Ilhan Omar is a confused anti-Semite. In 2012, she thought Israel (translation: the Jews) controlled the world through hypnosis. Now, seven years later, she believes something else: ‘it’s all about the Benjamins.’ Both ideas are classic anti-Semitic tropes. In a piece for Commentary magazine late last month, Abe Greenwald dissected the trope that had inspired Omar’s 2012 tweet. He writes:
‘The history of mystical anti-Semitism is long indeed. It predates Christendom and thrived, at times, long afterward. Martin Luther wrote that “a Jew is as full of idolatry and sorcery as nine cows have hair on their backs, that is: without number and without end.” Such notions were popular throughout Medieval Europe and survived in various forms into the modern age. The Third Reich was, in part, an occult operation. Official Nazi publications discussed phenomena such as the “Jewish evil eye.”’
The notion of Jews as witches of devil worshippers is a feature not commonly included in the kind of anti-Semitism popular in the Western world. But Omar’s second accusation, that Jews are wealthy and use that wealth to set the world’s agenda, is one that we encounter all the time (and that my ancestors indubitably encountered in Europe all the time). The Democrats have been largely hesitant to condemn the anti-Semitism that has been espoused by some of their more ‘progressive’ members. Not this time: Dems have been quick to condemn this latest round of Omar’s anti-Semitism. Support, on the other hand, has been shown to her by David Duke. Perhaps it was these condemnations that prompted Omar to ‘apologize’ this afternoon. Her non-apology needs to be read against the backdrop of her continued behavior.
In this and in all things, context is key. And the context here is the fact that Omar consistently engages in anti-Semitic rhetoric and supports policies which seek the destruction of the Jewish state. There are many ways to be hyper-critical of Israel and still refrain from engaging in anti-Semitism. Many of her Democratic colleagues provide excellent examples. She should heed them.
At the root of her accusation that Jewish money is what inspires politicians to support Israel lies something perhaps worse than anti-Semitism: profound ignorance.
Omar believes that American politicians support Israel either because the Jews have some hypnotic witch-like power, or they have essentially bribed their way into power. Not so. As Yair Rosenberg writes, ‘politicians tilt toward Israel because their voters do. When AIPAC lobbies Congress on the Jewish state’s behalf, it is knocking on an open door.’ Omar may not like it, but our citizenry overwhelmingly supports the Jewish state. Hypnosis and bribery are not the cause: shared values are.
There’s other analysis that Omar — and those who fail to see the problem with her remarks — should read. Bret Stephens’s longform in the Sunday Review this week is worth reading in its entirety. It is a well-argued piece that pulls no punches in dissecting the times when the progressive movement has targeted Jews and Zionism in increasingly inappropriate, anti-Semitic, and hostile ways. But for those looking for a quick soundbite, the piece’s sub-head on the progressive camp is enough: ‘a movement that can detect a racist dog-whistle from miles away is strangely deaf when it comes to some of the barking on its own side of the fence.’
That’s a message that senior Democrats need to internalize. For all their condemnations about her Jewish stereotyping, they placed her, and are now keeping her, on the foreign relations committee. That’s a strange message to send to Israel, one of our closest allies in the world, and to the Jews in this country.
Daniella Greenbaum Davis, a Spectator columnist, is a writer living in New York.