Ilhan Omar Is Now Just Spouting Off Hamas Propaganda

Is anyone surprised?
May 6, 2019
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Ilhan Omar. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)

Hamas fired more than 600 rockets into Israel over the weekend, killing four Israelis. The violence prompted a tweet from Rep. Ilhan Omar, who fancies herself the moral compass of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, if not America as a whole.

Well then.

Someone unfamiliar with Omar’s history could perhaps be forgiven for seeing the first part of her tweet as a “Why can’t we all just get along?” lament. But Omar has tripped over her own anti-Semitism multiple times during her four months in the House, and she shows her true colors here by ignoring several inconvenient truths.

Hamas’s own leadership has admitted that border protests are cover for and supported by the terrorist organization’s “military force.” Most of those who were shot in recent protests were members of Hamas or the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The others were collateral casualties who would not have been in harm’s way but for the “military force.”

And no little kids “must” be killed. Just one side targets civilian populations indiscriminately – a rocket from Gaza landed in a kindergarten playground in Eshkol, Israel. There were no children present because they were all with their families, seeking refuge in bomb shelters.

An IDF spokesman said a Palestinian woman and child were killed by fire originating in Gaza, not an Israeli weapon.

No rockets, no casualties.

To give Omar the benefit of the doubt, her use of the passive voice avoids placing agency, and therefore blame, on anyone in particular. This can be interpreted as a slight of hand or as a rhetorical device to accentuate the horror of war and terrorism regardless of politics. If the latter, Omar’s meaning is entirely unobjectionable.

Except for the next sentence.

There is no “occupation” of Gaza. Israel withdrew its military, its civil government, and all Israelis, in some cases by force, in 2005. (Occupation exists only as a fiction perpetrated by Hamas, which helps explain how Omar arrives at her hot Twitter takes.) Almost immediately, Hamas seized control of the area, partially through elections that at best can be called “questionable” and partially through victory in a civil war with rival terrorist group Fatah. Hamas has ruled Gaza ever since, and for some reason has not felt the need to hold another election.

Perhaps the occupation to which Omar refers is that of Hamas over the Palestinians? Perhaps she’s signaling solidarity with the Gazans protesting against Hamas? Maybe.

And what of the humanitarian crisis? There certainly is one, but it is as unnecessary as those rockets that she said “must be fired.” Gaza, like Venezuela, has the potential to be a thriving, bustling metropolis. It boasts some of the most beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean and temperate weather for much of the year. The Israeli inhabitants of Gaza left behind a thriving flower export business when they withdrew in 2005. The greenhouses they left behind were ransacked.

Israel maintains a blockade of Gaza, in partnership with Egypt, to prevent weapons being smuggled into the enclave, but plenty of humanitarian aid gets through. In 2018, the EU gave 22.5 million euros  (about $34 million) for humanitarian aid in Gaza. Regular convoys of aid supplies cross from Israel into Gaza, though some trucks have been turned away by Palestinian officials as recently as 2018.

In fact, the humanitarian crisis isn’t bad enough to prevent a construction boom in Gaza – though it doesn’t change the skyline. By 2014, the Israeli Defense Forces had uncovered 18 tunnels built by Hamas to sneak across the border into Israel. Those tunnels consisted of about 800,000 tons of concrete.

What else might that much concrete build? Erecting Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, required 110,000 tons of concrete. Hamas, then, could’ve treated itself to seven such monstrosities and still had a few tens of thousands of tons to spare. If it wanted to build kindergartens equipped with bomb shelters, like Israel has built for the besieged citizens of Sderot, for example…Hamas could have used its leftovers to whip up about two that were each as big as Giants Stadium. And that’s just 18 tunnels. Egypt, on its end, recently claimed to have destroyed an additional 1,370. That’s a lot of concrete.

Tunneling since 2014 may have slowed, but it hasn’t stopped. Between October 2017 and May 2018, the IDF discovered and destroyed nine Hamas tunnels, including one which extended for over a mile from Gaza into Egypt before crossing into Israel. That concrete might have been a hospital. They next month, they destroyed another tunnel, designed to give Hamas naval commandos concealed access to the Mediterranean.

Which means, of course that the humanitarian crisis is much more a matter of resource allocation by Hamas than any actions by Israel.

At this point, Omar’s tweet has gone thoroughly pear-shaped. But she manages to save it by calling for “real justice.” Certainly she must must mean normal politics in Gaza, including the rule of law; regular, fair, free, and open elections; an independent media; a non-militarized education system; and basic human rights.

That is what she meant, right?

Benjamin Parker

Benjamin Parker is a senior editor at The Bulwark.