This weekend, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Rep. Ilhan Omar, a woman who had previously argued that Jews had hypnotized the world for their “evil” deeds, claimed that Americans only supported Israel because of American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) “Benjamins”— and then retweeted a person pointing out that she might as well call all Jews “hooked nose.”
Many progressives immediately jumped to her defense. Others argued that Omar should stop deploying these ugly tropes because they undermine her larger, more subtle position that a Jewish state shouldn’t exist at all. Finally, Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership offered a genuine condemnation of her comments.
The problem is that “anti-Zionism,” the predominant justification for violence, murder, and hatred against Jews in Europe and the Middle East, is a growing position on the American Left. While Omar embraces the worst caricatures of this ideology, it’s her core contention regarding the Jewish state–not her clumsy “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”-style insults, which are just a manifestation of her position—which are most consequential.
Rather than denounce them, many progressives embraced the dishonest notion that Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who we recently found out wrote a piece for the anti-Semitic publication of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, are merely being “critical of Israel.”
No serious person has ever made the claim that being critical of Israel’s policies is anti-Semitic. Israel has had both left-wing and right-wing governments over the years. And like governments in any liberal democracy, they can be corrupt, misguided, or incompetent. Millions of Israelis are critical of their own nation’s policies every year without any fear of repercussions. Israel isn’t Iran or Turkey, countries that most of Israel’s critics never disparage.
But the best way to gauge if a person is merely being “critical” of Israel’s policies or critical of the existence of the Jewish state is to use Natan Sharansky’s 3-d test: 1) Do they engage in “delegitimization” of the nation’s existence as every supporter of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) does? 2) Do they engage in “demonization” of that country, as people who claim Israelis hypnotize the world for evil or go around murdering children for kicks do? 3) Do they engage in “double standards,” like having an obsession with Israel and AIPAC, while ignoring illiberalism found throughout the Islamic world or things like Muslim concentration camps found in China?
The second myth pushed by Omar’s defenders is that Israel dictates American foreign policy with their shekels. The first part of this argument is absurd when one considers that over the past few years the American government passed the Iran deal – which Israel saw as existential threat– and the American president has embraced the idea of withdrawing troops from Syria. Most of the time, the United States sides with Israel because most of the time Israel’s ideals comport with our own.
Then, of course, there’s a significant difference between contending that you disagree with AIPAC’s positions and contending that AIPAC bribes Americans with lots of Benjamins. For starters, it’s a lie, since AIPAC doesn’t give any money to politicians. And as Emily Zanotti, and others have pointed out, AIPAC, which, with all its supernatural ability to hypnotize lawmakers, spends around $3.5 million on lobbying for Israel policies in a good year. “It barely even cracks the top 50, is dwarfed by the *beer wholesalers*” Zanotti writes. “In contrast, Planned Parenthood’s PAC spent $20M in 2016.”
Though it might be tough for progressives to understand, many Americans still prefer Israel over Hamas, the PLO, and Iran for reasons other than money. For example, a shared understanding of liberalism, theological reasons, historic ties, political realities, and practical geopolitical reasons. Though I concede that contemporary progressives might not embrace these values anymore. For many decades, however, polls showed widespread support for Israel. AIPAC’s success is predicated on that support.
If you take the side of Hamas over the Israelis, then you are definitely anti-Semitic. I’ve experienced the “criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic” argument (oddly from the same “you only criticize Obama because he is black and you are racist” types) but accepting the tactic of Hamas and the Palestinians of firing rockets into neighborhoods and then acting like spanked children when Israel retaliates only comes from anti-Semitism. No other explanation will work.
Omar’s ideology was not unknown. It is difficult to think Pelosi was surprised by this when she had placed her on the House Committee for Foreign Relations. Why would she put such a controversial anti-Semite on that… or ANY… committee.
One of Omar’s supporters accused Republicans of trying to take away her right to free speech; I guess they forget the attacks on Steve King.
People like Ilhan Omar were expecting to be enabled by their fellow Dems like Pelosi.
Must have been a surprise that they’re not getting this support.
But too many Jewish Americans see no air between hating Israel and hating all Jews.
And most American Jews support Dems, for some reason that mystifies me.
In Paris, just this week, the world is seeing the pre-Kristalnacht prep work as Jew-haters (I mean Israel-haters, right?) have gone thru the city painting “Jewish owned” (in French) on all businesses and apartments seemingly owned by Jews there.
What will happen next in Paris?
Will the real Jew haters try to hide their crimes against people and property behind those Yellow Vest Protests?
Because it is clearly two different sets of protests.
The difference is she isnt standing for being against islamophopia, he was trying to explain the kill all white people racism that seems so popular today, as being against racism toward whites is automatically white supremacy.
@kitt: Oh, I agree that the criticism of King was misguided, but it arose from Republicans, fearing the media, immediately. With Democrats, outrage has to rise to a crescendo before they react as if they were offended by it themselves all along. But, my point was that Democrats don’t think “free speech” is applied to all.