There Is A Taboo Against Criticizing AIPAC — And Ilhan Omar Just Destroyed It

We should thank Omar, the freshman lawmaker, for having the guts to raise this contentious issue.

By Mehdi Hasan
The Intercept (2/12/19)

In 2005,  Steven Rosen, then a senior official with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, sat down for dinner with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, then of the New Yorker. “You see this napkin?” Rosen asked Goldberg. “In twenty-four hours, [AIPAC] could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin.”

I couldn’t help but be reminded of this anecdote after Rep. Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, was slammed by Democrats and Republicans alike over her suggestion, in a pair of tweets, that U.S. politicians back the state of Israel because of financial pressure from AIPAC (“It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she declaimed). Was the flippant way in which she phrased her tweets a problem? Did it offend a significant chunk of liberal U.S. Jewish opinion? Did it perhaps unwittingly play into anti-Semitic tropes about rich Jews controlling the world? Yes, yes, and yes — as she herself has since admitted and “unequivocally” apologized for. But was she wrong to note the power of the pro-Israel lobby, to point a finger at AIPAC, to highlight — in her apology — “the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry”?

No, no, and no.

To pretend money doesn’t play a role — or that AIPAC doesn’t have a big impact on members of Congress and their staffers — is deeply disingenuous.

Rosen, after all, wasn’t the first AIPAC official to boast about the the raw power that “America’s bipartisan pro-Israel lobby” exercises in Washington, D.C. Go back earlier, to 1992, when then-AIPAC President David Steiner was caught on tape bragging that he had “cut a deal” with the George H.W. Bush White House to provide $3 billion in U.S. aid to Israel. Steiner also claimed to be “negotiating” with the incoming Clinton administration over the appointment of pro-Israel cabinet members. AIPAC, he said, has “a dozen people in [the Clinton] campaign, in the headquarters … and they’re all going to get big jobs.”

Getting the message

Go back further, to 1984, when Sen. Charles Percy, a moderate Republican from Illinois, was defeated in his re-election campaign after he “incurred AIPAC’s wrath” by declining to sign onto an AIPAC-sponsored letter and daring to refer to Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat as more “moderate” than other Palestinian resistance figures. AIPAC contributors raised more than a million dollars to help defeat Percy. As Tom Dine, then-executive director of AIPAC, gloated in a speech shortly after the GOP senator’s defeat, “all the Jews, from coast to coast, gathered to oust Percy. And the American politicians —  those who hold public positions now, and those who aspire — got the message.”

Nearly four decades later…

Read the Rest

  • Really? Senate Guts 1st Amendment To Shield Israel From Boycott, But Ilhan Omar Can’t Bring Up AIPAC? — AIPAC and the Israel lobbies are enormously influential in American politics and putting discussion of them off limits, as the lobbies would like to do, is a diminution of our democratic discourse and a sort of totalitarianism. … Read the Rest


  • Glenn Greenwald Defends Rep. Ilhan Omar: Criticizing Israeli Lobby & AIPAC Is Not Anti-Semitic — Democratic Congressmember Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is facing criticism today after commenting on a tweet by Glenn Greenwald. On Sunday, Greenwald tweeted, ”GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy threatens punishment for @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib over their criticisms of Israel. It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.” Rep. Omar retweeted his post and added the line: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” She later named AIPAC as the organization paying American politicians to be pro-Israel. Link to Story, Transcript and 5-Minute Video


  • GOP Strategist Shames The Hypocrites In His Party Calling For Rep. Ilhan Omar To Resign — African American Republican strategist Shermichael Singleton had harsh words on Wednesday for the “hypocrites” in his own party, telling MSNBC the GOP had “no moral authority” to call for the resignation of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar after she made comments critical of AIPAC. Host Hallie Jackson noted that Omar’s response to President Donald Trump’s call for her resignation highlighted the president’s own long history of racial and religious bigotry, and asked if the Republicans were guilty of double standards. Singleton didn’t hold back.  “Of course it’s a double standard,” he said, saying the party was indulging in “a fallacy we call a tu quoque, it’s an appeal to hypocrisy.” “The Republicans are saying ‘you shouldn’t do this, therefore this person should resign,’” he said, saying the party was quite content to tolerate the likes of Steve King (R-IA) and Cindy Hyde Smith, both of who have been cited for racism, including making jokes about lynchings. “It’s difficult for Republicans to say ‘Democrats, you need to clean up your house’ when our house is a complete disaster.” … Read the Rest and 3-Minute Video


llhan Omar: Anti-Semitism? Or Fear Of Finally Having Some Open Debate On Israel?


Why Are They Really Mad At Ilhan Omar?

Real News Network (2/12/19)

What does being a woman of color have to do with it? She said no more than other critics of American policy in the Middle East. Marc Steiner, Shir Hever, Charles Lenchner, and Phyllis Bennis discuss the issue.

Link to 23-Minute Video