Critiquing Israel Policy Worse Than White Nationalism, Says GOP Leader

Reason – by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

New members of Congress clash with GOP leader over Israel. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is calling for Democrats to sanction two freshmen members for their sass on Israel. McCarthy told Democrats they must “take action” against Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, both elected last fall and the first two Muslim women in Congress. If Democrats don’t do something, said McCarthy, “I think you’ll see action from myself”—though it’s not clear what he could actually do.

McCarthy is mad over (separate) comments Omar and Tlaib have made about Israel. He said their comments were more offensive than Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) sticking up for white nationalism.  

Omar accused Republican policy on Israel of being driven by funding from lobbyist groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). As John Bresnahan explains at Politico, AIPAC “is a non-profit that doesn’t donate directly to candidates. AIPAC, however, does relentlessly push a pro-Israeli message on Capitol Hill and inside the executive branch, and its members donate to pro-Israel lawmakers and candidates while seeking to defeat those it considers a threat to U.S.-Israeli relations.”

In January, Tlaib came under fire for saying some members of Congress “forgot what country they represent” after they voted for a bill targeting boycotts of Israel. Tlaib was accused of dog whistling the old “two loyalties” accusation that was once frequently deployed about Jews and Israel (or Catholics and the Pope). She was roundly accused of anti-Semitism by many conservatives, including the bill’s sponsor, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio. In response, Tlaib tweeted “Sen. Rubio, it’s clear my earlier tweet was critical of U.S. Senators like yourself, who are seeking to strip Americans of their Constitutional right to free speech.”

Journalist Glenn Greenwald called it “obscene” to compare these comments from Tlaib and Omar with defenses of white nationalism. “In the US, we’re allowed to criticize our own government: certainly foreign governments. The GOP House Leader’s priorities are warped,” Greenwald tweeted. He continued:

Sorry, but you’re not going to turn the two first Muslim women to serve in the US Congress into overnight Jew-haters because of their criticisms of Israel. What’s actually anti-Semitic is conflating the Government of Israel with Jews, so those of you doing that should stop.

Rep. Omar in turn retweeted this with the comment “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” and a music-notes emoji—prompting more cries of bigotry. Alyssa Farah, Mike Pence’s press secretary, called it “textbook antisemitism” and an “astonishing statement from a sitting member of Congress.”

A lot of mentions of money and Israel tend to get shut down in this manner. Activist Imraan Siddiqi questioned why it’s “perfectly fine to talk about paid trips, influence peddling and money in DC” when it comes from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or the United Arab Emirates. But Israel “is off limits?”

As with Democrats seeing white supremacy in every “OK” hand gesture and racist dog whistles everywhere, a lot of people on the right are determined to see coded anti-Semitism in any criticism of Israel or its U.S. supporters.

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