This weekend, just hours after U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) posted a tweet implying that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) pays off American politicians to defend Israel, she had already apologized, in response to a swift rebuke from House Democratic leaders.
In two separate tweets, Omar called out AIPAC as a major influencer of U.S. foreign policy and noted that their influence was “all about the Benjamins”, a reference to 90s rap lyrics referring to $100 bills.
Pro-Israel groups, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, quickly leapt to accusations of anti-Semitism. As our readers intimately know, Omar is one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress, along with Michigan’s own Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), who is also the first Palestinian Arab woman elected to Congress.
Bowing to pressure from House Democratic leadership, Omar quickly issued an “unequivocal apology.” We believe that her apology was unnecessary and counterproductive.
A day later, President Trump called for her resignation anyway, showing yet again that apologizing simply does not work in the face of a heavy handed pro-Israel establishment.
From the onset, Omar and Tlaib, by virtue of their mere existence as Muslims and their willingness to address injustices against the Palestinians, have been repeatedly accused of hating Jews and being anti-Semitic. This is a longtime tactic of pro-Israel lobbies and groups. It is usually nothing more than a power play to kill any discussion about Israel’s conduct and stifle debate when it comes to its oppression and continuing brutal occupation of Palestinians.
Anti-Semitism is a real phenomenon with real consequences, like the horrific massacre in a Pittsburgh synagogue last year, perpetrated by an avowed White nationalist terrorist.
Pointing out that AIPAC uses money to influence political decisions is not anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic. AIPAC boasts of an annual revenue of about $100 million according to a Wall Street Journal report, and a staff of more than 400 lobbyists on Capitol Hill. AIPAC has a huge lobbying engine and its fuel is money, or lots of “Benjamins.” Further, AIPAC encourages its more than 100,000 members to support candidates and create political action committees to donate millions to the politicians of its choice and toe the line of its pro Israeli policies, or unseat those elected officials that oppose them. This is how AIPAC operates. Describing that is not anti-Semitic; it is politics and it is the truth.
The debate over the influence of pro-Israel groups is documented by an investigation by Al Jazeera network, in which an undercover reporter infiltrated the Israel Project, a Washington-based group, and secretly recorded conversations about political strategy and influence over a six-month period in 2016. That investigation, however, was never aired by the network — suppressed by pressure from the pro-Israel lobby.
In November, the Electronic Intifada obtained and published the four-part series.
In the documentary leaders of the pro-Israel lobby speak openly and bluntly about how they use money to influence the political process in Washington D.C.
Can we loudly criticize or talk about the National Rifle Association (NRA)? The big pharmaceutical lobby? The fossil and fuel industry? Of course. Must we stay silent on AIPAC? Of course not.
Omar’s statement isn’t anti-Semitic; she was only telling a documented fact.
Ironically, her apology served the interests of AIPAC, which seeks to silence debate about Israel. And, sadly, Omar’s apology did just that. It displayed weakness at a time when solidarity with Palestinians is at an all-time high. In fact, the apology means nothing to the Pro Israeli side and the right wing forces that will continue to attack Omar and Tlaib with a ridiculously racist approach.
We support U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, but not her misguided apology.