Last week, Jewish Community Action, a group dedicated to “racial and economic justice issues in Minnesota,” received an interesting piece of mail.
It was an envelope marked “Xcel Energy,” festooned with stamps that said “URGENT” and “PAST DUE.” The postmark was from Arizona, which was probably a hint that it wasn’t an electric bill. Turns out it wasn’t even from Xcel Energy.
Inside was a rudimentary hit-piece targeting Minneapolis Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
“I committed marriage fraud,” read the leaflet. “I married my brother. I hate Jews. I committed tax evasion.”
JCA received this in the mail today - an anti @IlhanMN smear mailer presented as an Excel Energy bill.— JCA MN (@JCA_MN) July 18, 2019
Besides the disgusting attacks here, it’s edifying to know the Congresswoman’s critics are comfortable with mail fraud. pic.twitter.com/6uratxLGE5
“It looked like a fairly rote far-right smear piece,” JCA communications director Isaiah Breen says. It was “full of lies” – and it was “racist” and “Islamophobic” to boot.
Xcel was quick to step in after Jewish Community Action shared a photo of the leaflet and the envelope on Twitter.
“We’re a company that embraces diversity and inclusion, and this goes against all our values,” the company tweeted. “It’s also mail fraud, and we are contacting the authorities. If anyone else receives this mailing, we encourage you to do the same.” (Xcel didn't offer any further comment for this story.)
Breen says his organization was “pleased” to see Xcel taking action, but the whole thing left him and other Jewish Community Action members “uncomfortable.”
“We’re not in the Congresswoman’s district,” he says. The group is statewide, but its office is in Betty McCollum’s zone in St. Paul. So, Breen asks, “Why are we getting this letter?”
He’s pretty sure they're being targeted because they’re Jewish. It's worth noting that the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas also got a copy of the same letter at its Minneapolis office. Breen thinks whoever sent the letter is trying to “elicit hatred” between the congresswoman and Jewish citizens.
It certainly wouldn’t be the first attempt. A recent article in the New York Times went in-depth on the mostly Christian far-right “us[ing] Jews as human shields” to defend President Trump’s diatribes against Omar, Islam, and people of color in general.
“It’s true that Omar has said things that were freighted with anti-Semitism, for which she has expressed regret,” the article says (more on that here). “But it is grotesque to argue that that excuses racism against her, or that Trump’s taunts have anything to do with protecting Jews.”