Can An Accused Islamophobic Congressman and an Accused Anti-Semitic Congresswoman unite our country?

On July 30th, 2009, President Barrack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden joined Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley for what has become known as the “Beer Summit.” Earlier that month Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested at his home by Sgt. James Crowley. Crowley was responding to a 9-1-1 call about men breaking and entering the Gates’ residence.  Henry Louis Gates Jr. is black, and he was arrested in his own home and charged with disorderly conduct. The arrest, rightfully so, spurred debate in the United States around racial profiling by police (and the community at large).

President Obama called it a “teachable moment.” A time for everyone to sit down and have a discussion about racial profiling and systemic racism and biases that permeate every aspect of our lives. That was in 2009.

Twitter War -> Twitter Diplomacy?

On Wednesday, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY) tweeted, “Was just selected as Ranking Member of the @HouseForeign Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations! Just learned Freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar was also put on the committee w oversight of US foreign policy. Crazy to watch what House Dems are empowering/elevating.”  Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is the first Somali American elected to legislative office in the United States. She, along with Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Rep. Omar is also the first congresswoman to wear a hijab.

Congresswoman Omar responded to Rep. Zeldin by saying, “Don’t mind him, he is just waking up to the reality of having Muslim women as colleagues who know how to stand up to bullies! It’s gonna be fun watching him lose his marbles.”

Rep Zeldin, who at this moment is seeing the great success Omar and fellow congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) are having on ‘Congress Twitter’ fired back, “Those poor innocent ISIS fighters & Palestinian terrorist right? Give me a break! That’s a problem no matter your religion or gender Ilhan. Your anti-Semitic & anti-Israel hate is strong & wrong & those terrorist have US blood on their hands as well.”

Omar has come under fire for a tweet she sent out in 2012, in which she had apologized for and said she should have put more energy into ‘disavowing the anti-Semitic trope I unknowingly used.” Zeldin who is Jewish has been outspoken about Omar and Rep. Tlaib when he unveiled a resolution condemning “anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred.’ Both are super passionate. And something passion can cloud judgement.

What followed were twitter followers of Zeldin and Omar and probably a lot of Russian robots calling each representative Islamaphobic and Anti-Semitic, respectfully. It did not help that both Zeldin and Omar were encouraging this behavior.

It’s important to note the difference between the accusations of being anti-Israel and being anti-Semitic. One is being against a country the other about a region or ethnicity of a people, hence why Rep. Zeldin called out both separately. Rep. Omar on Thursday night’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah clarified this. Stating she is and has criticized the Israeli government, not the Jewish people. “What’s important in this conversation is that we separate the land, the people, and the administrations,” Re. Omar said.

Just like in United States, the President and the Congress do not always represent all the people. Many Americas do not share Donald Trump’s ideology, many Israeli’s don’t share in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ideology and many Muslim people do not share the opinions and ideologies of Muslim leaders including BDS around the world.

Yesterday, the Twitter feud between the Jewish-American Rep. Zeldin and the Muslim-American Rep. Omar came to a head, when Rep. Zeldin tweeted out an anti-Semitic voicemail that came into his office.

Instead of continuing the Twitter battle, Rep. Omar proposed a truce. She tweeted: “This is heinous and hateful. I too am flooded with booted voicemails and calls every day. Maybe we could meet and share notes on how to fight religious discrimination of all kinds? Maybe over Somali tea, in your old office which I happen to be in now.”

Rep. Zeldin responded, “Let’s do that! Are you saying you disagree w/everything said in that voicemail? I sure do & it would be great if you did as well & cosponsored & helped #PassHRes72. That would be a step in the right direction.”

Can an accused Islamaphobic congressman and an accused anti-Semitic congresswoman come together and unite us? Both Muslim and Jewish people are the targets of hate crimes, vile and heinous speech, misinformation and lies about their beliefs and their people and are seen as ‘outsiders’ in the United States and the Western world. And most of the time it is not coming from one another.

Shouldn’t we all be able to come together to stop the hate and send a message to all Americans that there is no room for Islamophobia or anti-Semitism?  And while we are at it, there is no room for racism, sexism, ageism or homophobia either. These are issues that transcend governments or counties or borders. When we link them together, we do ourselves a disservice.

It is also very easy to forget how amazing America is that our representative can have this discussion in a public way and we all get to participate in it. In many countries this does not occur.

Here is to hoping that Representatives Zeldin and Omar will be able to sip some Somali tea and co-sponsor a bill that ends the hate, the name calling  and goes well beyond the ‘Beer Summit’ to unite us all and set a new standard.