Ilhan Omar’s “anti-Semitism,” or how Twitter is the worst way to do politics
The new Democratic representative in Congress has triggered a wave of criticism for alleged anti-Semitic comments. Omar's mistake seems to lie not with the facts, but with the method she uses to make her argument.
The debate about the influence of money in Washington has always had its variations.
Since the end of World War II, support for the Israeli State has been fundamental in U.S. international policies and, therefore, bilateral economic "collaboration.”
But, a new generation of young representatives in Congress has brought with them open criticism of traditional networks - and Twitter has been their favorite platform to deploy it.
An example of this has been the controversy detonated by the new Democratic representative from Minnesota, and one of the country's first Muslims to be elected to Congress, Ilhan Omar, who suggested through the social media that "Republican support of Israel is fueled by donations from American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC),” CNN reported.
On Sunday, Omar responded to a tweet from journalist Gleen Greenwald in which he questioned the sensitivity of Republican representatives to the attacks on relations with Israel. Omar simply said: "It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”
It's all about the Benjamins baby https://t.co/KatcXJnZLV
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) 10 de febrero de 2019
When refuted by another user, Omar hinted that AIPAC's money is what has always put Washington in Israel's favor.
The positions held by the Congresswoman in the Israel-Palestine conflict are no secret to anyone. Since her campaign, the young progressive has pushed support for BDS (a boycott and sanctions movement that proposes to pressure Israel for its attacks against the Palestinian nation), and has joined those who demand a stop to Israeli occupation in the West Bank.
"Israel is an ally of the United States and I think as much as you would look to your neighbor to your friends to live out the same values as you are, we want to make sure that our allies are living out the same values that we push for here," she said in a past interview with CNN.
Since her campaign for Congress, Omar has lodged continuous criticisms of Israel's actions in the region, which has cost her deep attacks both from the Republican caucus and from several in the Israeli community in the United States.
Only on Sunday, the leader of the Republican minority in Congress, Kevin McCarthy, along with others from the party, demanded that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "take action" against Omar and her colleague Rashida Tlaib for their "attacks" against Israel, which have been branded as "anti-Semitic".
McCarthy equated the positions of the congressmen with those of Republican Steve King, who only weeks ago issued controversial statements in favor of white supremacy.
"Anti-Semitic tropes have no place in the halls of Congress," McCarthy added. "It's dangerous for Democratic leadership to stay silent on this reckless language."
But, are we really talking about anti-Semitism in Omar's comments?
The specific definition of anti-Semitism is "hostility, prejudice or discrimination against people who identify themselves as Jews", something that is far from the specific criticism of the interference of corporate money in the country's politics, Omar contends.
In this regard, Omar has detailed her positions: "When I talk about places like Saudi Arabia or Israel or even now with Venezuela, I’m not criticizing people. I am not criticizing their Faith, I am not criticizing their way of life," she said while on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
"What I’m criticizing is what’s happening at the moment, and I want for there to be accountability so that the government, the administration, the regime can do better," she added.
And, the problem does not seem to be with the message, but with the means by which Omar has chosen to make her argument.
As witnesses to the administrative chaos created by a president who often governs by tweeting, falling victim to this same error is not only paradoxical, but also counterproductive - especially when there is an ongoing battle regarding the role of the media in today's world, and the harm caused by mass disinformation.