The defenses of Rep. Ilhan Omar have centered on the fact that AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, really does wield power through money, as lobbies do, and they even brag about it. But in the New York Times, David Leonhardt writes that Omar’s tweet is antisemitic because not all the support for Israel is paid for by money. Much of it is sincere, he says.
He is probably right. But it isn’t a trail of logic he wants to follow to the end.
At this stage, no educated person can buy into the pro-Israel mythology unless they simply choose to ignore the ugly facts. And that’s what many do. They do this because they don’t think Palestinians have the same right to live in their own homeland as Israeli Jews. In fact, most see the right of return solely through Zionist eyes, as a demographic threat to majority Jewish rule. They might say they support a two-state solution, but they aren’t even serious about that, because they will support Israel no matter what and put no pressure on Israel to achieve this goal.
Fundamentally they think Palestinian human rights are of no importance compared to the need to make Israel feel supported. That is the driving force behind support for Israel. Money (Benjamin’s) alone doesn’t explain what is going on. Racism does. Or if the word offends, and golly, everything offends on this subject, call it apathy towards Palestinians when set against the desire to support Israel.
I don’t really see how anyone could deny this. Our political class, including the mainstream press, cares about Omar’s tweet and will go on at length about the dangers of antisemitism, but the apathy and indifference to Palestinian oppression never causes similar outbursts of moral outrage. The New York Times itself published four opinion pieces supporting the shooting of Palestinian demonstrators last year. The writers — 1, Bret Stephens; 2, Matti Friedman; 3, Shmuel Rosner; and 4, Thomas Friedman— had no qualms whatsoever about what Israel did. The editors clearly had no qualms printing those pieces. Most politicians had no qualms with the shooting.
Shooting Palestinians and support for shooting them is entirely mainstream in the United States and in the pages of the Times. Nobody (or nobody who matters) stops to think about how outrageous this is.
A snarky tweet, though— that is serious business.
So it’s not just the Benjamin’s. Ilhan Omar was wrong. It’s the pervasive, often subconscious anti-Palestinian racism.