The Real Apartheid in Ilhan Omar’s Native Land

Composite Illustration: Young Somali Child at Orphans and Disabled Homeless Children’s  Center by AMISOM Public Information, AU/UN IST PHOTO/David Mutua [CC0] via Flickr and US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar by Lorie Shaull - Own work [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia

Composite Illustration: Young Somali Children at Orphans and Disabled Homeless Children’s Center by AMISOM Public Information, AU/UN IST PHOTO/David Mutua [CC0] via Flickr and US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar by Lorie Shaull - Own work [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia

"The campus Left uses the ideology of ‘intersectionality’ — the notion that one can’t really fight for the rights of American Blacks, for instance, without also fighting for the rights of women, or of Palestinians against Israelis — to build powerful coalitions within student government. The result... is that a variety of left-leaning or identity-based student groups become anti-Israel almost by default, and that students who break ranks risk social opposition..."

How Intersectionality Has Become a Political Weapon against Israel” Mosaic (Audio, 2018)

Palestinians today use intersectionality to promote the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. And yet U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar — who uses intersectionality to gain support for BDS against Israel and has repeatedly accused Israel of apartheid practices — has never condemned female genital mutilation, persecution of homosexuals, slavery or racism in Arab countries, including her native Somalia.

Understanding the well-documented persecution of homosexuals and the racism in Arab countries is important to weaken support for an argument concerning intersectionality and BDS among liberal leftists.

In late August, the Washington Examiner reported "The Palestinian Authority is banning all LGBT members from activities in the West Bank.” How can those who advocate for the rights of gays and blacks in America embrace those who refuse to condemn racism and persecution of homosexuals under Arab regimes?

Racism is deeply rooted in the Arab World. A New York Times article in mid-August reported about racism in Arab television:

"On the Libyan comedy show, the punch line was in the baby carriage. An elevator door slams shut, separating the mother — an actress in blackface — from her babies...‘Watch my babies!’ the mother calls out in mock horror. But when the passengers pull back the carriage cover, a pair of monkeys leap out.

"...In the Arab world, where racism is a deeply rooted yet rarely discussed issue, blackface comedy is facing a surge of criticism on social media, even forcing the occasional apology. But the practice remains widespread and acceptable enough to be a staple on major television networks.”

Regarding racism in Omar’s native Somalia, The Seattle Times reported in 1994 that "Amid the hatred and violence that cut so many ways in Somalia, people of Arab descent with soft hair hold sway over those who wear the hard curls of an African. The soft hairs, Somalis whose ethnic roots are buried in the sands of the Arabian Peninsula, own the businesses, carry the guns and run the political factions that are vying to replace deposed dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid is a soft-hair. Arab-descended Somalis have also robbed their hard-haired countrymen, many of whose ancestors were East Africans, of their farms and forced them into modern-day servitude that borders on slavery.” also reported, "The Somali Bantu are made up of diverse groups, such as the Mushunguli, Shambara, Gobaweyn, Shidle, Makanne, Shabelle, etc. Some of these groups have lived in Somalia for many centuries as farmers along the rivers, and have adopted the language and culture of the surrounding Somalis. Other groups originated in Tanzania and Mozambique and were brought to Somalia as slaves during the 19th century. After escaping their captors they also settled as farmers along the villages.

The different Somali Bantu groups are united primarily because of the racial discrimination they face within Somalia. Most Somalis will not intermarry with Somali Bantus, and some will not even eat with them or enter their house. During the civil war in Somalia, Somali Bantus were one of the most vulnerable groups and suffered horribly at the hands of clan militias and criminal gangs."

More details were given by a report World Bulletin report in 2015, which noted: “The Somali civil war led to a large exodus of Somali Bantus (i.e., Somalis of African ancestry, as opposed to Arab ancestry) who crossed over to Kenya, while others — who could trace their original tribes back to the time before their ancestors were sold in the Zanzibar slave market by Arabs and Swahilis — were resettled in Tanzania. Most of their homes back in Somalia were destroyed by invading clan militias and their farms taken by new migrating Somali clans."

Further describing the disastrous consequences of the war for the non-Arab Bantu Somalis, Dan Van Lehman and Omar Emo wrote in the book Somali Bantu: Their History and Culture the following:

"Civil war broke out in the wake of the 1991 collapse of Siyaad Barre's regime, and clan competition for power had disastrous results for the civilian population in general and the Bantu people in particular. The Bantu were the backbone of agricultural production in southern Somalia, and consequently had large stocks of food on their property... As hunger among the Somali population increased, stocks of food gained value and importance among not only the starving populace but also the bandits and rogue militias. Because the Bantu were excluded from the traditional Somali clan protection network, bandits and militias were able to attack the Bantu with impunity. In the process of stealing food stocks, the bandits also robbed, raped, and murdered Bantu farmers.

"As the war progressed, control of the lower Juba River valley shifted among various warlords, with each wreaking havoc on the Bantu farming communities. In October of 1992, the Bantu began to flee southern Somalia en masse for refugee camps located approximately 40 miles from the Somali border in Kenya's arid and often hostile Northeastern Province...

"In the refugee camps, the Bantu settled in the most distant locations (blocks or sections housing approximately 600 people each) where they, along with other refugees on the periphery of the camp, are more vulnerable to bandit attacks than refugees living near the center of the camps. Settlement of the Bantu in these camp locations was partly a result of their date of arrival in the camps and partly a result of the iscrimination against them by the other Somali refugees.”

The Bantu are victims of ethnic cleansing. Although they are a minority in Somalia, according to Human Rights Watch they are a majority in the refugee camps in Kenya. Bantus were targeted for genocide in Somalia because they were identified as racial minorities of slave ancestry, according to anthropologist Catherine Besteman, who wrote:

"In 1999, the U.S. government agreed to accept 12,000 Somali Bantu refugees, the largest group of African refugees ever identified for political resettlement in U.S. history... Acts of genocide are normally committed by state agents, for example by soldiers in the employ of the national military or by militias who have the support of those who hold state power. Somalia is a rare case in which genocidal acts were carried out by militias in the utter absence of a governing state structure...

“While Somalis throughout the country suffered grievously during the peak years of civil war, residents in the Jubba Valley received particularly harsh treatment by militias because of several factors... identified as racial minorities of slave ancestry within Somalia, most Jubba Valley residents held weak ties to Somali clans that were easily broken in the midst of war, which meant that armed clans did not come to their defense... Genocidal acts in the valley took the form of mass killings, abduction and involuntary marriage of local women by militia members, and the deliberate starvation of entire communities by the seizure of food supplies."

Ilhan Omar’s hypocrisy

Israeli Arabs have more rights than Bantus under Arab rule in Somalia, yet Ilhan Omar repeatedly accuses Israel of “apartheid” while saying nothing about Somalia. Omar obsessively calls for BDS against Israel, while doing nothing to prevent Arab clans in Somalia from discriminating against one million Bantus.

As a Somalian, Omar should advocate against racism and human rights violations against the Bantus, but she remains silent. Omar's family belong to the Arab clan of Majeerteen, which predominantly hails from northern Somalia. The Majeerteens are the clan of Osman Mahamuud, a Somali king who led the Majeerteen Sultanate during its Golden Age in the 16th century. Majeerteens held many influential government posts in the 1960s and 1970s, and still play a key role in Somalia.

The racism in Somalia has long historical roots. Somali slave traders would capture Bantus from southeastern Africa and sell them in Somalia and elsewhere in northeast Africa as part of the Arab slave trade.

“To meet the demand for menial labor, Ethnic Bantu slaves bought by Arab slave traders from southeastern Africa were sold in cumulatively large numbers over the centuries to customers on the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, and European colonies in the Far East of Asia,” writes Desmond Berg in Sovereign Nations. “From 1800 to 1890, between 25,000–50,000 Bantu slaves are thought to have been sold from the slave market of Zanzibar to the Somali coast.”

Regarding the Arab slave trade, David Gakunzi wrote in the Jewish Political Studies Review that it:

"was characterized by appalling violence, castration, and rape... According to the work of some historians, the Arab slave trade has affected more than 17 million people. In the Saharan region alone, more than nine million African captives were deported and two million died on the roads.

“This despicable phenomenon was legitimized by Islam, as Christianity would later condone the transatlantic slave trade. For example, the Tunisian Arab historian Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) wrote that ‘the only peoples to accept slavery are the Negroes, because of their lower degree of humanity, their place being closer to the animal stage.’

“When they arrived at destinations, the captives were sold in the slave markets of Cairo, Baghdad, Istanbul, Mecca, and other centers. These slaves played various roles in the economy of the Muslim world. They were used as servants, harem keepers, laborers in fields, mines, and hydraulic yards, and as cannon fodder in armies.

“...The Arab slave trade also promoted the development of racialist and essentialist theories that view blacks as inferior by nature. In many Arab countries this racism still exists; for example, the same words are used to describe Africans, blacks, and slaves."

And incredibly enough this is not merely a historical phenomenon. Nikala Pieroni of Clark University reported in 2015 that slavery still existed in Somalia: "According to many, Somalia is a state that is very vulnerable to modern slavery… City centers in both Puntland and Somaliland are used to transport people from southern and rural Somalia up into other parts of Africa. This has become a huge problem for the autonomous state of Somaliland specifically... The combination of hostage situations and selling of youth has led to immense amounts of fear in the country for the safety of their youth.”

This reality highlights the hypocrisy of the 57 member states of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation who often vote against Israel in the U.N. Reuters reported in 2017, "A U.N. agency published a report... accusing Israel of imposing an ‘apartheid regime’ of racial discrimination on the Palestinian people.” The agency was the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia( ESCWA), a UN agency composed of 18 Islamic states.

The accusations of “apartheid” against Israel are false since Israeli Arab citizens can vote, go to universities, work as doctors and judges, and are members of the Knesset.

ESCWA accuses Israel of apartheid but not Somalia and other Muslim countries in Africa, such as Mauritania. While Israel is falsely accused of apartheid the real apartheid, racism, and slavery in Mauritania is ignored.

While there are groups in dozens of university campuses around America calling to sanction Israel with BDS, there are no university groups calling to sanction Mauritania, Somalia, Sudan, or other Arab countries that violate human rights.

Likewise Ilhan Omar and intersectionality activists call to sanction Israel but not Sudan, Somalia, Mauritania, or other Islamic states. Why call for sanctions against the Jewish state but ignore racism, apartheid, slavery, and illegal land occupation in Arab countries?

Ezequiel Doiny is the author of Obama's Assault on Jerusalem's Western Wall, which examines Obama's role in the plot to take the Western Wall from Israel by using fake news of “massive settlement construction” to create a false sense of urgency in the UN Security Council which led to the passage of anti-Israel Resolution 2334 — a resolution that includes both Jerusalem's Temple Mount and the Western Wall as “occupied Palestinian territory.”

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