The Minneapolis Star Tribune published an op-ed by Bret Stephens that criticized Rashida Tlaib and other far-left Democratic House members for their futile opposition to funding of the Iron Dome program. The Stephens op-ed originally appeared in the New York Times; the Star Tribune version included the headline “Omar, ‘squad,’ launch another anti-Israel strike.” This, along with other alleged sins by the Star Tribune, was too much for Omar and some fellow progressives, who published an open letter to the newspaper.
Stephens’ op-ed is very good, and it helps to start by reading it. Ilhan Omar was one of the progressives who voted against funding Iron Dome, so Stephens’ column was directed in part at her, but this is the only explicit reference to Omar:
The bad news: You will almost certainly not see Reps. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., or their fellow travelers in the House progressive caucus paying any serious reputational cost for this supremely foul piece of political grandstanding.
Democrats tried to impose such a price in 2019, with an effort to rebuke Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., for a string of anti-Semitic remarks. But the effort fizzled, and Omar’s star in the party has only risen since.
The “open letter” doesn’t list an author, but Omar has endorsed it and presumably is behind it:
We can no longer be silent. The @StribOpinion regularly uses Islamophobic and racist language in their coverage of communities of color. Proud of the Minnesotans who led and signed this letter calling for systematic changes to their personnel and policies. https://t.co/1COC844N1r
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) October 15, 2021
The letter plunges directly into full-on race-baiting:
[The Star Tribune editorial board] felt it necessary to explicitly equate Rep. Omar’s vote on $1 billion in funding for Israel’s military hardware to actual terror attacks. The purpose of the language is clear as day. It is not enough for them to simply criticize Rep. Omar’s vote. … Instead, the editorial team decided what was necessary was to draw a direct comparison between Ilhan Omar – Minnesota’s first, and only, Black, Muslim, immigrant Congressperson – and Middle East terrorism. Let’s be clear: equating Muslims with terrorism is something our Muslim brothers and sisters face on an almost daily basis and is the textbook example of Islamophobia. The Congresswoman is subject to routine death threats, many explicitly making this comparison.
The letter refers to the phrase “anti-Israel strike” in the headline, along with the photograph of a Hamas rocket launch. Substantively, of course, Stephens’ op-ed criticized the Squad’s opposition to funding of the purely defensive Iron Dome system, which opposition has no apparent rationale other than hostility toward Israel’s ability to defend itself against terrorist attacks. The “open letter” entirely fails to address the point.
We do not feel it is necessary to explain why this represents a clear example of deeply seated racism and islamophobia among the decision makers at the paper. We do feel it is necessary to make clear that headlines like this increase threats of violence to Rep. Omar, her Muslim colleagues in Congress, and to the other women of color in elected office who are so often the targets of far-right racism, hatred, and violence.
This is a little ironic, since the Star Tribune has treated Omar with kid gloves ever since she began her political career. The paper has avoided covering the various scandals that have attached to Omar, beyond the barest minimum. In the 2020 election, the paper’s editorial board did not endorse a candidate in Omar’s race against Republican Lacy Johnson. This is another instance where liberals are sadly misguided if they think their sympathetic treatment of left-wing radicals buys them any sort of credit.
The “open letter” goes on to criticize the Strib’s coverage of the controversy over the proposed Minneapolis charter amendment that would eliminate the city’s police department. (Or it might do so, anyway. No one knows what the amendment actually means.) What is the ultimate point of the “open letter”? Surely you could have predicted it:
The signatories of this letter therefore call on the Star Tribune management to take the following actions:
– Increase the diversity of the editorial board—including Black, Muslim, and female voices.
– Rehire an ombudsman or public editor to hold the paper accountable for its own coverage — particularly of marginalized communities.
– End the practice of electoral endorsements, which invariably serve the interests of the powerful at the expense of vulnerable communities
– End the use loaded, racist or Islamophobic language in headlines in coverage, and
Specifically apologize and update the racist headline against Rep. Ilhan Omar and accompanying image
Sadly, the Star Tribune will take those demands seriously, and may even comply with some of them. Liberalism seems unable to mount a principled defense against the craziness of the far left.