The Corner

Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar’s Lazy and Anti-Semitic Tweets

Rep. Ilhan Omar, (D., Minn.) walks in Washington, D.C., January 16, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/REUTERS)

Representative Ilhan Omar is getting a lot of well-deserved grief for her (latest) dimwitted tweets:

The usual Twitter mobs were unleashed in her defense. If you search Twitter for AIPAC, you’ll find all sorts of crazy talk about “foreign lobbyists” and the stranglehold the perfidious bagel-snarfers have on our democracy including from some fairly prominent figures:

Of course, it’s no surprise that Omar believes this garbage. It’s one of the lazier and most timeless talking points of a rogue’s gallery of cranks, Islamists, and, of course, anti-Semites of the Left and Right, as well as conspiracy theorists generally. Congress is “Israeli Occupied Territory” according to all the worst people.

Now a few points seem worth making. AIPAC isn’t a foreign lobby. It’s an American organization run by Americans. It spends remarkably little on lobbying and Israel spends virtually nothing on lobbying Congress. According to Open Secrets, the biggest political contributor of the “Pro-Israel” lobby in the 2018 cycle was . . .  J Street, which spent nearly four times as much ($4,057,820) as the next biggest contributor NORPAC ($1,126,063). Planned Parenthood gave $5,734,048. In 2018, AIPAC did spend the most on lobbying — which is different than contributing. But again, its expenditures were relatively miniscule at 3.5 million. Lawyers spent nearly three times as much on lobbying ($15.4 million) and their contributions totaled over 217 million. The financial, insurance, and real-estate industries contributed nearly $883 million and another half-billion on lobbying.

Now, I’m not naïve. Of course, pro-Israel groups and individuals spend money on politics in other ways, direct and indirect. One need only look at Sheldon Adelson’s political giving to understand that.

But sometimes when people say “It’s not about the money” it’s actually not about the money. The best analogy is to the NRA. For many on the Left and in the media, it’s an article of faith that Republicans don’t cross the NRA because of all of the “blood money” the group lavishes on Congress. They find gun-rights arguments to be so outlandish on their face — in part because they live in gun-free blue bubbles — they immediately assume that bribery is at play. But, as I wrote here, the NRA gives remarkably little in terms of donations. The NRA’s — and the broader gun lobby’s — real power lies in the fact that it can mobilize voters.

Israel is popular with a number of important constituencies including many Jews (imagine that). But its real popularity resides among evangelical Christians and voters generally. And, despite its perfectly debatable flaws, real and alleged, it should be popular. It’s an ally. It’s democratic. It’s Western. And its enemies are largely our enemies. It’s no coincidence it’s listed as the “Little Satan” alongside the “Great Satan” that is America, by some of the most evil and backward regimes in the world.

But as with guns, Israel’s detractors cannot imagine that Congress — or Americans generally — could support Israel in good faith. It must be because of the evil string-pulling jooz spreading around their filthy Benjamins that we haven’t thrown her under the bus. This socialism of fools is a very old story and the idea that those who traffic in it are just “realists” telling it like it is an old trope as well.

If they understood how old it is, and what has been done in furtherance of such conspiracy theories, they might even understand why some people think it’s worth fighting against such people, even in the form of lobbying Congress. Indeed, they might even understand that they have the causality backward. The “Israel Lobby” exists precisely because people like Omar and her defenders make it necessary for it to exist.

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Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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