Representative Ilan Omar has apologized. When she said that Republicans are attracted to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) because of the Benjamins, she did engage in an old antisemitic trope. However, criticism of AIPAC is not necessarily antisemitic. And she has apologized saying she was not aware that this was what it was.
However, this is important. The Republicans are now using this to political advantage. The president has called for her to quit Congress or at the very least the Foreign Affairs Committee. This is coming from a president who has engaged in virulent racism all his life. Sure, he has cover from Ivanka, who converted to Judaism, but that does not mean he is not what he is.
Why is this? It could not be because they are concerned about antisemitism. Not when Leader Kevin McCarthy posts an antisemitic Tweet since deleted but embedded here, attacking George Soros, Tom Steyer (who is half Jewish) and Michael Bloomberg. Leader McCarthy has yet to apologize. We are waiting…
Nor can we take them seriously when we know that Steve Scalise has engaged in some lovely messaging. He attended a meeting in 2002 of the EURO committee, which was formed by David Duke, former grand wizard of the KKK. According to the Washington Post:
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the House majority whip, acknowledged Monday that he spoke at a gathering hosted by white-supremacist leaders while serving as a state representative in 2002, thrusting a racial controversy into House Republican ranks days before the party assumes control of both congressional chambers.
Scalise, 49, who ascended to the House GOP’s third-ranking post this year, confirmed through an adviser that he once appeared at a convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO. But the adviser said the congressman didn’t know at the time about the group’s affiliation with racists and neo-Nazi activists.
He denies that he knew who they were. However, that is hard to believe, truly.
There is no way to forget about Representative Steve King who has a long history of white supremacy. He may have lost his committee assignments, but I suspect it is because the embarrassment of many years finally caught up to him.
This is purely about the fact that Omar is young, she is a woman, she is an immigrant, from Somalia, and she is Muslim. This is what is going on. They are not going after her because of her antisemitism. And as a daughter of the Holocaust, I accept her apology, an explanation that she did not know. May this be a learning moment, and hopefully she will engage with others in Congress and learn.
Many of these tropes circulate in multiple communities, and people repeat them without knowing what they are. To this particular one, way too many people do not know the history of that Antisemitic trope and if you are not exposed to a group, it’s easy to adopt them. So if she learns from it, fine. May some of her Jewish colleagues invite her to Shabat dinner and show compassion, and likewise, may she teach them about her culture. We all can benefit from that cultural exchange.
Now this matters, If she wishes to be critical of AIPAC, or for that matter the Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu, by all means. I will join her. Why? The far right Likud government is not precisely filled with saints. And to be honest, Bibi is in even more hot water than the president. He may face a court, with his wife, fairly soon. They are not above reproach.
AIPAC's influence in American foreign policy is exaggerated though. Mostly because our policy has to do with geography and geopolitics, but it should come under scrutiny, like any other special interest group. We have enabled a lot of really bad stuff around the world, not just in the Middle East. Whether AIPAC had anything to do with it, or not is beside the point. And if you are not aware, there is another group that advocates for progressive Jews, and that the Likud does not like. This is J-Street. Why? They are openly critical of both AIPAC and the Likud.
And while we are within this subject, why did the president move the American embassy to Jerusalem? While Netanyahu was applauding, it has little to do with Israel and all to do with the American Christian fundamentalist right. Speaking of antisemitism, these people see this as another step towards the end of days, and the second coming. This implies the death of most Jews with the conversation of 50,000 that will herald the glory of the thousand years reign. Let’s be crystal clear, this is millenarian and implies another Holocaust.
So having the president demand this resignation from a newly sworn in backbencher, given this context, is bizarre. However, it makes sense within the racism we have come to expect from the president and the party he leads.
This will die soon, I suspect. Chaos is the way to rule and this is just one more day of that from the administration.