By now, you’ve likely heard about the controversy surrounding Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and the anti-Semitic dog whistles heard in her statement. The question though is which statement because there isn’t just one incident. The most recent one came early this week, when Omar aimed her sights at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the politicians who receive campaign donations and go on life-changing educational junkets to Israel with the group.
What did she say? We’ll let her speak for herself. “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she tweeted, with music-note emojis following those words. She was speaking about what she believes is the true motive behind relations between Israel and the United States. She doubled down on that belief by responding to criticism with suggestions that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee directly pays politicians in order to influence their decisions.
Needless to say, her comments touch upon some of the most classic anti-Semitic canards that have circulated since the days of Henry Ford’s “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Jews controlling the world, controlling banks, being “international bankers” or “globalists,” the idea of Jews as secret puppet masters, these are classic tropes.
Some of these ideas even date back to the Bubonic plague, when anti-Semitic rumors were spread about Jewish bankers and about Jews poisoning wells. Her reference to “Benjamins” actually implies a few things: money and influence-peddling by Jews, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his influence, and a hoax that turned into a myth about Benjamin Franklin warning about the dangers of letting Jews into the country.
The stereotypical Jew is seen as sneaky and underhanded, with some sort-of secret ulterior motives being quietly orchestrated behind the scenes. If these descriptions seem to match the comments the congresswoman made, that’s because they do. The types of comments she made prick up the ears of the kinds of people who believe in bunk like blood libel, the Medieval myth that Jews used the blood of Christian children in their matzah.
At a time when groups that track the rise of neo-Nazi movements in America have been sounding the alarm, these comments are that much more frightening. Twisted conspiracy theories, based around the ideas of Jews using some hidden power and influence to send a plague of migrants and diseases to America as an invasion, inspired a man to allegedly shoot and kill 11 people while injuring seven others, who were peacefully enjoying a Saturday at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
If Omar wants to keep her seat in Congress, she better come up with an explanation and come up with one quickly. She’s shown a capacity to listen after making some of these comments before, but then she keeps making them. She did issue an apology and is working to learn more about the issues and how to be more nuanced in her arguments.
Intentional or not, her virulently anti-Semitic diatribes reveal her true perspectives and points of view. Bad actors will always try to hijack what you’re doing or saying and use it for their own nefarious, neo-Nazi purposes. She needs to understand that fact, and you think she would know already. She’s walking a very tight rope at this point, and if she slips up even one more time, she may quickly be reminded that it won’t be long until she’s out on the 2020 campaign trail, fighting for her political life to defend her seat.
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