Nineteen sixty-eight was not a fun year for the Soviet Union's leadership. Disenchanted with communism, the people of Czechoslovakia took to the streets and demanded a new direction for their country. If they succeeded, it would only have been a matter of time before such movements sprung up within the Soviet Union itself. First Secretary Brezhnev and party leadership, however, had a plan: blame the Jews.
Fifty years later, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has perfectly mirrored this strategy in fending off attacks on her own legitimacy. In recent campaign literature, Omar went to town on her primary opponent, Antone Melton-Meaux, for being "in the pocket of Wall Street" and "special interests." When it came to naming individuals to whom Melton-Meaux is allegedly beholden, the only people identified by first and last name are Jewish: Stanley Weinstein, Jonathan Gray and Seth Klarman.
This form of anti-Semitic dog-whistling should look very familiar to students of history and those who were behind the Iron Curtain during the Prague Spring. The Soviet Union primarily identified four individuals as responsible for the counter-revolution: Eduard Goldstuecker, Frantisek Kriegel, Ota Sik and Bohumir Lomsky. All were considered Jewish (although some, like Sik, disclaimed such identity).
The Soviet formula was simple. First identify a problem and then identify a group—consisting of mostly Jews—as being responsible for the problem. This two-step process was conducted with a backdrop of virulently anti-Semitic rhetoric thinly veiled as attacks on Zionism. Wash, rinse and repeat. Years before Omar was born, the blueprint for her anti-Semitism was completed.
Framing the Prague Spring as a Jewish conspiracy fit a greater pattern of Soviet anti-Semitism that became state policy with the rise of Stalin—embodied by sagas such as the 1953 Doctor's Plot. As discussed by Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism, the "objective enemy" is a key feature of such regimes. For the Soviet Union, Jews were an ideal candidate given the widespread preexisting anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, especially among the peasantry—the class targeted by the communists for mass mobilization against international capitalism.
Ilhan Omar, in her pursuit of woke revolutionary struggle, also appeals to a constituency that she and fellow travelers may deem ripe for mobilization through anti-Semitism. In Omar's world, society is not primarily divided between the bourgeoisie and proletariat, but rather between white people (Zionist Jews included) and communities of color. Just as the Soviet Union utilized endogenous anti-Semitism on the part of the peasantry, Omar appeals to anti-Semitism in Black, Latino and Muslim communities.
Omar's rhetoric is fine-tuned to the perceived racial biases of her target political audience.
According to research conducted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in 2011, there is a divide between Jews and other minority communities that demagogues like Ilhan Omar can exploit. According to the ADL's research, 29 percent of Blacks hold strongly anti-Semitic views, as do 20 percent of Latinos. Contrary to prevailing narratives that the "far Right" drives anti-Semitism, only 3 percent of the population that is neither Black nor Latino, the vast majority being white, hold such views. At a time when inter-ethnic healing is most needed, Omar's rhetoric is fine-tuned to the perceived racial biases of her target political audience.
Likewise, while Muslims like Omar make up about only 1 percent of the U.S. population, Islamic anti-Semitism tragically remains widespread. Many reformists, such as Zuhdi Jasser, must contend not only with the concerning number of imams in America that spew anti-Jewish rhetoric, but also with a high-profile member of Congress. On college campuses, some Muslim student organizations have played key roles in attempting to silence Jewish speakers who dare to support Jewish self-determination in their historic homeland.
Omar speaks to this crowd. Whether it be through tried and true dog whistles like her campaign literature, or her anti-Israel rhetoric that could have been lifted from the editorial pages of Pravda, she has found anti-Semitism a useful tool in promoting her dangerous political ideology.
Those who discount Omar as an unsophisticated charlatan do so at the peril of this country.
Those who discount Omar as an unsophisticated charlatan do so at the peril of this country. She very well could be the future of the Democratic Party, and leaders on her side of the aisle, seeing the writing on the wall, have surrendered. In this vein, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) found herself with little choice but to endorse Omar's reelection.
In the broad scheme, a political party that embraces politicians who utilize tactics from one of the most virulently anti-Semitic regimes in history has no place in America. On August 11, Ilhan Omar's constituents missed an opportunity to soundly reject anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party by voting for her primary opponent.
Matthew Mainen is a Washington-resident fellow at the Middle East Forum and graduate of Stanford Law School. Follow him on Twitter.