Look away for a few minutes and you miss the latest jabs. In one corner is Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, spouting and repeating anti-Semitic and anti-Israel smears. In another corner are old-guard Democrats whose younger party members are proudly waving around their anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bona fides, potentially hurting the party with historically stalwart supporters.
In still another corner there are Omar’s supporters. They claim Omar is the victim of racism, sexism and whatever-other-isms are available. Many of Omar’s supporters demand to know why she should be forced to apologize for saying wealthy Jews use their influence to bribe congressional members.
In the final corner are the Republicans, gleeful that someone else is finally on the hot seat, accused of spouting bigotry in public.
HOUSE LEADERSHIP DEMANDS APOLOGY FROM OMAR FOR ANTISEMITISM
On Monday afternoon the Democratic House leadership called out Omar for writing that the American Public Affairs Committee uses its “Benjamins” (i.e. hundred dollar bills) to coerce members to support Israel. AIPAC is not actually a PAC at all, so it doesn’t donate any money directly to candidates; and much of the money its biggest supporters donate goesto Democrats.
In the public reprimand issued by Democratic House leadership, Omar was instructed to “immediately apologize” for stepping beyond the bounds of legitimate criticism and descending into “anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations” about congressional supporters of Israel.
OMAR ISSUES APOLOGY FOR MONEY CLAIM, BUT CASTIGATES LOBBYING GROUPS
MY INTENTION IS NEVER TO OFFEND MY CONSTITUENTS OR JEWISH AMERICANS AS A WHOLE, SAID OMAR
But Omar’s two-paragraph statement ended with a sharp pivot. Criticized for wrongly suggesting AIPAC gives money directly to political candidates, Omar ends her apology by targeting the influence lobbyists have with politicians.
“My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity,” said Omar. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
Then she says, lobbyists and PACs “play a problematic role in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.“
Not surprisingly, Omar supporters were not happy with what they characterized as a double standard.
Rep. Max Rose, D-NY-4 criticized Omar when she made her anti-Semitic comments. But immediately following her apology, Rose claimed that the Republicans shouldn’t be “chickensh*t” about antisemitism. Rose said it was hypocrisy, pointing to statements made by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA. He said McCarthy had criticized Michael Bloomberg, George Soros and Tom Steyer for “pulling strings behind the scenes.” This, according to Rose, was evidence of “hypocrisy” in the Republican caucus.
Rose missed the mark. Of the three billionaires Rose cited, only Bloomberg has any semblance of connection to Jewish practice; Steyer’s father was Jewish but he identifies as Episcopalian; and Soros, born to Jews during World War II Hungary, said that his parents were so “uncomfortable with their religious roots” that they changed their name from Shwartz to Soros in 1936. They did this he said, to disassociate themselves from the Jewish community. Further, Soros is frequently regarded as anti-Israel by Israeli officials, as reported earlier this year.
OMAR DOUBLES-DOWN ON ‘BENJAMINS’ CLAIM
Fewer than three hours after her “unequivocal” apology, Omar retweeted, oozing “solidarity,” the thread of a friend supporting and substantiating exactly the same smears for which Omar had been forced to apologize: that congressional support for Israel was all and only “about the Benjamins.”
So that’s the general chronology.
But there’s more.
While Omar, falsely, criticized a Jewish lobbying organization, AIPAC, for giving money directly to political candidates, she apparently has no trouble accepting money from political action committees.
OMAR RECEIVED TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS FROM PACS AND ALSO FROM LOBBYISTS
One PAC from which Omar received thousands of dollars in 2018 is the Council on American Islamic Relations. CAIR was named as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the 2009 Holy Land Foundation trial, the largest terrorism-financing trial in American history.
And CAIR not only has a PAC, it is a lobbying organization. On Jan.10, CAIR hosted the Community Congressional Reception at which Omar spoke.
In all, Omar received tens of thousands of dollars from lobbying groups. None of her money came from AIPAC or the NRA or the fossil fuel industry; That must be a coincidence.
Jennie Taer contributed to this report