'Anti-Semitism' claims prove Ilhan Omar was right: Israel lobby does have massive influence over politicians

'Anti-Semitism' claims prove Ilhan Omar was right: Israel lobby does have massive influence over politicians
Comment: Meanwhile, the president's anti-Semitism and Republicans' widespread Islamophobia is ignored, writes CJ Werleman.
5 min read
06 Mar, 2019
Ilhan Omar rightly said the Israel lobby holds a lot of influence over politicians [Getty]

When the United States' first black Muslim Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, responded to attacks on her by Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy – because her criticism of Israel's occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians accurately but clumsily narrated how AIPAC, the spearhead of the Israel lobby, influences US foreign policy via sizeable campaign donations – she was instantly and predictably smeared as an anti-Semite by both political parties and US President Donald Trump.

Never mind the fact AIPAC spent more than $22 million in political donations towards lobbying US lawmakers in 2018. Never mind the fact that AIPAC boasts of how much influence and control it has over an overwhelming majority of US lawmakers, with The Intercept documenting how one pro-Israel lobbyist described AIPAC as the "best bang for your buck", and another claiming politicians do nothing unless you pay them.

These objective truths mattered not one iota as Omar (D-MN) was attacked from all corners, with one Trump campaign adviser calling her "filth".

Yes, apparently this Trump aide missed the part where his boss described neo-Nazis, who chanted "Jews will not replace us", as "some very fine people" and who has routinely shared anti-Semitic memes on Twitter and engaged in negative Jewish stereotypes during the past several years.

This behaviour is fine for the president of the United States, it seems. But when a Black Muslim American woman accurately narrates the inordinate financial influence pro-Israel lobby groups have over Washington DC, she's an "anti-Semite", apparently.

Even more shocking is the way in which the leadership of Omar's own political party – the Democratic Party – threw her to the wolves, making her an easy target for far-right fascists and thugs, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) calling her comments "deeply offensive".

Never mind the fact Pelosi has received more than $500,000 from pro-Israel groups throughout her political career, which not only explains her hawkish support for Israel, but also speaks to the very point Omar was trying to make.

None of this is to suggest, however, that anti-Semitism isn't a stubborn and growing problem in the United States. Anti-Semitic hate crimes surged by 57 percent in 2017, the first full year of Trump's presidency, representing the largest year-on-year increase since the Anti-Defamation League began collecting data in 1979.

Equally, also, is the fact hate crimes against Muslims are spiking at the same time, with the Southern Poverty Law Center documenting a 44 percent rise in the same 12-month period. But whereas actual anti-Semitism, which Omar's tweet was not, is roundly and vociferously condemned, Islamophobia continues to enjoy a free ride.

Last week, a signboard at an event sponsored by the Republican Party outside the West Virginia House of Delegates bore an image of the destroyed World Trade Center juxtaposed with a picture of Omar, essentially tying the Muslim congresswoman to the 9/11 attacks carried out by al-Qaeda.

"Never forget. I am proof you have forgotten," read the caption to the vile and hateful signboard.

But was the Republican Party widely condemned for engaging and profiteering from naked anti-Muslim discrimination? Did the US president issue a statement condemning Islamophobia, like he did when he smeared Omar as an anti-Semite? And what about the senior leadership of the Democratic Party, did they issue a statement in defence of their Muslim colleague as she was placed on a hit-list for far-right terrorists?

The answer to all of the above questions is a resounding no. Actually, it's worse.

Speaker Pelosi and leading Democrats have drafted a resolution they will take to the floor on Wednesday, which is meant to counter remarks Omar has made about Israel, making it the second such rebuke of her from party leaders since her tweet about the financial influence of pro-Israel groups.

If the House bill advances, it will be an unprecedented moment in US political history, and given the Senate only recently passed a bill that effectively criminalises the boycott and criticism of Israel, one that certainly violates the constitutional right to free speech, then one can witness just how powerful the Israel lobby is in real time.

Take a moment also to consider that even as the country's first Black Muslim woman is being targeted with death threats on home soil because of a GOP-sponsored signboard linking her to 9/11, senior members of her own party are not only staying silent on these Islamophobic attacks, but also drafting a resolution that attacks her for being critical of the unduly influence a foreign country has over US politics.

This perfectly and succinctly narrates just how normalised and socially acceptable anti-Muslim animus has become in the United States, particularly Islamophobic tropes that link Muslims to terrorism, which provide US policy elites the space to demonise, racially profile and carry out mass surveillance against Muslim communities at the same time it's also bombing Muslim-majority countries under the guise of the "War on Terror".

If falsely tying Jews to money is anti-Semitic, and it is - and it's also something Omar is not guilty of doing - then it should be called out and condemned. But then also should those who falsely tie Muslims to terrorism, and we can't combat hate while passing laws to address the former, and turning a blind eye to the latter.

CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.