Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s tweet that it’s “all about the Benjamins,” referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benjamin Franklin on the $100 bill, is anti-Jewish because it uses the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews with money and power advancing their interests over the majority in society.
Nancy Pelosi’s reaction was exactly right when she said: “Anti-Semitism must be called out, confronted and condemned whenever it is encountered, without exception.” She was joined by the Democratic House leadership that added: “Legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies is protected by the values of free speech, but Congresswoman Omar’s use of anti-Semitic tropes is deeply offensive.”
To Omar’s credit, she apologized unconditionally: “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.”
Meanwhile, Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy vehemently attacked Rashida Tlieb and Ilhan Omar, the only two Muslim members of Congress, as anti-Semites. He also said earlier that Jewish billionaires Tom Steyer, George Soros, and Mike Bloomberg (obviously Jewish and harsh critics of Trump) tried to use their money to buy the 2018 election raising the same anti-Jewish image as Omar raised of wealthy and powerful Jews advancing their interests.
President Trump called Omar’s comments “terrible…I think she should either resign from Congress or she should certain resign from the House Foreign Affairs committee. What she said is so deep-seated in her heart.”
The President can’t be taken seriously. Who can forget that he called Neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville “good people,” told a group of Jews during his 2016 campaign that they wouldn’t vote for him because he didn’t need their money, and used a Nazi image of dollar signs over a Star of David in his attack on Hillary Clinton?
I am satisfied with the Democrats’ condemnation of Omar’s rhetoric and Omar’s apology, and gratified that Omar is open to learning from Jews about what offends us. However, in the range of bigotry and anti-Jewish rhetoric in the Trump era, Omar’s comments are minor.
The Republican attack on her is also disproportionate and disingenuous given the Republican refusal to call out the President when he uses anti-Jewish and racist stereotypes.
Nevertheless, Ilhan Omar’s and Michigan Representative Rashid Tliab’s anti-Israel rhetoric is of particular concern and needs to be seen for what it is – anti-Jewish.
If people hold the State of Israel to an unfair standard of behavior that they don’t hold for any other nation, and if they believe that Israel does not have the right to exist, that is anti-Jewish. If, however, someone is critical of policies of the State of Israel while supporting its legitimacy and right to exist as a Jewish state, that is not anti-Jewish.
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has called for a single state to replace the State of Israel with equality and justice for Jews and Palestinians including Palestinian refugees now living in other countries, with no discrimination against people based on their faith or skin color.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, in an opinion piece in Haaretz, challenged Tlaib’s vision and wrote that her suggestion might be a
“…cover for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments usually expressed by Palestinian leaders…Many of those who support her do not hesitate to compare Zionists with Nazis and to sympathize with Hezbollah, with its fantasies of driving the Jews into the sea.
But Tlaib angrily rejects any effort to associate her with the demons of war and extermination, pointing out her long-standing call for a just and peacefully-arrived-at one-state solution.
The problem is that a single Jewish/Palestinian state is a pipe-dream…The long violent history of the conflict between Palestinians and Jews and their radically different national narratives mean that the creation of such a state would lead to chaos, terror, mob violence, and ongoing civil war. The answer to the conflict is not mixing hostile populations but separating them [i.e., into two states for two peoples]. There is not a single country in the Middle East that could serve as a model for a workable, peaceable, bi-national country of seven million Jews and seven million Palestinian Arabs. To these considerations must be added the simple fact that the Jewish people and the Palestinian people are each entitled, as a matter of fundamental justice, to a state of their own.” (“Rashida Tlaib and Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-Zionist Alliance” – Haaretz, February 18, 2019)
Those who propose a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which the Jewish majority of Israel is lost and Zionism ceases to exist are not only anti-Zionists and anti-Israel but anti-Jewish.