• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Ilhan Omar: Ignorant or Malevolent?

March 2019

That which can be attributed to ignorance, I’ve heard it repeatedly said, ought not to be attributed to malevolence. Surely though, as it happens on occasion, the twain might overlap. By and large, though, their demarcation is clear. In light of the Ilhan Omar controversy, this distinction requires our attention.

On the one side, usually prior to the attainment of the other, you have ignorance. The ignorant man is he who’s unlearned in the most literal meaning of the word. Crude in thought, inarticulate in speech, without access to enlightenment or beauty, nuance or taste, or even—at times—the requisite organs needed for the digestion of the above, the ignorant man deserves rather our pity than our scorn. He yearns rather for our patience than our quick reproach. Of course, this sentimental feeling only stretches so far; our sympathy is turned to pique if his ignorance is found to be voluntarily acquired. Such a willful acquisition is, I think we can all agree, downright criminal and he should have thrown at him the book (which he might then proceed to open and read!). But in all other cases, ignorance is a merely venial sin of which he’s forgiven.

On the other side, you have malevolence. By definition, it’s far less forgivable--far more baleful. The malevolent woman, adjusting for the sexes in this case, is she who’s ill-spirited to the extreme. Immorality, for her, is not only the means by which her intended result is achieved, but the very end itself. And in attaining this end, she’ll suffer no scruple. No indiscretion for her is too indiscreet; no machination too Machiavellian. She’ll trample over all that was considered amiable, benevolent, and good. After all, things like scrupulosity and morality—which she considers vestiges of children or empty utterances made by Pharisaical priests—are encumbrances for which she has no time. Fully compos mentis and aware of what she does, she circumvents decency, destroys respectability, and scales all impediments on her path to be mean.

In light of this distinction, much has been made about where exactly someone like Ilhan Omar falls. Upon which side of this continuum, this ignorant-malevolent dichotomy, does the freshman Congresswoman from Minnesota land? This is the question upon which the Democratic Party pivots—at least so far as it’ concerned with its increasingly hostile position on the Jews. Is she, as the Democrats are today claiming, ignorant and therefore excused of what she’s said? Had she no intention of promulgating anti-Semitic tropes that’ve recrudesced throughout literally thousands of years? To both questions, the Democratic Party has answered “yes”. Deemed merely ignorant and therefore innocent, many leading Democrats (including the estimable Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi and the Majority Whip, Jim Clyburn) are contending that Omar really had no grasp of the things she’s said.

To recount in brief, such things include her supplication to Allah—the Arab Elohim—to “awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel”. A preface to this, she claimed that that this country of magical Israelites was in fact “hypnotizing” the world. Evidently, it’s her belief that at this point, only a full-fledged revelation of a divine type can assist in demonstrating to the world the evils of which those Semitic sorcerers are capable. Doubtless, this makes for an uncomfortable task set before an omnipresent God. So far as we know, He is a deity ultimately shared by three unamicable faiths. This alone is an unenviable load to be borne by anyone—God or man. Yet He is the one who’s set it upon Himself to preside over the three-tiered Abrahamic creed. Add to this the fact that the country in which He’s most biblically, if not capriciously interested is the very same one that His devoted Ilhan Omar wants destroyed.

That was an early instance of her anti-Semitism on display. Later, perhaps exasperated by Allah’s inactivity when she asked of Him his intervention (something, when it comes to geo-political affairs, He’s proven Himself understandably loathe to do), she insinuated and then overtly stated that American politicians were being purchased by Jews. “It’s all about the Benjamins”, she tweeted, before clarifying that by “Benjamins” she meant hundreds of thousands of dollars paid by AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) to members of Congress. This, as the old canard goes, is a transaction whose intention is to buy their support. The idea here is that AIPAC, in a manner incommensurate with any other political lobbying group in the U.S., is inconspicuously and perniciously influencing American lawmakers to benefit Israeli regimes.

On top of that, she’s continued (with a type of zealous advocacy recognizable only to the religious bigot) to promote the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions organization (initialized as “BDS”)—a group quite explicit in its disdain for Israel and the Jews. It’s the group’s aim, by a concerted effort by all anti-Zionists and anti-Semites alike, effectively to render extinct the Jewish state. Add to all this the fact that after meeting with a constituency of Minnesota Jews, none among them was overwhelmingly convinced that the soon-to-be Congresswoman had in any way sublimated her anti-Semitic id. Indeed, the group of men left its conversations with Omar feeling ever more disconcerted about her obvious enmity toward Jews. It was a hatred, the men probably rightly feared, that was planted deeply by religious seeds and would (and still may) blossom into her political agenda (at this time, Omar sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee. For what it's worth, she's thus far made a mockery of the seat).

Most, though certainly not all of Omar’s Twitter transgressions and public statements are set before you above. Subsequently, then, the question persists: do they or do they not compose the type of resume that can be reduced to the efforts of a fully ignorant woman? Rather than Democrats, Omar’s colleagues in her own party have become acrobats in their attempt to claim that it does. But in this case, sad though I am to say, we must attribute to Ilhan Omar malevolence when ignorance simply doesn’t fit. While it pains me to take so uncharitable a view (ignorance, after all, is redeemable; malevolence is incorrigible), Omar has made the situation clear. The question no longer is between ignorance and malevolence. The attribution that she, through her own strenuous effort, has earned is that of the latter. The question, instead, is whether malevolence will be given an accomplice. Only with help can it succeed. One hopes that the Democrats will withhold this help.

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