Guardian rushes to the defence of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar

Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar apologised on Monday for tweets about the Israel lobby after being denounced by commentators and politicians from across the political spectrum – including from her own party leaders – for engaging in “antisemitic tropes.”  In her tweet, Omar, a Somalian refugee who just became one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress, suggested the only reason the US supports Israel is because AIPAC buys politicians’ support.  In addition to evoking the antisemitic calumny that Jews control Washington, it was quickly pointed out that Omar was wrong on the facts, as AIPAC does not donate directly to political candidates.

As most reports on the row pointed out, this is the second tweet she recently apologised for.  In January, the freshman lawmaker first defended, but then expressed regret for, a tweet during Israel’s 2012 war with Hamas that complained “Israel has hypnotized the world” and asked that “Allah awaken the people and help them see [their] evil doings”.  As NY Times columnist Barri Weiss noted, “the conspiracy theory of the Jew as the hypnotic conspirator, the duplicitous manipulator, the sinister puppeteer is one with ancient roots and a bloody history”.

However, it was her most recent tweet about AIPAC buying US support for Israel that was the subject of a Guardian op-ed published yesterday written by Alex Kotch, investigative reporter at a site called Sludge, who offered a full-out defence of Omar:

Kotch’s duplicitous rhetoric begins in the opening paragraph and is straight out of the Guardian playbook, arguing that Omar “bravely criticizes the Israeli government”. However, such vilification of Israel not only doesn’t require “bravery”, but is in fact consistently amplified and promoted by the most powerful and influential international news publications, including the NY Times.  (In the UK, of course, spending your entire career demonising Israel and supporting anti-Semites isn’t even a barrier to becoming Opposition leader.)  Further undermining the claim that it takes courage to criticise Israel, in January, Omar, a BDS supporter who at the time was still defending her ‘Israel hypnotizes the world’ tweet, was appointed by House leaders to the powerful Foreign Affairs Committee – an assignment that wasn’t revoked, even after the latest antisemitism row.

Kotch then commends Omar for endorsing BDS, which he falsely characterises a “movement to pressure Israel to change course on Palestine”, when, in fact, BDS leaders openly declare their opposition to the continued existence to a Jewish state within any borders.  He also complains that “opponents have dishonestly cast BDS as antisemitic”, whilst ignoring a recent study by the Jewish Policy Research Institute (JPR) and CST showing  “a strong connection between extreme hostility towards Israel”, such as support for BDS, “and traditional forms of antisemitism”. Whilst the question of whether BDS is inherently antisemitic is another matter, the study clearly shows that supporters of BDS are far more likely to also hold classic antisemitic views than those who don’t support BDS.  

Kotch further alleges that recent anti-BDS laws passed by over half the states “clearly trample on the constitutional right to free speech and expression”, when in fact a federal court in Arkansas recently upheld the constitutionality of their state’s anti-BDS law, and the US Supreme Court has yet to rule on the issue.

Pivoting to Omar’s tweet, Kotch acknowledges that “evil people have used the hateful conspiracy theory that Jews use their money to secretly control politicians and the media to commit atrocities against Jewish people for many centuries”, but then offers a defence of her specific comments about AIPAC:

But in doing so, it’s incredibly important to be able to distinguish between real antisemitism and basic political facts. We need to be able to examine the money and influence in politics that every special-interest group, including pro-Israel lobbying groups such as Aipac, wields. Often, because of their ability to pay for costly lobbyists and fund political campaigns, these special interests drown out the voices of everyday Americans. As a result, members of Congress are way out of touch with the views of their own constituents.

However, it’s Kotch who is “way out of touch” with the views of Americans.  Based on polling by Gallup since 1967, “everyday Americans” have, by large margins, consistently expressed support Israel.

Such polling suggests that whatever ‘power’ AIPAC does have is in large measure a reflection of the general popularity of Israel’s cause throughout the country.  Further, as blogger Elder of Ziyon pointed out, “in terms of lobbying causes to Congress, the pro-Israel lobby comes in at number 50, with $15 million spent in 2018, a tiny percentage of what the top lobby spent – $400 million from the securities and investment industry”. And, even the 50 ranking is deceptive, because the $15 million reportedly includes money spent by the far-left group J Street.

Regarding J Street, later in the op-ed, Kotch expresses his agreement with the group’s recent statement demanding that “elected officials should…refrain from labeling all criticism of Israeli actions or policies as ‘antisemitic” in an “effort to silence legitimate discussion and debate”.  First, this is a classic straw man argument, as next to nobody labels simple criticism of Israel as antisemitic. It’s also an ad hominem attack on Jews which, instead of engaging in an argument, imputes bad faith to those who level such accusations.  As the CST’s Dave Rich argued, questioning Jewish motives over antisemitism claims is itself consistent with the antisemitic idea which instinctively presumes that “whatever Jews say and do can’t be taken at face value”, but must be inspired by a “devious, deceitful and manipulative” motive or agenda that needs to be uncovered.  

Though Rich’s argument was in the context of such lines of attack against Jews who complain of antisemitism within the British Labour Party, it’s hard not to see troubling parallels between Jeremy Corbyn’s loyal band of antisemitism deniers and Kotch’s rush to defend Omar against charges of antisemitism whilst questioning the motives of her accusers. 

123 replies »

  1. Will guardian continiue to support Ilhan as her behaviour continues to reflect her lack of ability to understand that what is accepted among her Somali constituents is racist and arrogant to most Americans

    • Funny, Trump has made essentially the same statement a few times. Should Trump resign? —

      At the Jewish Coalition, which is a solid organization.

      Speaking at a presidential forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition, Trump told members of the lobbying group, which describes itself as the “unique bridge between the Jewish community and Republican decision-makers,” that he wasn’t seeking their money because he didn’t want to be beholden to them.

      “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money,” he said bluntly. Which plays right into the antisemitic stereotype that Ms. Omar used.

      Ari Fliecher was stunned, saying “What the hell was that?”

      The Times of Isreal criticized Trump saying he played right into the stereotype

      • Name one time President Trump ever did so. You are a liar.

        She belongs in Somalia – she committed immigration fraud which happens to be a felony. Because she is a Dumbacrap mere laws do not matter

        • Representative Ilhan Omar belongs where her constituents, including me, put her, now with an ongoing opportunity to show she has experienced a form of metanoia after her recent comments prompted her apologies, and indicated a willingness to learn and evolve her views, and so she can carry out her duties as per her oath of office — unlike the vile and odious Trump, for example.
          Should she fail in that endeavor, she will stand for election in one year and nine months, and we voters in her district can express their will concerning her failure; should she succeed, I expect absolutely no apologies from the likes of you, with your inane slur of her as a “Dumbocrap.”

          • Then you are more knowledgeable about her riding than most of us..First, that term seems shorter than normal for a congress critter – is that because she is filling out Ellison’s term? Second, she ran virtually unopposed with a campaign chest of over $1m. Her opponent’s budget was miniscule, about 20x smaller. Sounds like a very safe Democratic constituency. If that is the case then the only way, as an incumbent, that she will not win next time is if members of her own party campaign to replace her. How likely is that?

              • Thank you. Had no idea they were that short – and that expensive. Still sounds like a safe Democratic seat. Do you know the history of the district?

            • How likely is it that Ilhan Omar can make it clear that she has really had a change of heart about this set of issues, and is capable of moral evolution, if she has really done that or is still in the process of doing so — including taking on any bigots among her own supporters or ostensible supporters? That’s the crucial question.
              If Representative Omar fails to make it clear enough, she will be “primaried.” I live in her district, which includes the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities campus, the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood to which many Somalis have emigrated over the years, and stretches all the way west to St. Louis Park. Note well: the Somalis were escaping a vicious civil war, and are not typically at all happy with any youth who are radicalized, but are in fact, completely appalled and heartbroken by it.
              “The district is strongly Democratic with a Cook Partisan Voting Index (CPVI) of D+26—by far the most Democratic district in the state.[5] The 5th is also the most Democratic district in the Upper Midwest. The DFL has held the seat without interruption since 1963, and the Republicans have not tallied more than 40 percent of the vote in almost half a century. ” — Minnesota Fifth Congressional District, Wikipedia. Read the whole article for more details. Search “1934 Minneapolis Teamsters Strike” or “Mayor Hubert Humphrey confronts Organized Crime in Minneapolis” if you want to begin to acquire an even better background understanding of the politics in this city, and much more than that.

  2. The Guardian is justifying antisemitism? The Guardian supports and encourages antisemites? You don’t have to stop the press – this is an everyday occurrence at the Sturmer of the left.

  3. Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer prizewinning columnist of the NY Times and a Zionist who has defended Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon, wrote on the occasion of Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress in 2011 that his applause was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby”.
    Apparently it’s OK for a Zionist journalist to make this obvious point but not for a Muslim congresswoman.

    • I wouldn’t give a broken bedpan about the Guardian’s opinion on itself. You can call Jew-baiting, Israel bashing and open support of antisemites a purple papillon – it wouldn’t change the fact that they (together with yourself and comrade Sencar) want me, my family and my fellow countrymen dead. Lacking the cojones to turn this wish into reality they (you) can’t do anything but inciting others (the Guardian) or dirtying the blogosphere (you).

      • So Friedman who was raised and educated as a practising Jew, spent his college vacations on a kibbutz and has repeatedly defended Israeli military adventures is a secret antisemite? He didn’t retract his comment about congress being “bought” by the lobby but merely substituted “engineered by” the lobby, as if that made any difference.

        • So, because Friedman is claiming that those who applauded Netanyahu’s speech with a standing ovation — a standard courtesy for a foreign leader who addresses the entire United States Congress in the first place, by the way — in typical pundit fashion, without having deeply researched the actual concrete facts each individual member might truthfully and accurately cite for their supporting applause , you mimic his shoddy example, and agree with his claim without doing any detailed research of your own, really?
          It’s quite possible for Friedman, or anyone else, to be simply intellectually lazy (in some instances) and having that factor of laziness be the proximate cause of a remark which does not accurately track empirical reality, while some other person might state similar views in almost identical language for different reasons, do you see how that’s possible?
          If so, do you also understand how in one context the same claim might be motivated primarily by intellectual laziness or a smug attitude, which in another context, is motivated by antisemitism? And that these possibilities might fail to exhaust all the relevant permutations about what it is that is most relevantly motivating support, or motivating opposition?
          This is not necessarily a topic that admits of no shades of gray!

    • You’ve tendentiously left out the obvious point, the glaringly obvious alternative possibility: that both Ilhan Omar and Thomas Friedman are simply mistaken about the support of any given individual person for this or that specific policy of the State of Israel, as well as their support for the basic right for Jews to have a homeland.
      Please try much harder in future, and at the very least, avoid ludicrous logical fallacies like that one, ok? Thanks!

      • Nice try again, Sencar, but instead of making up what Tom Friedman meant when he suggested an alternate word for “bought,” perhaps we should actually read his actual quote:

        ” … a term (‘engineer’) that does NOT suggest grand conspiracy theories that I don’t subscribe to.”

        He obviously doesn’t consider “bought” and “engineer” interchangeable, as you (disingenuously) do, and wants to make it clear he does NOT subscribe to the hoary antisemitic canard about Jewish money and its “hypnotizing the world,” to which Omar insistently subscribes.

        • I don’t “suggest grand conspiracy theories” either, Evan. What we have is a powerful lobby, largely Jewish, that effectively controls Congress on matters concerning Israel. Those who go along with it get funding, opponents don’t and receive hostile publicity.

          • No, your thesis requires a huge amount of supporting data which you have completely failed to supply (because in fact it does not exist!) and as such, is exactly the kind of antisemitic slur and bigoted attack which Adam and many other analysts of the situation have described for many decades.

          • And you still can’t deny that this is pluralism at work. You don’t decry any other lobbying group, even ones that exert more influence. Gee, I wonder why.

            • Of course I would condemn other lobbying groups such as the NRA and those advocating fossil fuels, as did Omar. I didn’t mention them here because it would be off-topic.

          • This issue was about Mr. Friedman distinguishing “bought” and “engineer,” which you incorrectly claim were interchangeablle.

            And so you deflect to another canard about AIPAC, implying you are somehow noble or exempt from the antisemitism label because you merely promote the Jewish Money trope, but don’t go so far as to call it an out-and-out conspiracy.

            Well, nice try again, but wrong again. As fellow commenter L. King points out, the Arab Lobby in fact outspends pro-Israel PAC groups, even more so when you consider J-Street at $4m is the largest single Israel related donor and they are definitely not “pro-Israel”. Singling out a Jewish entity. as you do, is a core element of antisemitism. Don’t kid yourself.

            • If some US Jews spend money promoting Israeli government causes, as they undoubtedly do, why is it antisemitic to point that out? Just another example of a true trope methinks.

                • If 70 plus senators can be relied on to vote the AIPAC line everytime, as they can, that’s control in my book.

                  • That’s because your “book” is globally vague and barely coherent at all, except with respect to attributing their votes to a single, overriding pecuniary motive and nothing else, and concerning your paranoid, bigoted obsession with a supposed “Jewish conspiracy” to control those elected officials.
                    Do you really think the multiple, very powerful reasons for the United States to support the only democracy in the region, and a homeland for a people with strong cultural ties to our entire history as a civilization over thousands of years, can be simply ignored in favor of your blatantly antisemitic nonsense? Why would any fair-minded, rational beings not reject your sick bigotry and warn others to do the same?

                  • So, if a certain congressman predictably votes a certain way, then it has to be controlled. I see, so if you have a certain set of congressmen who vote in favor of renewable energy, then it’s that industry that is controlling them.

                    • You confuse correlation with causality, a common mistake. If Congress consistently supports the import of Belgian chocolate it doesn’t mean they are influenced by Belgian choclatiers, it’s more likely because they support international trade.

                      Support for Israel is what Americans want and its good for America. It’s good for the rest of the world too. The Arab nations and peoples are starting to realize this. Even Palestinians have lost faith with their leadership.

          • What is the name of that lobby which you say “controls” the Congress?
            For instance:

            One of the things which always gives the antisemite away is that he can’t imagine any non-Jew wanting to support Jews or Jewish causes. He assumes that (and let’s use his own language to bring the point home) “the Jew” must be influencing “the gentile” by corrupting his innocent soul, because “the Jew” is such a despicable creature devoid of saving graces that only money can secure his safety from the natural wrath of “the beautiful people.”
            sencar, those who lobby in support of Israel barely cracks the top 50, as one can see from reading the article provided in the link (which is far less arrogant the Tom Friedman) this includes the anti-Israel J Street. The U.S. has up until now thrown its support behind Israel for reasons which are obvious to all but those morally and factually confused individuals and cultures who can’t kick the habit of slandering the Jews.

      • Of course he was heavily criticised, that’s partly what the lobby is for! I’ve commented on the ‘recantation’ elsewhere. The lobby has previous with respect to forcing Jews to ‘recant’. Think Goldstone…..

          • There is no doubt that he was coerced. The only question is what kind of leverage was used. He made at least two attempts at recanting; the first was considered insufficiently grovelling to suit his persecutors so he was sent back to have another go.

            • The individuals who were appointed to the “fact” finding committee had all already expressed bias against Israel. That’s why they were appointed. The report was flawed from the beginning and Goldstone showed courage in recanting it.

              • Why then was Goldstone, a Zionist of long-standing, appointed to chair the committee and why did he defend its findings against critics until the moment of his recantation?

                  • Goldstone took evidence from those affected by violence on both sides. In proportion to levels of suffering Israeli victims get far more space in the report than Gazans.
                    You seem to suggest that to be a Zionist it is necessary to take the Israeli government line on Cast Lead – an odd notion indeed. I think you will find Goldstone’s Zionist credentials are impeccable with this odd exception.

    • Your remarks always remind me of the grandmother of an Irish girl I used to date. She wasn’t supposed to know I was Jewish, and of course she did, and would make these extremely lame attempts at trying to be coy about “outing” me. Another dumb antisemite.

  4. Go ahead, explain why you are singling out financial support for lobbying on behalf of the State of Israel from the same kind of support for any other cause.

  5. The Guardian seems to have abandoned the idea of employing fact checkers. In fact the Arab Lobby outspends pro-Israel PAC groups, even more so when you consider J-Street at $4m is the largest single Israel related donor and they are definitely not “pro-Israel”.

    What Illan Omar has opened up, IMV, is a discussion of antisemitism in the general Muslim community and how easily this gets brushed aside. Unfortunately the Guardian isn’t talking about that., possibly because they are afraid of a reaction from that community. In that sense they are Islamophobic.

  6. My friends in the Trump camp can’t understand why American Jews vote for Democrats. They have a short memory…..October 28, 2018 was not that long ago.

    ”Our Jewish loved ones at Tree of Life Synagogue died as a direct result of Trump’s white nationalism and the anti-immigrant, antisemitic conspiracy theories he embraces. Trump doesn’t care about antisemitism. He wants to divide our movements and dehumanize people of color.”

    — Jewish Action