“They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind” Hosea
I know this is going to seem callous and crass, but oh for the days when all America had to worry about was the Iraq and Afghani wars, Michelle’s vegetable garden on the White House lawn, or even a silly Korean rapper called Psy and his blockbuster hit ‘Gangnam Style’. Those were the days of clear cut messaging (Psy is the exception) that appeared in the news cycles and moved on after a day or two. It was a time (anytime before November of 2016) when news stories were more or less one dimensional and could be covered with alacrity that allowed one’s mind to focus and then shut off if so desired.
No longer. Trump redefined the news in such a way that scandals breeds mini scandals that breed major scandals that breed tangential scandals. It’s taxing and wearing the American electorate down. Now, Trump doesn’t even bother creating his own scandals but gloms onto scandals created by others and makes them his own. The scandal du jour concerns Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and a tweet she shared in response to a segement of the American Israeli community’s influence on Congressional members,
It’s all about the Benjamins baby https://t.co/KatcXJnZLV
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 10, 2019
She then tweeted that AIPAC — the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee — was paying politicians to support Israel.
First of all, a caveat, I am married to a non-practicing Jew who is the singular most beautiful thing to occur in my life. I will always be grateful to her lineage. It’s a bloodline thing. However, the Jewish people have been snake bit from the beginning of their existence. If the Old Testament is to be believed, they suffered under their Abrahamic god’s capricious, often cruel, whims but preserved to emerge as a cohesive positive force in the world. Then there is their treatment by the Germans in WWII such that the Holocaust has become the definition of reprehensible and evil. Still, again, they preserved.
The problem I have with Israeli government, not the Jewish people, is the fact that on the international stage the nation is essentially seen as a terrorist state. Since they refused to return land occupied during the 1967 war against the Palestinians, their refusal to withdraw to the original Israeli borderlines has made them a criminal nation. Compounding the issue is the hard right shift politically over the years within Israel’s ruling parties that has led to expansion of the illegal settlements and genocidal acts against the Palestinians that can not be ignored.
True, the Palestinians committed atrocities during those hectic years after the war. True, they are the sworn enemies of Israel, but with legitimate claims on the land that Israel now occupies. With forced evacuations, unwarranted raids and attacks on their people, the Palestinians are a shadow of the threat they once represented to their aggressive neighbor. The Israeli government is quick to point out that the Palestinian’s Muslim religion puts them at diametrical odds with the well-being of what Israel stands for in the end. Yet, the ruling Israeli government is ruled by hardliners, no less rabid than American evangelicals, who want nothing less than the eradication of the Palestinian people and state.
I read somewhere that anti-Israel does not equate to antisemitism. You can hate or decry the policies of the government, but not hate the vast majority of everyday Jews; many of whom are also at odds with the government’s choices in dealing with the far less powerful Palestinians. Yet, this is what is at the base of the Omar controversy that Trump has done everything he can to exacerbate.
Omar’s tweet has been blown out of proportion and smacks of bigotry, hypocrisy, and elitism on the part of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. Omar apologized but has been the brunt of ridicule and derision for having the temerity to speak truth to the powers behind the throne. Here she attempted to clarify her stance,
So, for me, I want to talk about — I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. I want to ask: Why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy? Right? Truthout
Trump jumped into the fray earlier on calling for Omar to resign from the Foreign Affairs Committee and Congress for what he thinks was her disrespect for Israel. The entire affair has devolved into a bullshit, political claptrap of monumental proportions. The fact is American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is the strongest pro-Israel lobbying firm in Washington, targeting all Congressmen, not just Republicans and/or Democrats. And yes, as Ady Barkan wrote in an article for The Nation, What Ilhan Omar Said About AIPAC Was Right, it is about the Benjamins,
By Monday morning, AIPAC had mobilized its allies to condemn Omar’s comment for playing into centuries-old anti-Semitic tropes that wealthy Jews control the world. Even the Democratic leadership put out a statement condemning her. All because she dared to point out that the emperor has no clothes.
As a Jew, an Israeli citizen, and a professional lobbyist (ahem, activist), I speak from personal experience when I say that AIPAC is tremendously effective, and the lubricant that makes its operation hum is dollar, dollar bills. The Nation
Officially, AIPAC is prohibited by law from raising money for candidates because they represent a foreign government. However, the group has evolved with a modus operandi that subverts the rule of law while not actually breaking the law. Writing for The Nation in an article titled This Is How AIPAC Really Works, M. J. Rosenberg stated,
In short, AIPAC’s political operation is used precisely as Representative Omar suggested.
Again, I know this because I witnessed it over and over again. I sat in AIPAC staff meetings at which the political director discussed whom “we” would be supporting in this campaign and whom “we” were going to “destroy” in that one. I also sat in on meetings at AIPAC’s huge annual policy conference, attended by as many as 20,000 AIPAC members and virtually the entire Congress, at which fundraising pitches were made.
AIPAC, of course, denies that anyone raises money at its policy conference. And it’s true. No one does… in the official AIPAC rooms. However, there are also the side rooms, nominally independent of the main event but just down the hall, where candidates and invited donors (only the really wealthy donors get the invites) meet and decide which candidate will get what. This arrangement is almost a metaphor for the whole AIPAC fundraising operation. The side rooms are nominally not AIPAC, so AIPAC can deny that any fundraising takes place at their conference. But in fact, they are the most exclusive venues in the country for candidates to raise money in the name of advancing the AIPAC cause. The Nation
AIPAC uses a variety of “coercive” tools to bend recalcitrant members of Congress to get behind the AIPAC agenda. Nearly everyone in Congress is contacted by members of AIPAC and asked if they will support the AIPAC agenda. Those who say no or waffle can expect a mobilized attempt to change their minds including ensuring, for instance, the Congressperson is confronted back home in public discussions by someone sympathetic to the AIPAC agenda. It’s an insidious organization that puts Israel first and American issues on the back burner until they get their way.
So, the Omar brouhaha is just that a brouhaha seeded with bigotry, politics, fear, and questionable allegiances. While most people won’t recognize it, this is politics at its dirtiest and the epitome of the swamp that is Washington governance. The question really comes down to “What do we get for our lopsided support of Israel?” Politicians get the backing they need at the expense of their integrity. Evangelicals get the warm and woolly feeling deep in their guts that by supporting Israel they are helping usher in the last days before Christ returns. The president gets a distraction that pulls our attention away from his inept, corrupt, and illegitimate presidency.
Only the truth goes wanting.