In last November’s elections, two new Jew-haters entered Congress: Rashida Tlaib, representing a Michigan district with anti-Semitic roots dating back to Henry Ford’s weekly newspaper, the Dearborn Independent publication, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, representing Keith Ellison’s former district.
Initially, Ms. Tlaib’s comments and tweets against Israel garnered more attention, but Rep. Omar since has outdistanced her and emerged as the worst openly anti-Jewish bigot the Congress has seen in decades.
Ilhan Omar is frontal and straightforward. Moreover, despite her several promises to learn from outraged reactions to her prior anti-Jewish tweets and comments, it now is apparent that she will not stop—because the hate is so endemic within her that she cannot stop.
In her most despicable tweet to date, she blasted the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for its lobbying efforts on behalf of Israel, saying “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby!”
In street lingo, “Benjamins” are $100 bills because they bear Benjamin Franklin’s portrait. The term first was used publicly by The Notorious B.I.G. on his debut album, and it is the title of a song by rapper Puff Daddy. Rep. Omar was accusing AIPAC of influencing Congress by spreading cash around, the quintessential anti-Jewish trope.
The irony is that AIPAC seeks to impact policy by meeting with legislative figures and educating them on the issues concerning Israel. Despite the last three letters of its acronym, it is not a Political Action Committee-type “PAC” that donates money but a Public Affairs group. Even more ironically, it is the Arab world that spreads cash around Washington and in academia, buying support. Thus, for example. The Saudis spent $27.3 million in 2017 and Qatar spent $24 million until 2017, with most—$16.3 million—spent in 2017 alone. Both nations dwarf in financial sums any dollars devoted to lobbying by pro-Israeli organizations.
Before Omar even sought national office, her anti-Jewish bigotry already had concerned local Jewish Democrat activists in her Minnesota district. Writing in The Pioneer Press, journalist Dave Orrick reported “Last year, before she was elected to the House of Representatives . . . leaders of Minneapolis’ Jewish community fashioned what could be described as an anti-Semitic intervention of Omar, a rising star of the left whose remarks had made many fellow Democrats in the Jewish community uncomfortable.” (Emphases added.) Minnesota State Senator Ron Lax invited Omar to his home, explaining ““We were a bit troubled about several things she had said.”
Among those “things,” were her infamous 2012 tweet: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” After a meeting that lasted more than two hours, Latz said: “Most of us came out of that conversation very troubled by the answers we received. . . . [T]hose of us who disagree sharply need to speak out publicly and forcefully. Some have been treating her a bit with kid gloves. No more.”
It has not stopped.
Rep. Ilhan Omar has labeled Israel an “apartheid” state and is the first open Congressional supporter of BDS, which calls for boycotts, divestitures, and sanctions uniquely against Israel in a world that includes such other players as North Korea, China, Venezuela, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.
In her latest anti-Jewish outburst, after having promised to stop expressing bigoted tropes in the aftermath of the “Benjamins” outrage, she has accused Israel supporters in Congress of harboring an “allegiance to a foreign country.” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engle responded that the remark was a “vile anti-Semitic slur.”
Unfortunately, even as American society has moved towards rejecting slurs and bigotry when expressed against other groups, Ilhan Omar continues to have a seat on that Foreign Affairs Committee and shows no intention of letting up on her uniquely focused hate for Israel—and for those who support her.
RABBI DOV FISCHER is a contributing writer to jlife magazine.