Ilhan Omar Did NOTHING Wrong

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Ilhan Omar Did NOTHING Wrong

Jack Corcoran, Staff

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When Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar posted on her Twitter, saying “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” in reference to GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy criticizing her and fellow representative Rashida Tlaib’s criticisms of the Israeli government, there was swift criticism from both the GOP and the Democratic Party. Many on both sides considered her remarks to be anti-Semitic; however, they failed to grasp that Omar wasn’t pushing the age-old tropes of Jewish people and money, but instead offering a correct criticism of pro-Israeli lobbying, and of money in politics in general.

Support for Israel is on the decline, despite our President stirring up controversy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the U.S. Embassy to that location from Tel Aviv. How can this be? Israel goes against everything the United States stands for.

Despite being a “so-called” democracy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on his fourth term. There is no separation of church and state. Palestinian Arabs are treated as if they are second-class citizens, herding them onto small pieces of territory, and ending any protest beneath an iron boot. There is good reason for this–terrorist groups among the Palestinians are a plenty, and they pose a real threat to Israel, however, what does Israel expect given the ongoing struggle over land, water rights, tradition, religion, and security?

Palestinians are killed at an alarming rate; for every Israeli death, there are roughly 8 Palestinians killed. Every Palestinian is treated as a terrorist as they are walled them into the Gaza Strip. Is this really a country that America should be supporting?

American support is strongly influenced by one pro-Israeli lobbying group led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Pro-Israel lobbying groups’ involvement in U.S. politics has risen steadily over the past twenty years, culminating in the 2018 election cycle where lobbying groups contributed $14.5 million in campaign donations and lobbying efforts, primarily on the Democratic side, thus explaining the harsh criticism Omar suffered from her own party’s leadership.

While AIPAC doesn’t directly contribute to campaigns, many private donors do. Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, received over $500,000 from Pro-Israel lobbying groups in the 2018 midterms. In all, 267 members of Congress and 57 Senators all received some sort of money from Pro-Israel interests in 2018.

This has all been laid to show that Omar didn’t do anything wrong except that she decided to criticize Israel while being Muslim. Omar didn’t say that Israel has influence financially because they’re Jewish, but rather because they have powerful lobbying interests. Even Senator McCarthy received over $30,000 in campaign contributions during the midterms.

While the anti-Semitic trope of a money-controlling Jewish person is very damaging, criticizing the Israeli interests in our policy isn’t anti-Semitic; there are hundreds of lobbying groups wrongly influencing our federal government, many of them not even remotely connected with Israel or their interests.

All Omar was doing was keeping her campaign promise of keeping money out of politics and running fair elections–actually listening to her constituents–which is something that many lobbying groups, including AIPAC and their donors, force politicians not to do. AIPAC doesn’t get a reprieve from this fair criticism because of their religion. They–on top of all the other interest groups that prioritize their interests over the American people’s–need to get out of Washington.