Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has been the subject of bipartisan bullying that has reached a fever pitch since the lawmaker explicitly called out the number one Israeli lobby group in the U.S. — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
WASHINGTON — What unites Republicans and Democrats, a former Jewish terrorist, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, Nikki Haley, Chelsea Clinton and Liz Cheney? A Muslim lady with a mouth and some opinions, apparently. Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has been the subject of bipartisan bullying that has reached a fever pitch since the lawmaker explicitly called out the number one Israeli lobby group in the U.S. — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Earlier this year, Omar made heads explode in the halls of power after she denounced the U.S.-backed coup attempt in Venezuela. Now, even the leader of her own party in her own chamber of Congress – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – is joining a chorus of detractors accusing Omar of anti-Semitism for correctly characterizing the business of lobbying.
While this is not the first time that Omar has come under fire for criticizing Israel, the current saga began on Sunday when journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted an article by the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz that trumpeted calls from House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to “take action” against Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). McCarthy did not specify which statements he opposed, but called the situation “equal” or worse than that of Rep. Steve King (R-IA) who was removed from his committee assignments by his party after he questioned when “white supremacy” had become “offensive.”
Tlaib and Omar are the first two Muslim women in Congress, while Tlaib is the first Palestinian-American. Both have supported the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a nonviolent campaign to economically pressure Israel into compliance with international and humanitarian law.
Sorry, but you're not going to turn the two first Muslim women to serve in the US Congress into overnight Jew-haters because of their criticisms of Israel. What's actually anti-Semitic is conflating the Government of Israel with Jews, so those of you doing that should stop.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 11, 2019
MintPress News has previously covered dubious accusations of anti-Semitism against Tlaib after she took a stand against a free-speech-crushing bill favored by — you guessed it — the Israel lobby. Meanwhile, other lawmakers are attempting to block Tlaib’s planned delegation to the illegally occupied West Bank.
In response to the attack from the Republican House leader, ACLU Human Rights Director Jamil Dakwar quipped that Congressman McCarthy may “want to revive McCarthyism.”
McCarthy himself received $33,000 from NorPAC, “an AIPAC affiliate, in the last election cycle,” reported the online publication Jewish Worker. Meanwhile, McCarthy himself has been accused of spreading anti-Semitic tropes, warning that three Jewish, liberal mega-donors, including George Soros, were trying to “buy” the midterm elections, which were to take place the following day. That tweet has since been deleted.
Anti-Semitic tropes have no place in the halls of Congress. It is dangerous for Democrat leadership to stay silent on this reckless language.
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) February 11, 2019
Weird you would tie trips to Israel with antisemitism. Equating Zionism to Judaism is antisemitic. Almost like you are a disingenuous weasel
— District Sentinel (@TheDCSentinel) February 11, 2019
About the Benjamins
Upon seeing the report, Omar did not pull any punches. In an apparent pun on a slang term for $100 bills and the prime minister of Israel’s first name, she tweeted that “it’s all about the Benjamins baby,” which is a quote from a 1990’s Puff Daddy song.
Then, an opinion editor at the Jewish magazine The Forward, Batya Ungar-Sargon, reposted the tweet, telling her followers that she’d “love to know who Ilhan Omar thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess.”
In 2018 #AIPAC spent ~ $4 Million lobbying our elected officials to support Israel, including quashing Americans first amend right to support BDS.@IlhanMN pointing out how Congress is bought to represent a foreign government over Americans isn't antisemitic it's stating facts. pic.twitter.com/mkQOoYzFFG
— Mnar A. Muhawesh ⌛ (@MnarMuh) February 11, 2019
Omar clapped back with just six characters, tweeting “AIPAC!” — the acronym for the largest and most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in the United States. In fact, AIPAC spends more than $3.5 million every year to influence Congress to be more favorable towards Israel.
This is a disgusting. By the same token one can say "The Forward has won the approval of the KKK." pic.twitter.com/sUhHpTG6v9
— Eli Valley (@elivalley) February 11, 2019
Ungar-Sargon then attempted to speak on behalf of all American Jews, responding to Omar that she should “learn how to talk about Jews in a non-anti-Semitic way.” Anti-Zionist American Jews promptly shut her down in replies.
I know she's still a Democrat and you should never put too much faith in anyone who's a member of the Democratic Party, but I like Ilhan Omar. She's had the balls to stand against the Washington consensus on Israel and on regime change in Venezuela. I'm glad she's in the House.
— Sam (@halaljew) February 11, 2019
But some powerful people with Twitter accounts took exception the the congresswoman’s identification of a pro-Israel lobby group as an entity that “is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel.” One is left to wonder what causes AIPAC doles out the contents of its propaganda war-chest for if not to influence lawmakers on Israel. The takeaway from this line of analysis is that money has no influence in politics, which is patently absurd.
Yet AIPAC’s own mission statement claims “AIPAC urges all members of Congress to support Israel through foreign aid, government partnerships, joint anti-terrorism efforts.”
Kudos to @IlhanMN for calling out the role of the GOP’s donors in influencing US foreign policy.
The GOP’s biggest donors, the Adelsons, are hawkishly pro-Israel and advocate using nukes on Iran!
The GOP’s biggest fundraiser, Norm Coleman, is a paid lobbyist for Saudi Arabia!
— Eli Clifton (@EliClifton) February 11, 2019
Here, those that charge Omar with anti-Semitism reveal their own. By leveling charges of bigotry against critics of the Israel lobby, Israel’s defenders equate Jewishness with allegiance to Israel, or Zionism. In keeping with this estimation, Jews that do not condone the apartheid project underway in Palestine are branded “self-hating.”
Here is Chelsea Clinton accusing Ilhan Omar of anti-semitism for critiquing AIPAC. You hear that? Being anti-AIPAC is now anti-semitism. https://t.co/xRgWg0U8ZN
— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) February 11, 2019
Despite Rep. Omar’s statement about AIPAC being self-evident, the remark riled the likes of former Trump Administration Ambassador to the UN and pro- Israel Nikki Haley, who once said, “When I come to AIPAC, I am with friends.” Haley’s pro-Israel track record at the international body prompted an Israeli cartoonist to satirize her departure with an image of a United Nations handyman telling Haley, who is packing her bags, that she forgot her “second flag” — an Israeli one. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin even called Haley a “true ambassador” for Israel.
A major Washington pile-on
Lawmakers who pounced on Omar include: Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), who are trying to shore up support for a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) hailing Israel as a “proud and stable democracy with robust protections for minorities” and calling for “swift action” to address the “recent rhetoric.”
Pelosi responded hours later with a joint statement with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) “condemning anti-Semitic comments made over Twitter by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.”
Also included in the D.C. dogpiling were the Republican Jewish Coalition, the American Jewish Committee (which painted AIPAC as a “Jewish” organization), and Dov Hikind, whom journalist Dan Cohen pointed out is a former member of the Jewish Defense League terrorist organization. Bill and Hillary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea also “co-signed” Ungar-Sargon’s smears of Omar’s rhetoric as “anti-Semitic.”
In all seriousness though I am a young Jew who has never more represented on this issue than seeing @IlhanMN be brave enough to call out AIPAC and the Israel Lobby in its efforts to cement anti-Palestinian racism as a litmus test for Congress. She speaks for me, they don't.
— Judah Fishmonger (@praisegodbarbon) February 11, 2019
Chelsea Clinton assured several on Twitter that she would “reach out to Omar.” When Omar agreed, saying “we must call out smears from the GOP and their allies,” Clinton agreed. That was until Ashley Goldberg stepped in, tweeting that Clinton “outright said there is a problem with antisemitism [sic] on both sides and Ilhan Omar clearly said she only cares about what she can do to depict it as only a problem with the GOP.”
Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton have earned over $3.5 million in paid speeches to pro-Israeli apartheid groups. At a $1000 a plate dinner, Bill Clinton said he would “grab a rifle and get in the trench and fight and die” for Israel. https://t.co/NdkV6FaTlF https://t.co/r05fdh05kU
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) February 11, 2019
But the conversation took a turn, culminating in Clinton’s vowing to “google people” before engaging with them from then on out, after journalist Hannah Gais pointed out that Goldberg was photographed at a white supremacist conference in 2016 hosted by Richard Spencer. Goldberg, an anti-communist Jewish media personality, also used to date Neo-Nazi leader Matthew Heimbach, the founder of the now-defunct Traditionalist Workers Party.
Yes but Omar did not talk about Jews, she talked about money and it’s influence on American policy on Israel. What does it say about her accusers that any mention of money and power=Jews? https://t.co/1Tvrfg04W1
— Mairav Zonszein מרב זונשיין (@MairavZ) February 11, 2019
“AIPAC’s non-influence in Congress”
Not everyone bought it hook-line-and-sinker, however. Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the neoconservative Brookings Institution, tweeted that he was “in the market for a bridge,” and asked The Forward editor Ungar-Sargon to “please enlighten us on AIPAC’s non-influence in Congress.”
A spokesperson for Omar told Politico in response to the firestorm caused by the representative’s tweets that the remarks “speak for themselves.”
Things that are vastly more antisemitic than Ilhan Omar's tweets:
– The belief that AIPAC represents American Jews
– The belief that Israel represents American Jews
– The median American Christian Zionist's views on Jews
– The president
– All 7 of the Harry Potter Novels
— Rafillionaire (@RafiLetzter) February 11, 2019
But a cursory examination of the legacy AIPAC has left since it opened shop the DC speak even greater volumes. The lobby group is not itself run by Israel, allowing it to avoid registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a law that forces foreign lobby groups to be more transparent. That’s because I.L. Kenen, the founder of AIPAC, created a “legal loophole by which AIPAC is defined not as a lobby for a foreign state but for Americans who support that state. It’s a critical distinction that makes AIPAC’s dominance over U.S. Middle East policy possible,” according to former AIPAC employee M.J. Rosenberg.
AIPAC continues its practice of using loopholes to further its agenda today. A recent documentary produced by Al Jazeera but censored by Qatar, which funds the outlet, showed how one fundraiser for a congressional candidate, organized by an unofficial “AIPAC group,” circumvented laws on maximum individual political contributions by pooling donors’ grants together and doling out the official donations evenly among participants.
And the organization’s sway over Congress is difficult to dispute. Promotional literature for the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington has touted the idea that it would be “attended by more members of Congress than almost any other event.” Steve Rosen, a former AIPAC executive, would tell people that he “could take out a napkin at any Senate hangout and get signatures of support for one issue or another from scores of senators,” according to Connie Bruck in The New Yorker.
As AIPAC’s former policy director, Rosen and “Iran specialist” at AIPAC Keith Weissman met with Larry Franklin, a top Pentagon analyst working on Iran, prior to Franklin leaking a draft presidential directive “that proposed a tougher policy on Iran, which included consideration of covert action towards regime change,” according to Democracy Now. That document made its way into AIPAC’s hands, which passed it on to Israeli officials.
Former AIPAC President David Steiner was even forced to resign after audio was leaked of him bragging about how he was negotiating with Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign to appoint people to key posts in his administration. Steiner ultimately recanted and apologized to both AIPAC and Bill Clinton..
Top Photo | Rep. Ilhan Omar, a freshman Democrat representing Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, smiles as the House of Representatives assembles for the first day of the 116th Congress at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 3, 2019. J. Scott Applewhite | AP
Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.