Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What was wrong with Ilhan Omar's tweets about Israel and AIPAC?

Some are saying, "Well, Rep. Ilhan Omar was right: AIPAC really is an influential pro-Israel lobbying organization, and it does use money to exert its influence! So what's the problem with her two tweets [now deleted] that were denounced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional Democrats?"

This Reason piece explains what that's missing. Yes, you can look at Omar's two tweets that have gotten the most attention and say each one on its own has some truth to it. But that's overlooking the larger context of her statements. She was responding to a Haaretz article about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's criticism of Omar's statement from years ago that "Israel has hypnotized the world," and the world must "awaken" to "see the evil doings of Israel."

To her credit, Omar has apologized for those statements (though her recent response to Pelosi was called a "nonapology" by my mom, Ann Althouse). But it's still troubling when a member of Congress uses old anti-Semitic tropes about Jews as an elite group secretly controlling the world with all their money. You don't get to keep pulling out invidious stereotypes about a historically marginalized group and then plead innocent because hey, there is some truth to your statements. That's setting the bar too low for our national leaders. To insist on reading each individual tweet by Omar in isolation from everything else she's expressed about the topic would be applying a skewed standard that we shouldn't apply to any powerful government official.

As David Bernstein says in the Reason post:

Let's be generous, and assume she meant AIPAC to begin with. Two freshman Democrats who have attracted a great deal of attention are widely perceived to have engaged in anti-Semitic rhetoric while criticizing Israel. The leader of the House GOP, just off demoting a member of his caucus for racist comments, threatens similar action against the two Democrats. . . . Suggesting in the absence of 'Israel lobby' money, the House Republican leader wouldn't call out anti-Semitism by House Democrats suggests that you believe that the lobby, i.e., Jews, are pulling the strings in a classic Jewish-conspiracy kind of way, such that even the most mundane and obvious of political maneuvers are really just tribute to a Jewish cabal.