Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota has garnered a lot of attention as one of the “fresh faces” of the incoming class of congressional Democrats. Unlike Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, however, not much of it has been good, and the vast majority seems to be centered around the fact that she seems to have anti-Semitic tendencies.
It isn’t just the fact that the 37-year-old Somali-American supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement that seeks to treat Israel as if it were an apartheid state. It’s not just that she tweeted back in 2012 that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” These were all things she did before she took office, after all.
She’s done plenty since she took the oath to qualify as a bigot.
The latest controversy started when Omar tweeted that the United States’ relationship with Israel — and in particular, politicians’ relationships with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group — is “all about the Benjamins, baby.”
She then retweeted a historian who, while critical of AIPAC and America’s relationship with Israel, also called Omar an anti-Semite: “And I know exactly what the congresswoman meant. She might as well call us hooked-nosed.” According to Fox News, she quickly deleted that tweet; either she just read the first few lines of the tweet or she quickly realized she’d crossed a line.
So, Jewish Americans don’t have a lot of reasons to be thrilled with Omar at the moment. However, an Op-Ed in the far-left publication ThinkProgress says they need to stick with her — because while her tweet was probably anti-Semitic, she wasn’t wrong.
Confused? Let Max Berger explain.
“Reasonable people can disagree over whether Omar’s tweet was anti-Semitic,” Berger wrote in the Op-Ed published Tuesday.
“Personally, I thought it was too close to classic tropes about secret Jewish power for comfort. I know many Jews (though not all!) who felt the same. If we’re going to build authentic multiracial, interfaith solidarity, we need to be honest about instances of anti-Semitism on the left, even when they’re unintentional.
“But the substance of her remarks was absolutely accurate. Omar’s comment was in response to a tweet by Glenn Greenwald, who mused, ‘It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.’ When Forward editor Batya Ungar-Sargon asked Omar who she believes pays U.S. lawmakers to be pro-Israel, she responded, ‘AIPAC!’”
Greenwald, by the way, has long been an apologist for British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn; the journalist and co-founder of The Intercept once called a New York Times piece cataloging Corbyn’s long history of associating with anti-Semitic groups and causes “cheap guilt-by-association trash.” Maybe this wasn’t the guy to quote here, but I digress.
“Indeed, pro-Israel lobbying groups like AIPAC have influenced politics for decades,” Berger continued. “AIPAC’s lobbying spending has only increased over the years, reaching upwards of $4 million in recent years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It’s harder to estimate AIPAC contributions outside formal channels, however.
“According to its website, AIPAC members receive perks by committing to donate to certain members of Congress. To earn membership in AIPAC’s ‘Congressional Club,’ for instance, donors must give at least $5,000 per election cycle. The funds go towards putting the interests of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defenders above those of the United States. And, in this way, AIPAC’s influence is similar to that of the Saudi government, fossil fuel CEOs, and big banks.”
So basically, Berger says that Omar’s tweet “was too close to classic tropes about secret Jewish power for comfort.” And then he went on a rant about how she wasn’t necessarily wrong about secret Jewish power. He also went on to claim that AIPAC money is responsible for politicians of both parties ignoring the rights of Palestinians.
Berger siad that Omar is exactly the kind of leader that the Democrats need because the Republicans are anti-Semites themselves.
“While doing little to temper the anti-Semitism within their own party, GOP leaders came out hard against Omar. As a working class, black Muslim woman and as the first refugee in Congress who threatens the 1 percent and the status quo, Omar served as the perfect distraction from the GOP’s own harmful policies,” Berger wrote. “And if the Democratic leadership wanted to prove AIPAC has disproportionate influence in Congress, they couldn’t have done a better job than by issuing a joint statement about a single bad tweet.
“Omar is the kind of leader America — and the American Jewish community — needs in this historical moment, as we combat the rise of fascism. She’s fighting back against Islamophobia, racism, misogyny, and the power of the right-wing Jewish lobby. Progressive Jews need to stand with her against those attacks.”
The logic here is stunning. According to Berger, the GOP is anti-Semitic (I believe Wikipedia would mark this evidence-free claim as “citation needed”) and they’re proving it by coming out against “a working class, black Muslim woman and … the first refugee in Congress.” The fact that Democrats condemned her anti-Semitism, meanwhile, only goes to prove that AIPAC is too influential. This is why she’s the leader Jewish people need, even though Berger admits that, if she isn’t an open anti-Semite, she probably buys into the idea that the Jewish lobby is an all-powerful puppeteer.
Oh, and there was also that “hooked-nosed” retweet, but shh.
You buying all that? I’m not, and I don’t think anyone paying attention is, either — Jewish or not.
(Op-Eds published in many publications do not always represent the views of those publications. That being the case, The Western Journal’s editorial team discussed whether to point out in the headline of this article that it referred to a ThinkProgress Op-Ed rather than an article or editorial. However, ThinkProgress did not print any disclaimer regarding the Op-Ed and printed a writer bio for Bergen that appeared to endorse him as well. We have reached out to ThinkProgress for clarification, but in the meantime, it seems only logical to attribute the sentiments of the Op-Ed to the publication itself and not merely to its writer. — Ed. note)