by WorldTribune Staff, February 11, 2019
Rep. Ilhan Omar on Feb. 10 accused a prominent pro-Israel lobbying group of paying U.S. politicians to support Israel.
The Minnesota Democrat, who also supports the Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, said the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) funds members of Congress to back pro-Israel policies.
Omar was posting on Twitter in response to journalist Glenn Greenwald, who criticized House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for threatening to take action against Omar and another Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, over anti-Semitic remarks.
Greenwald tweeted that “it’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.”
“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” wrote Omar.
Later, Batya Ungar-Sargon, an opinion editor for The Forward, tweeted, “Would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess. Bad form, Congresswoman. That’s the second antisemitic trope you’ve tweeted.”
Omar responded: “AIPAC!”
AIPAC is a 501(c)(4), not a political action committee. It does not fund campaigns.
Omar also retweeted an attack on major GOP contributor Sheldon Adelson by the deputy chief of staff of former Sen. Harry Reid.
The Washington Exmainer noted in an editorial on Feb. 11 that “The idea of Jews using money and power to advance foreign interests and exert a nefarious influence on policy is an age old anti-Semitic smear. It also isn’t true, by the way, that Omar was referring merely to AIPAC. She later retweeted former Harry Reid deputy chief of staff attacking the influence of Sheldon Adelson – the linked article doesn’t mention AIPAC at all. So it’s clear that her attack is on Jewish money and influence.”
The backlash to Omar’s claim was swift and severe.
AIPAC tweeted: “We are proud that we are engaged in the democratic process to strengthen the US-Israel relationship. Our bipartisan efforts are reflective of American values and interests. We will not be deterred in any way by ill-informed and illegitimate attacks on this important work.”
Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, responded to Omar, tweeting that “House Democrat leaders should condemn this anti-Semitism and immediately remove [Ilhan Omar] from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”
Omar indicated last month that Foreign Affairs was her first choice of committee assignment.
Rep. Max Rose, New York Democrat, tweeted: “Congresswoman Omar’s statements are deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself. Implying that Americans support Israel because of money alone is offensive enough. But to go a step further and retweet someone declaring their pain at her sentiment is simply unacceptable.”
Joshua Zeitz, a contributing editor at Politico Magazine, tweeted, “I’m one of those American Jews who opposes the occupation, laments Israel’s anti-democratic drift, and doesn’t regard the country as especially central to my Jewish identity. And I know exactly what the congresswoman meant. She might as well call us hook-nosed.”
Dan Shapiro, who served as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Israel from 2011 to 2017 tweeted: “@IlhanMN’s outrageous comments equating politicians’ support for Israel with being bought off by American Jewish money are a vile anti-Semitic trope. They need to be condemned by all in our party.”
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Jonathan Greenblatt contributed to the discussion as well, saying that “words matter.”
“Antisemitism is on the rise in the U.S. and abroad,” Greenblatt said. “The use of this tired antisemitic trope about Jews and money is inappropriate and upsetting. As Americans and Jews, we expect our politicians to condemn bigotry, not fuel it.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who routinely fought against anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, tweeted: “To see this at the UN was a fight every day. This CANNOT be tolerated in our own Congress by anyone of either party. In a time of increased anti semitism, we all must be held to account. No excuses.”
Chelsea Clinton tweeted: “We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in antisemitism.”
Soon after, Omar responded to Clinton, saying, “Chelsea – I would be happy to talk. We must call out smears from the GOP and their allies. And I believe we can do that without criticizing people for their faith.”
The Jerusalem Post noted that “Omar sidetracked the conversation, ignoring the direct criticism for her antisemitic remarks. However, Clinton responded positively, agreeing to schedule a meeting and advance away from prejudices, despite Omar not mentioning the antisemitic comments themselves.”
In January, Omar argued in a Yahoo! News interview that Israel could not be considered a democracy and compared it to the Islamic theocracy in Iran.
“When I see Israel institute laws that recognize it as a Jewish state and does not recognize the other religions that are living in it, and we still uphold it as a democracy in the Middle East I almost chuckle because I know that if we see that any other society we would criticize it, call it out. We do that to Iran, we do that to any other place that sort of upholds its religion. And I see that now happening with Saudi Arabia and so I am aggravated, truly, in those contradictions.”
In 2012, Omar tweeted that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine#Israel.” She did not apologize for posting the tweet until last month.