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writing for godot

Establishment Pulls Out the Anti-Semitic Card Against Ilhan Omar

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Written by David Starr   
Wednesday, 20 February 2019 13:08

Once again, someone is berated for criticizing a pro-Israel entity. In this case, the anti-Semitic card was pulled out against Ilhan Omar (D-MN) for criticizing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the influence it has in the dealing with the U.S. Congress; not to mention criticisms of Israel.

Regarding Omar's apology: on the one hand, I don't think she should have, but on the other hand she has faced a powerful backlash. Most in Congress, Trump as well, are deeply pro-Israel and it is virtually a sin to say anything negative about a pro-Israel entity, be it AIPAC or Israel itself, although the latter has done some horrendous things against Palestinians. And it still does them.

Omar had the class to say that "Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole." But this still won't satisfy those who are pro-Israeli hardliners. Trump, e.g., said "I think she should be ashamed of herself. I think it was a terrible statement and I don't think her apology was adequate." ("Ilan Omar Apologizes for Statements Condemned as Anti-Semitic," by Sheryl Gay Stolberg. New York Times, 2/11/2019.) This coming from someone who incites racism and intolerance.

Writing in the Foreign Policy Journal (3/22/2016), L. Michael Hager gives figures showing how much influence AIPAC has had on Congress: "Among the presidential candidates for 2015-16 [e.g.], AIPAC generated contributions in the amount of $212,927 for Hillary Clinton and $203,850 for Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio received $132,552 and LIndsey Graham $74,200. No surprise that all of those candidates have pledged 'full support' for Israel." Additionally, 25 members of Congress who will be speakers at the annual Policy Conference of AIPAC have "received 2016 contributions from pro-Israel PACs and individuals, averaging $36,000 per recipient ($908,000 in total)." AIPAC has its own pro-Israel PAC.

Hager mentions that AIPAC itself doesn't make contributions since it is illegal to do so. But, with a $3 million annual budget, AIPAC connects members of Congress with pro-Israel donors. Given AIPAC's influence, Congress members are encouraged to accept pro-Israel positions. If not, AIPAC supports others who will. For example, by not taking a pro-Israel stance, former Representative Paul Findley and former Senator Charles Percy were no longer holding their seats.

As Omar said, anti-Semitism is real. It's been told over and over of how the Jews have suffered for centuries, the worst being in the 20th century. But in a twist of tragic irony, Israel, lead by the right, has inflicted suffering on the Palestinian people. Since 2013, 45 resolutions have been passed in the United Nations Human Rights Council condemning Israel, which has been called an apartheid state. In a UN press release (3/20/2018), there are descriptions of how Palestinians are being oppressed: arbitrary detention; violations of international humanitarian and human rights law; restrictions to freedom of movement; electricity cuts of up to 20 hours a day in Gaza; the blockade of Gaza, which has become unbearable to its inhabitants; expansion of Israeli settlements; and companies doing business with Israel to help expand the settlements.

Israel has been occupying Palestinian territory for 50 years, to the point of virtual annexation. This is perhaps the key point that is thwarting peace efforts. The Israeli right is not interested in a two-state solution. They have given themselves the "right" to take Palestinian land, basing it on ultra-nationalism and religious dogma. While Israel has a right to defend itself from those who want it destroyed, it hypocritically takes Palestinian land to where there might not be a Palestine anymore.

Issac Green, writing in The Dartmouth (2/23/2017), says that it is a "tired argument that criticism of Israel amounts to anti-Semitism." I will say it is a reactionary response to criticism. While it is justifiable to have awareness to things like the Holocaust and the Final Solution, Israel is still not exempt from criticism.

It took a lot of courage for Ilhan Omar to be critical of AIPAC and Israel. AIPAC does exert a lot of influence on the U.S. Congress in regards to the U.S.'s foreign policy towards Israel. Omar was merely pointing that out.

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