In a recent interview, U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar claims she has “moved past” the controversy her previous use of antisemitic slurs caused. Not so fast.
In February 2019, commenting on the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, Omar tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby 🎶 ”
Omar was referring to Jewish money (“Benjamins” are $100 bills) and its assumed influence on American politicians, a classic antisemitic slur.
She now claims her “expression of those things was hurtful to people” and that “has really broken my heart.”
Yet, in the same interview, she invokes the same antisemitic trope: that Jewish money wields untold power and influence over American politics, and specifically over President Trump.
This time, there was no clever allusion to “the Benjamins;” she made the slur outright.
Commenting on the Trump administration’s good relations with both Saudi Arabia and Israel (two countries she finds despicable), Omar said, “We know the amount of money and influence and connection that the Saudis have with the administration is really the reason that everything destructive they do is nullified. And that really is no different to what’s happening with Israel.”
“Money … influence … connection.” Sounds like the same antisemitic trope to me.
In case we missed her point, she continued: “There’s an alarming connection to the really destructive policies Israel is proposing and how much of it is being rubber stamped by this administration, and how much of it is being urged by Americans who have connection and influence with this administration.”
Perhaps clouded by her history of antisemitism, it has clearly not occurred to Omar that the Trump administration’s support for Israel might not have anything to do with the need for “Jewish money” and the “influence” it supposedly buys. (This is besides the fact that Trump is certainly rich enough on his own. In 2016, Trump spent $66 million of his own money on his presidential campaign.)
Let me suggest to Omar a few other reasons for the administration’s support for Israel:
- Shared values
- Shared defense strategies
- Frustration with the intransigence of the Palestinian leadership who have rejected every statehood offer given to them (and unleashed war, terror and violence instead) from before the establishment of the state of Israel to the present, no matter how generous the offer was (a sentiment now shared by most of the Arab world)
- Simple belief in the continued existence of the one Jewish state in the world, which necessarily entails defensible borders
Clueless to the overt antisemitism she expressed in the interview, Omar goes on to say, “I talk about Saudi blood money and them being bloodsuckers and no one says, ‘This is Islamophobic.’ But I know if I use those terms for another country [Israel] , that could be [a problem].”
Yes, calling the Jewish state “bloodsuckers” would definitely be a problem, given the world’s penchant for smearing Jews throughout history with “blood libels” (false claims that Jews slaughter Christians –particularly children – to use in their religious rituals).
Omar got one thing right in the interview: “And so you learn what history is tied to words,” she said.
This is certainly true when it comes to the Jews: Blood libels and antisemitic incitement have a long history of causing death to entire communities of Jews as well as individuals of the faith.
What Omar didn’t get right was her declaration that, “As someone who didn’t have an understanding [of “what history is tied to words”], I now do.”
Not yet, congresswoman.