance U.S. involvement in the ICC and establishment of supervisory mechanisms within the Administration, all of which she intends to use not vis-à-vis Russia and Ukraine, but to further her obsession against Israel and to open another front against India and Saudi Arabia – and even the United States.

Demonization of Israel

This fixation against Israel figured in an article dated May 17, 2021, by Emily Schrader in the Jerusalem Post entitled “The demonization of Israel in the halls of Congress”2

Myths about Israel, or rather, modern-day blood libels, spread like wildfire across the networks. ……today extremist voices are regurgitating emotionally charged false information about Israel in the halls of U.S. Congress. Extremism against Israel has been legitimized with representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Cori Bush.

From labeling Israel “apartheid” to charging Israel with “ethnic cleansing” to accusing Israel of “murdering” children to stating Israeli airstrikes on terrorist weapon sites are “terrorism” – these members of Congress acted completely irresponsibly in their criticisms of Israel.

Perhaps most inappropriately, these members of Congress all repeatedly compared the Palestinians’ situation to the struggle against police brutality in the U.S. for blacks.

The black community’s struggle has absolutely nothing to do with Palestinian nationalism or the aspirations for a Palestinian state. This is one of the most pernicious and ugly demonization of Israel being propagated today and it must be exposed and called out for what it is: bigotry.

This twisted perspective comes from a misguided view of Jews, which perceives them as “white” and thus “privileged” (despite being the leading target of hate crimes even in the United States for over 20 years), and the Palestinians as “brown.” The irony of this is, of course, that Jews are not white and the majority of Israeli Jews, in fact, are brown. But facts don’t seem to be relevant to sentimentalists like Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Bush, Omar and Pressley.

Israel does not have a history of slavery, nor a history of discriminatory laws that disenfranchise the Arab population. In fact quite the opposite. Israel’s basic laws demand freedom of religion and equality. Of course that does not mean Israel doesn’t deal with racism, as every nation does, but to compare this history to that of the United States is to mislead and to lie, much like many of the other accusations lobbed at Israel by this bunch.

This is not about human rights; it’s about the selective outrage against Israel and the unfounded accusations made. The extremism of these representatives should have no place in the U.S. Congress.

Clearly, Congressional members, Administration officials, and the American media should not permit themselves to be manipulated by Ilhan Omar, whose obsession with Israel and whose motives are transparent and particularly pernicious.

* * *

Notes

1 https://omar.house.gov/sites/omar.house.gov/files/OMARMN_089_xml.pdf; https://omar.house.gov/media/press-releases/wake-alleged-russian-war-crimes-rep-omar-introduces-legislation-strengthen-us

2 https://www.jpost.com/opinion/the-demonization-of-israel-in-the-halls-of-congress-opinion-668347

{Reposted from the JCPA site}

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Amb. Alan Baker is Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.