Ilhan Omar’s Tweets: Anti-semitic or Islamophobic?

Pictofigo, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Pictofigo, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Erlan Benedis - Grab

Ilhan Omar’s Tweets: Anti-semitic or Islamophobic?

Newly installed Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar has been in the news lately. She’s made headlines for comments people, including fellow members of congress, have deemed anti-semitic. 


Omar was elected as one of two first Muslim American Congresswomen (along with Rashida Talib) and as the very first Somali-American Congresswoman. This is a sign of major progress because only a short time ago we could not imagine something like that could happen. 


Not only are these claims of anti-semitism wrong, but critics of Omar are feeding into the hands of some of the most awful anti-semites in this country. 


The main part of this controversy is about Omar’s reply to journalist Glenn Greenwald’s tweet. Greenwald’s tweet read, “GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy threatens punishment for @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib over their criticisms of Israel. It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.”


Omar replied, “it’s all about the benjamins baby.” She was referring to AIPAC, or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The main criticism of this comment is – brace yourselves –  saying that a Jewish lobbying group uses money to influence politicians. Yet, this is the exact nature of lobbying groups. There’s nothing anti-semitic about it. Let’s not pretend the NRA does not give any money to politicians ($800,000-1,500,000 per election cycle). 


In 2018 AIPAC spent $5 million beyond campaign contributions to candidates they deemed pro-Israel, plus the memberships fees to join AIPAC  are $1,800. If you take that number and multiply by its more than 100,000 members, you’ve got a lot of money flowing into political campaigns. 


The Republicans preach against the dangers of antisemitism, but top Republicans, such as house minority leader Kevin McCarthy, has used anti-semitic tropes to stir up donations in the midterms. This fall McCarthy tweeted, “we cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican November 6th. #maga.” In this post, he used an anti-semitic characterization of Jews as shadowy billionaires who control the world, which is a favorite conspiracy theory of anti-semites. He used this against liberal billionaires Tom Steyer, George Soros, and Michael Bloomberg, who not surprisingly, are all of Jewish descent. 


Notice the double standard? McCarthy himself used anti-semitic tropes and then threatened IIhan Omar over criticism of Israel. Whereas Omar hinted at criticizing a pro-Israel lobby, her tweet is accused of antisemitism.


People are allowed to wonder why we send $10 million dollars a day in the form of military aid to Israel. (Congressional Research Service)


These are the essential reasons why IIhan Omar’s comments aren’t offensive in any way and it’s just another baseless attack against one of the only Muslims inside of our government. IIhan Omar has criticized the Saudi government many times and because of that, the Saudi government has funded propaganda against her. 


Perhaps what this controversy should speak to is Islamophobia and how on-top-of-the-surface it is in all levels of government. The Republican-controlled state legislature in West Virginia put up an Islamophobic meme that equivalates Ilhan Omar to the 9/11 hijackers. It does not make apparent sense because she is a frequent critic of the Saudi government, who it’s citizens were the main perpetrators of 9/11, whereas Trump sells them billions of dollars in weapons and cheers them on. These slanderings against Ilhan Omar do not expose her anti-semitism, but rather our government’s Islamophobia.