Sarah Idan is a former Miss Iraq who, at the Miss Universe pageant in 2017, met and became close friends with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman. She took a selfie of them together, and posted it on social media, with the caption “Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel.” To make matters worse, in the swimsuit competition, she appeared in a bikini. Both these transgressions — the selfie with Miss Israel, and the bikini she wore — caused a terrific backlash from angry Muslims; Idan was stripped of her Iraqi citizenship, and was deluged with death threats. Her widowed mother and siblings were forced to flee Iraq. The two beauty queens continued to meet and post joint messages, with photos, on Instagram. The accounts of both girls were, of course, hacked.
In June 2018, Sarah Idan accepted Adar Gandelsman’s invitation to visit Israel. After all, once she had received thousands of death threats, a few thousand more weren’t going to stop her from traveling to Israel. In for a penny, in for a pound. She fell in love, she says, with Israel, and with its people, who greeted her in the market of Mahane Yehuda like a movie star. In Israel, she said later, she felt right at home in an environment that was strangely familiar: the sights and sounds of a Middle East open market, so much like what she had experienced in Baghdad and Damascus.
While in Israel, she spoke with many Jews from Arab countries, and learned about the 850,000 Jews who had had to flee Arab lands during and after the 1948 war. She posted photos of herself visiting Israeli sites, and eating Iraqi food in Jerusalem restaurants. Later she reminisced about her trip: “It actually felt weird—the people look like my people. And the city looks like Damascus, like Syria, and I’ve been there, so everything seems familiar to me.”
In August 2019, she testified on behalf of Israel at a meeting in Geneva of the UN Human Rights Council, in what must have been a most uncomfortable appearance for the Arab and Muslim delegates.
In December 2019, at the invitation of Israel’s UN ambassador, Sarah Idan attended an event held at Israel’s UN Mission to mark the expulsion of Jews from North Africa and the Middle East following the establishment of the State of Israel. She spoke feelingly about what she had learned about this issue when she visited Israel, according to a report in Algemeiner: “I was very surprised and especially touched by the experience of visiting the Babylonian Heritage Museum in Or Yehuda — which serves as a center to honor the heritage and history of Iraqi Jews.”
She said she felt a strong bond with Iraqi-born Jews in Israel: “I was born in Baghdad and felt very connected to the Iraqi Jews I met in Jerusalem, who welcomed me with open arms and with so much love, even though my country treated them unfairly. I was overwhelmed when I saw pictures of Iraqi government stamps on their passport saying ‘one-way exit — not allowed to return.’ I told them I was utterly ashamed.
“Sadly, the 3,000-year chapter of Jewish life in Iraq, along with the larger Middle East and North Africa, came to an abrupt and traumatic end – and much of this is the result of antisemitism,” she said.
She has become a kind of unofficial ambassador for Israel, speaking up passionately for the Jewish state from her unusual perspective as a Muslim Iraqi. She believes the conflict is perpetuated by “the belief systems taught in Muslim countries, which are antisemitic” and is reinforced by biased media.
Idan had worked as an interpreter for the American army in Iraq, and as a result she was given a green card. She moved to America, and in 2015 became an American citizen. She is now living in California.
In March, she announced she would be running for Congress in 2024, as a Democrat, from the 30th Congressional District. She should win in a walk. She’s made all the right enemies. She’s already had a few exchanges on Twitter with the unbearable Ilhan Omar, responding to one of Omar’s tweets with this:
“I don’t stand for your anti-American, antisemitic, Muslim Brotherhood agenda, using this democracy to further your…Islamic socialism goals of dividing and weakening our country.”
And in announcing her candidacy for Congress, she said: “I would just be the opposite of Ilhan Omar. I’m a Democrat and liberal, but I don’t think like her – I don’t hate this country.” Idan has said she wants to make war on “wokeism.”
And once in the House, her intelligence, her knowledge of Iraqi Muslims and Israeli Jews, her clear-eyed fury at antisemites, and – let’s face it — her good looks, will be a nightmare for Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and the sour-faced crew at CAIR. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have any interest in a liberal Democrat from California. But for Sarah Idan, I’ll happily make an exception.
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