Discussing the role of the pro-Israel lobby in forming US Middle East policy is perilous. I’ve heard hundreds of stories from fellow advocates, colleagues on Capitol Hill, and journalists who have learned that lesson the hard way. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has once again brought that peril on herself.
Responding to journalist Glenn Greenwald’s comments about the amount of energy Congress spends defending Israel, Omar tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” When the Forward’s opinion editor asked her who she thought was “paying off” members of Congress to support Israel, Omar tweeted “AIPAC.”
The backlash was swift and powerful. Criticism and denunciation of Omar’s tweet as anti-Semitic came from all directions, left and right. It culminated with leading Democrats denouncing the new congresswoman and Omar’s apology. Omar’s initial comments evoked for many the image of Jews nefariously controlling a political agenda with their money, an old and sordidly familiar anti-Semitic trope.
Having been through this sort of thing before when she had to apologize for a tweet evoking the trope of subtle Jewish power by saying that Israel had hypnotized the world, Omar might have known better than to tweet so flippantly on a subject that requires significant nuance.
The new report from the Chicago Council on Public Affairs on U.S. public opinion toward the Israel-Palestine conflict rings a familiar tone. It tells us that Americans support a two-state solution, see Israel as an important U.S. ally, and believe the United States should not take sides in the conflict. It fails to drill down on many of these questions, leaving many responses ambiguous, but it does provide a few interesting nuggets about the views of U.S. citizens.
As one would expect, the survey found that Americans valued the relationship with Israel: 73 percent said the economic relationship with Israel was important and 78 percent said the security relationship was important. But in neither case was Israel particularly special in the affection it got from the public. Read more at LobeLog
In my piece this week at Souciant, I look at the rather ludicrous controversy around the Center for American Progress regarding a blogger’s use of the term “Israel-firster” to describe people whose view of US foreign policy is driven by their (or Netanyahu’s) view of Israel’s strategic interests. It’s a phony argument meant to extend the right-wing campaign against CAP, and it seems to have had some success. That is something that not only liberals, but anyone who believes in free and open political debate should take very seriously.
In my latest piece for Souciant, I deal with the question of why three key Obama officials, all of whom are keenly aware of American Jewish politics, chose this time to make controversial statements regarding Israel and its conflicts. There just might be a small dot of hope there.
Also, in a similar vein, POLITICO journalist Ben Smith has an excellent piece on some of my colleagues at the Center for American Progress and Media Matters and the effect they are starting to have on the Democratic Party.