Heading to the 2020 presidential election, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the prime target of the Right, which portrays her as the “extremist” face of the current Democratic Party. But another politically-progressive Democratic freshman House member, Ilhan Omar, is being attacked even more than AOC, and by some Democrats as well, including New Yorker Reps. Eliot L. Engel and Nita Lowey. There have been two public rebukes in the House, while Republicans have demanded censure.
Omar, a Minnesota representative who was born in Somalia and is one of the first two Muslim women (with Rashida Tlaib of Michigan) ever to be elected to Congress, is learning a hard lesson: If you are not Jewish and speak out against the Israeli government’s policy toward Palestinians—no matter that she has railed even more about Saudi Arabia—or Jewish-American lobbyists AIPAC for using its power and money to influence our politicians—she did apologize for using indelicate, hurtful wording (“Benjamins,” used to describe $100 bills in a popular rap song)—you will be accused of being anti-Semitic and un-American. Especially if you wear a hijab.
Trump has repeatedly expressed false outrage about her. Alan Dershowitz said she should be “beaten in a primary by people who support the United States.” And at the State House in West Virginia, on “GOP Day,” an anti-Muslim poster on full display had the Twin Towers ablaze on top and Omar’s photo on the bottom, linking her to what happened on 9/11. Even a few Democrats said that was going too far.
“No wonder why I am on the ‘Hitlist’ of a domestic terrorist and “Assassinate Ilhan Omar’ is written on my local gas stations,” she tweeted in response. Omar added: “My Americanness is questioned by the President and the @GOP on a daily basis, yet my colleagues remain silent. I know what it means to be American and no one will ever tell me otherwise.”
So, who is Ilhan Omar? Because of the unfairly harsh treatment Omar has received, I am glad that people will now get to see an enlightening documentary about her, Time for Ilhan. It is about her successful 2016 campaign to win a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives and it presents a true picture of a smart, funny woman, and a dedicated, all-inclusive politician.
On Friday, the film debuts on VOD/DVD and, to coincide with International Women’s Day, kicks off a nationwide “Time for Ilhan Take Action Tour” that will consist of screenings, panel discussions and a direct action component.
Also, please read or re-read a conversation I had at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival with Omar, her friend and director Norah Shapiro (who, like me, is Jewish) about the making of the film and Omar’s amazing history.
Danny Peary has published 25 books on film and sports, including Cult Movies,Jackie Robinson in Quotes, and his newest publication with Hana Ali, Ali on Ali: Why He Said What He Said When He Said It, about the origins of her father’s most famous quotes (Workman Publishing).