Ilhan Omar at the SOTU - 2019 (
by Steve Timmer
Feb 12, 2019, 8:00 PM

The giant freakout continues, unabated

We’ll start with a quote:

Because of the long and horrific tradition of European anti-Jewish bigotry, it is difficult to speak of the power of the Israel lobbies, and bringing the subject up often attracts charges of anti-Semitism. That is because European Christians created false and outrageous accusations against Jews of stealing Christian babies and using their blood in rituals, or of being unduly influential in banking, or of secretly forming a cabal to control governments. These anti-Semitic tropes (which led to the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews) [and lots of others, too, ed.] are hurtful, false and ultimately murderous.

But this history of Christian irrational bigotry is no excuse to deny that Jewish nationalists or Zionists have indeed organized themselves to fund political campaigns at a much higher level than average Americans, and to strategize influence in the US government.

That’s Juan Cole, writing on his website, Informed Comment. This is absolutely correct, and in a private moment the pro-Israel lobby will admit it.

But for the sin of telling this truth, Rep. Ilhan Omar was forced by House leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to make — in the words of one commenter on Twitter — a hostage video-style apology.

Some things are true but just not said.

Even the Strib’s editorial board piled on.

One is almost inclined to quote the Bard and say that House members doth protest too much.

Really, I think they do. Why? It would be fun to compile a roster of House members who took all-expense-paid trips to Israel at AIPAC’s expense. Or received contributions at the instance of AIPAC.

Many people, including me, think that Israel is committing genocide on the installment plan against the Palestinians. It is very important, though, to keep the U.S. Congress on board with the program.

The BDS initiative that is gaining traction around the world terrifies the Israelis. It should.

The congressional response is to try to take the criticism of Israel and its program of apartheid and genocide off the table for discussion.  It passed in the Senate; it was S1 this session. Both of Minnesota’s senators, Tina Smith, and Amy Klobuchar, the candidate for all of us, voted for it.

It is blatantly, and sickeningly, a violation of the First Amendment, and it doesn’t say much for human rights, either.

If you think that the reach of AIPAC and its fellow travelers is only at the federal level, though, you would be sorely mistaken. More about that next time.

Update 2-13: There is a great article in In These Times by Nora Barrows-Friedman on the topic of Omar, the Congress, and AIPAC. I am going to quote just a few of its paragraphs, but I encourage you to hit the link and read it all.

“[B]y slamming the freshman representative, Pelosi, Schumer and the entire Democratic party revealed precisely what Omar pointed out: AIPAC, like other enormous lobby groups, wields its power by pushing politicians [around?] to protect their interests and silencing those who refuse to cower.

“The politicians also allowed an actual anti-Semitic trope to proliferate: the conflation of legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish bigotry.”

“Tellingly, mainstream media outlets—including The New York Times and Politico—falsely reported that Omar referred to “Jewish money” in her criticism of AIPAC, when all she had done was point out the lobby group’s direct influence over U.S. politicians—influence about which AIPAC itself openly boasts.”

And one of the author’s most important points:

“[Rep. Kevin] McCarthy, like his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, pledging to protect “the Jewish people,” slid into a casual conflation between Jews and Israel, which is itself an act of anti-Semitism.”

A few years ago, on Meet the Press, David Gregory hilariously introduced Benjamin Netanyahu as “the leader of the Jews.” Barrows-Friedman disabuses us of the idea:

“AIPAC is not a Jewish advocacy organization. It is a far-right-wing Zionist organization which exists to promote Israel’s political interests and wield significant political influence inside the halls of power.”

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