Both accused of anti-Semitism, but treated very differently by political and Jewish establishment
“It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” Congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted these words from a Puff Daddy song in 2019, referring to the role Israeli lobby money plays in congressional foreign policy. (Turns out, a lot.) Republicans, Democrats, and the establishment Jewish organizations pilloried her, calling her anti-Semitic. Even progressive Jews called her out, claimed she had used a trope about Jewish money controlling the world. The young congresswoman removed the tweet and issued the following statement:
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. 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. This is why I unequivocally apologize.
At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists 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.
Nonetheless, if you google “Ilhan Omar” and “anti-Semitism,” you will see her detractors did not find this apology adequate. In January 2020, StopAntisemitism.org named her “Anti-Semite of the Year,” choosing her over Louis Farrakhan and actual Nazi, Richard Spencer.
This week, news came out that freshman congresswoman and Qanon conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greenfield has suggested a giant space laser funded by the Rothschilds was responsible for the California wildfires. In other words, a Jewish space laser.
On social media, I see most people treating her comments as a joke, with the exception of progressive Jews, and even they are employing gallows humor. Are Democrats and Republicans passing resolutions in response to her clearly anti-Semitic accusation as they did with Omar’s tweet? Nope. The hearts of Republicans still seethe over her audacity — as a black, Muslim, immigrant, leftist — to believe she had the right to run for public office.
What do we hear from the major Jewish organizations? From Mort Klein at the Zionist Organization of America? He called Omar and her colleague Rashida Tlaib “frightening insensitive terrorist supporting, Jew hating, America hating Israelophobes,” and “a curse on America.” What about the American Jewish Committee, who misrepresented her comments as saying that Jews were buying off members of Congress, rather than the Israeli lobby had too much financial influence on the Congress?
Crickets. Even the Anti-Defamation League, which has called out Marjorie Taylor Greene for past anti-Semitism, hasn’t gotten around to mentioning the space laser yet.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke of her trauma during the recent failed coup, describing what it was like to be trapped in a room with fellow legislators who wanted to see her harmed. I want to ask those who condemned Ilhan Omar in 2019 this question: if you found yourself surrounded by people who wanted to hurt you, would Ilhan Omar or Marjorie Taylor Greene be the one more likely to help you to safety?