This is the story that is being talked about the last couple of days, and it can’t stop:
Freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has tweeted “It’s about the Benjamins” in response to Glenn Greenwald, said it was about AIPAC, and then everyone went berserk about her supposedly applying anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money…
Once again it has been pointed out, that Ilhan Omar is being attacked for something that New York Times columnist, veteran Israel-apologist Tom Friedman, basically wrote in 2011:
I hope that Israel’s prime minister understands that standing ovation he got in Congress this year wasn’t for his politics. That ovation was bought & paid for by the Israel lobby.
We are witnessing political censorship of Omar, which has a racist bias to it (since she’s not Jewish); she’s not allowed to say what a Jewish-Zionist can say.
Omar was not speaking about Jews. Her critics were. Neither was she speaking about Jews in her 2012 tweet – her critics were. Astonishingly, she, rather than her critics, is being accused of being the racist.
Why is this happening?
It is happening because Omar is challenging Zionism. And everyone is panicking. This was not supposed to happen ever in American politics, and the Democratic party is scared that they will split on this, and lose it to the Republicans, who appear to have no problem endorsing Zionism fully. Omar is simply one of those who do not share the sensibilities of the Israel-apologetic Zionists (be they in fact Jews, Israelis, or not), and together with Rep. Rashida Tlaib, is openly promoting sanctions (as well as divestments and boycotts – BDS) against Israel, as a democratic means of holding Israel to account for its violations of international law and Palestinian rights.
The essence and core of the critique is not to defend Jews per se (just as Omar wasn’t criticizing Jews per se). It is to defend Israel.
There a circular logic at play here. Zionism=Jews. The whole point of it is to keep state leaderships in line with Zionism. And when the Zionists note a danger of people who are not Zionists who rise to power, they attempt to take them down – not necessarily for what they have actually said, but for what they may come to do, in the future, which may be disadvantageous to Israeli-Zionist interests.
This is why this story is such a deja-vu when considering the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the British Labour for their so-called “anti-Semitic problem”, since Corbyn was elected to lead the party 3.5 years ago. It is not about Corbyn being anti-Semitic – it is about him not toeing the Zionist line, it is about his pro-Palestinian stance. British Jewish clergy has also been instrumental in that, as when chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis suggested that usage of the word “Zionist” has become “another form of anti-Semitism”, further opining that “one can no more separate [Zionism] from Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain”.
The difference between the Omar-Tlaib presence in the U.S. House and Jeremy Corbyn is only that he was elected to lead a party, and they were elected as representatives in Congress, but it’s essentially identical, and we’re already seeing the same patterns. Just like the attacks against Corbyn were not just from the Tories but also from the Blairite Labour constituency, so have the US Dem leaders condemned Omar for her recent tweets.
It’s very clear that these old-guard leaders fear that the orthodox pro-Israel, pro-Zionist party stance, may soon be challenged, and they want to stomp it down. Thus, Nancy Pelosi played the mother, as if Omar was an ill-mannered teenager, saying:
In our conversation today, Congresswoman Omar and I agreed that we must use this moment to move forward as we reject anti-Semitism in all forms.
Rejecting anti-Semitism in all its forms is good. But what about rejecting racism in all its forms? What about rejecting the blatant racism of Israel? What about rejecting the racism of allowing Jews to criticize Israel in a way that non-Jews are not allowed?
There’s a reason why the Republicans feel that they have a great card against the Democrats. Because Israel represents a great ideological ally for these people. It’s not because they love Jews, really. It’s because Israel represents the nationalist imperialist ally that they feel good with. So they are looking with glee at how the Democrats are struggling to contain this. They have likewise weaponized the S1 bill that contains anti-BDS legislation, as a means of portraying the Democrats as soft on Israel and anti-Semitism.
Kevin McCarthy, who pushed the Democrats to take action against Omar and Tlaib, said:
If they [the Democrats] do not take action I think you’ll see action from myself.
McCarthy not only compared Omar and Tlaib to Steve King (the Iowa Republican who was isolated for speaking favorably of white supremacy), but even suggested they were worse. That’s what Glenn Greenwald was tweeting about when he wrote, “It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans”, and that’s what Omar responded to.
Let’s not forget, that McCarthy, the man who so vehemently chides Omar and Tlaib for their supposed racism, has himself trafficked in anti-Semitism, as when he tweeted last year that “we cannot allow Soros, Steier and Bloomberg to BUY this election!”.
So that’s the level of this debate. Those who speak out against Israel, or even allude to its lobby power, are being accused of being racists (of the special kind, that is – ‘anti-Semites’), and regarded as even worse than white-supremacists – moralized by actual anti-Semitic racists, who are acting as Israel-protectors.
Is it about Jews? Not per se. It’s about Israel. It’s about what Israel represents as a political-strategic power, and how it influences US governance. The pretext of “Jewish state” allows its protectors to shout “anti-Semitism” when that is challenged, but it’s really about politics, and religion is simply weaponized. So it’s all about Israel, baby. Whether it will be led by this Benjamin (Netanyahu) or that Benjamin (Gantz), it’s about Israel. Israel claims it’s all about Jews, but many Jews reject that, and say that’s just a pretext for colonialist oppression of the Palestinians. And that oppression relies on a lot of lobbying, and a lot of Benjamins.