Eli Valley, author of Diaspora Boy on recent controversy with Meghan McCain for Popula

HAIDER: Right. I mean, a drawing of someone who is not Jewish, by the son of a rabbi, she called the most antisemitic thing she’d ever seen. How does that work?

VALLEY: I think she identified so much as a victimized Jewish person under the onslaught of the supposed terrorist Ilhan Omar that any criticism of her is a criticism of the Jewish people. So when you’re in such a warped mindset, it’s natural you’re going to call a piece of Jewish art antisemitic.

HAIDER: What did you think of Ilhan Omar’s statements themselves?

VALLEY: Honestly, I think there is room for nuance here in the discussion. Let’s establish this first: she didn’t make antisemitic remarks, she criticized monolithic support for Israel. In America, that’s led by mostly rapture-thirsty Evangelical Zionist antisemites, and to equate Israel with Jews is itself antisemitic—à la Trump’s insistence that Israel is “our” country, and American Jews aren’t exactly American. Having said that, and knowing the discourse will be tainted from the start by bad-faith assholes, it’s worth the trouble to be sensitive about the language. Don’t give them an open! Some people, especially among older generations, will be triggered by certain phrases even if you’re not talking about Jews.

So with that in mind, ideally she could have phrased things to avoid any unintentional or momentary overlap with the historic vernacular of antisemitism. But what she said doesn’t make her an antisemite. People are making it a big deal because they’re pretending Israel equals Jews, and antisemitism is now defined as criticism of AIPAC and Likud. When talking about fealty to Israel, by, let’s be honest, mostly fucking Evangelicals, okay, the language can unfortunately overlap, or be confused with, this mythology. And if we were operating in good faith—and I’m thinking especially of Democrats here—we could have her back and help her understand these nuances instead of appeasing right-wing creeps with show trials.

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