Michelle Goldberg: Ilhan Omar Damaged Her Democratic Allies and Squandered Some of Her Own Hard-Won Power

Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour and Minn. Rep. Ilhan Omar have both expressed blatant anti-Semitism on more than one occasion — even to progressives who generally are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour and Minn. Rep. Ilhan Omar have both expressed blatant anti-Semitism on more than one occasion — even to progressives who generally are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Writing for The New York Times, Michelle Goldberg reminds us that when America was unsettled over a crude mail bomb being found in the mailbox of George Soros, Representative Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who is now the House minority leader, tweeted, “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer and Bloomberg to buy this election!”  Interviewed on CNN about receiving his own mail bomb, Steyer described McCarthy’s tweet as a “straight-up anti-Semitic move.”

There was no self-reflection, then, when Kevin McCarthy became a defender of Jews, threatening to force congressional action against two outspoken new Democratic representatives, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, for their criticism of Israel. Rather than rise above Kevin McCarthy, Omar found herself in the same sewer, quoting Puff Daddy’s ode to the power of money: “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” When an editor at The Forward, a Jewish publication, asked who Omar thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, she responded, “Aipac!,” meaning the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the United States’ most prominent pro-Israel lobby.

In the aftermath of her Monday afternoon public rebuke by Democratic leadership, the Minnesota representative Omar apologized. Many Democrats challenged her sincerity, but my focus is the same as Goldberg’s: Ilhan Omar damaged her Democratic allies and squandered some of her own hard-won power. In my opinion, she also embarassed her adult constituents, their children and other Somali refugees. I doubt she understands the extent to which she has damaged her power — and women fight very hard for that power in Washington. As we noted yesterday, it’s not the first apology that Rep. Omar has made about her anti-Semitism.

Many of us don’t like Aipac and the emergence of an increasingly powerful — dominant actually — right-wing in Israel. Goldberg writes: “. . . at a moment when activists have finally pried open space in American politics to question our relationship with Israel, it’s particularly incumbent on Israel’s legitimate critics to avoid anything that smacks of anti-Jewish bigotry. And the idea of Jews as global puppet masters, using their financial savvy to make the gentiles do their bidding, clearly does. “

The blatant anti-Semitism of Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory of The Women’s March left heads spinning among Jewish and most progressive women during most of 2018. Hammering against all white American women in general, Sarsour and Mallory also condemned any American Jewish woman who wasn’t willing to denounce Israel in support of the Palestinians. To use Goldberg’s words: “that’s a bit rich”, especially by Mallory who refuses to criticize her friend, the ragingl anti-Semite Reverend Louis Farrakhan, who she calls the GOAT.

Related: Superstar freshman Dems replace Pelosi as GOP targets Politico

Mn. Rep Ilhan Omar Rebuked Over Anti-Semitic Tweet, Faces Loss Of Seat On Foreign Relations Committee

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) with fellow lawmakers ahead of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 5, 2019.  Image: Minneapolis Star Tribune  via Erin Schaff New York Times

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) with fellow lawmakers ahead of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, at the Capitol in Washington, Feb. 5, 2019. Image: Minneapolis Star Tribune via Erin Schaff New York Times

In a dramatic statement delivered on Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are calling on Minn. Rep Ilhan Omar to apologize for tweeting the strong suggestion that political donations drive politiciams’ support for Israel.

In the dramatic statement, House Democratic leadership said that while "legitimate criticism of Israel's policies is protected by the values of free speech and democratic debate," Omar's "use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel's top supporters is deeply offensive."

"We condemn these remarks and we call upon congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments," read the statement, tweeted out by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Omar is facing fresh criticism and scrutiny, including from some of the most powerful members of her own party, after using language in a tweet condemned as a "vile anti-Semitic trope."

The Democratic congresswoman shared a tweet Sunday on House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy pledging to take "action" in response to her support of movements to boycott and sanction Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. "It's all about the Benjamins baby," she wrote, adding a musical note emoji.

The line comes from a 1997 Puff Daddy song and drew immediate criticism from local Minnesota and national leaders, with some issuing calls to remove her from her position on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said it is "shocking to hear a member of Congress invoke the anti-Semitic trope of 'Jewish money.'"  Engel, who is a Jewish New York Democrat, did not address calls to have Omar removed from his committee.

Locally, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas condemned the tweet, saying the language "should have no place in politics."

"Such rhetoric puts our community in danger," read the statement, which added that it's insulting "to falsely suggest that elected officials only support Israel because they are paid to do so."

In a follow-up tweet, the freshman congresswoman said she was referencing the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobbying organization.  While all acknowledge that pro-Israel lobbying supports candidates in both parties, AIPAC is a nonprofit forbidden from making political candidate contributions.

"We should expect all elected officials, regardless of party, and all public figures to not traffic in anti-Semitism," Chelsea Clinton, whose husband is Jewish, tweeted.

Fellow freshman Democratic Rep. Max Rose of New York called the comments "deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself," according to Politico. Two other Democratic representatives wrote a letter to congressional leaders saying they are "deeply alarmed by the language," according to the Washington Post. "We urge you to join us in calling on each member of our Caucus to unite against anti-Semitism and hateful tropes and stereotypes," they wrote.

GOP groups, including the National Republican Congressional Committee, blasted Omar over the remarks. Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan called on Minnesota Democrats, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, to denounce the remarks and said House leadership should strip the freshman congresswoman of her committee assignments. Sen. Klobuchar’s office has not responded.

"It's clear that congresswoman Ilhan Omar harbors deep-seated anti-Semitic views," Carnahan said in a statement. "There's no place for this in Congress or among our Minnesota congressional delegation."

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas echoed those calls for rebuke.

"We completely agree with Ambassador Dan Shapiro that Rep. Omar's 'outrageous comments equating politicians' support for Israel with being bought off by American Jewish money are a vile anti-Semitic trope," the group said. "They need to be condemned by all in our party."

The Minneapolis Tribune writes that Omar previously came under fire for her 2012 tweet saying "Israel has hypnotized the world" was also widely rebuked for using anti-Semitic stereotypes. Omar has since said that tweet, sent in response to reports of military action against Hamas, used "unfortunate words." Last month, she also faced criticism for suggesting, without evidence, that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., remained a staunch ally to the president because he was somehow "compromised."

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation Leauge, cited that record in joining calls for House leadership to respond, saying the latest tweets are "part of a disturbing pattern of behavior that must end."

"Unfortunately, making insensitive statements toward the Jewish community is not new for Rep. Omar ... The congresswoman needs to understand that these comments promote dangerous stereotypes and are hurtful to her Jewish constituents and Jewish-Americans throughout the country," Greenblatt's statement read.

A spokesman for Omar did not immediately respond to the Star Tribune's request for comment on the latest backlash. Her office told Politico that the tweets "speak for themselves."

Natalie Portman Refuses To Accept Israel's Genesis Prize, Refusing To Appear With Benjamin Netanyahu,

Natalie Portman has been very critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.CreditRachel Murray/Getty Images for Paramount

Natalie Portman has been very critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.CreditRachel Murray/Getty Images for Paramount

Oscar-winning actor Natalie Portman has backed out of a major award ceremony in Israel as this year's recipient of the Genesis Prize --, citing the scheduled presence of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the event. Portman issues a statement late Friday saying that she did not wish to appear as endorsing the prime minister. 

Portman, who is Jewish and was born in Israel, has starred in such hit movies as “Black Swan” and the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy. She directed a 2015 feature, “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” an adaptation of the autobiographical novel by the Israeli author Amos Oz and shot in Jerusalem.

In her statement Friday, Ms. Portman said: “I am not part of the B.D.S. movement and do not endorse it. Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation.”

“Israel,” she said, “was created exactly 70 years ago as a haven for refugees from the Holocaust. But the mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power.”

Portman has been very critical of Netanyahu in the past, saying she was "very, very upset aned disappointed" over his 2015 re-election. “I find his racist comments horrific,” she said, according to The New York Times. 

The Genesis Prize was founded in 2013 to celebrate Jewish achievement and contribution to humanity, in the words of the organizers. Its founding partners are listed on the prize website as the Israeli prime minister’s office, the Genesis Philanthropy Group and the Jewish Agency for Israel, a quasi-governmental organization that deals with Jewish immigration and the wider Jewish diaspora. Previous laureates include Michael R. Bloomberg (2014), Michael Douglas (2015), Itzhak Perlman (2016), and Anish Kapoor (2017).