The Right to Disagree

By: Isabelle Mokotoff

Growing and intensifying with every passing second, I could feel the hot ball of anger eating away at me. Although this internal fire found its origins in my stomach, it quickly spread, racing toward my fingers and face. Soon, my entire body was boiling. My mind exploded with a million thoughts. It was as if anger, a power-hungry passenger, had hijacked the controls of my brain and was quickly steering my train of thought toward a path of deep-rooted hatred and resentment.

How could she say that?

She represents America! The country in which my ancestors fought tooth and nail to become citizens. And now, as a representative of this country, she blatantly insults their religion and homeland! She is a law-maker! Would it be responsible to allow her to hold such profound power when she has been so vocal about her bias towards a certain group of people?

Ilhan Omar, the Somali-American Muslim who represents Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, has tweeted multiple sentiments chock full of anti-Zionist and anti-Israel rhetoric. She calls the sole homeland of the Jews, “the apartheid Israeli regime” and professes that, “Israel has hypnotized the world” (Toi). As a well-researched and passionate young Jewish-American, I can wholeheartedly proclaim that these statements could not be further from the truth. I acknowledge that the government of Israel, like the political bodies of all countries, has its faults. However, Israel is often misconstrued as an apartheid state. In apartheid South Africa, walls were built as a means of isolating the so-called “inferior” black citizens from the “superior” white ones. However, Israel’s concrete walls along the volatile West Bank separate the main portion of the state from violence; they have reduced Israeli deaths caused by Palestinian terror attacks by 90% since their construction and have no intention of separating people based on religion or nationality. Spewing false statements like the ones Omar tweeted gives Israel an unfavorable reputation and, subsequently, perpetuates the idea that the Jewish people are bigots.

My first inclination after reading Omar’s words was to label her as an unethical person. She should not have the right, I thought, to insult an entire people when she was an American elected official: a person emblematic of the inclusivity and acceptance this nation was built upon. And yet, I challenged myself, Omar is still an American citizen. Becoming a lawmaker did not strip her of her rights, she still possesses the full ability to utilize the First Amendment as she sees fit. After grappling with the idea for a few more minutes, I finally decided that Omar should fully be allowed to enjoy her American privileges. To me, it is only fair that Omar can speak from the heart, even if her ideas differ from my own. After all, it is the assurance that in my homeland of America, free speech will exist indefinitely, which then, in turn, allows me to confidently defend my religion and its homeland.

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