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 		 [ As a Jew, an Israeli citizen, and a professional lobbyist (ahem,
activist), I speak from personal experience when I say that AIPAC is
tremendously effective, and the lubricant that makes its operation hum
is dollar, dollar bills.] [https://portside.org/] 

 WHAT ILHAN OMAR SAID ABOUT AIPAC WAS RIGHT; ILHAN OMAR IS NOT
ANTI-SEMITIC. SHE’S AN ANTI-IMPERIALIST  
[https://portside.org/2019-02-14/what-ilhan-omar-said-about-aipac-was-right-ilhan-omar-not-anti-semitic-shes-anti]


 

 Ady Barkan; Raphael Magarik 
 February 14, 2019
The Nation
[https://www.thenation.com/article/ady-barkan-aipac-ilhan-omar/] 

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 _ As a Jew, an Israeli citizen, and a professional lobbyist (ahem,
activist), I speak from personal experience when I say that AIPAC is
tremendously effective, and the lubricant that makes its operation hum
is dollar, dollar bills. _ 

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington.,
credit: AP Photo / Pablo Martinez Monsivais // The Nation 

 

What Ilhan Omar Said About AIPAC Was Right - Ady Barkan (The Nation)
Ilhan Omar Is Not Anti-Semitic. She’s An Anti-Imperialist - Raphael
Magarik (The Forward)

 

WHAT ILHAN OMAR SAID ABOUT AIPAC WAS RIGHT

_I’m ashamed to admit that endorsing AIPAC positions was all about
the Benjamins for me and my candidate._

By Ady Barkan

February 12, 2019
The Nation
[https://www.thenation.com/article/ady-barkan-aipac-ilhan-omar/]

Over the weekend, Republican House minority leader Kevin McCarthy
said he would seek to formally sanction the first two Muslim
congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, because their criticism
of Israel’s occupation of Palestine was even more reprehensible than
Congressman Steve King’s defense of white supremacy. What motivated
McCarthy’s false accusations of anti-Semitism? On Twitter, Omar
suggested, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby
[https://twitter.com/IlhanMN/status/1094747501578633216],” quoting
Puff Daddy’s ’90s paean to cash money
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0c58ppLPJcQ]. Omar subsequently
specified that she was talking about spending from the likes of the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC, the
powerful pro-Israel lobbying organization.

By Monday morning, AIPAC had mobilized its allies to condemn Omar’s
comment for playing into centuries-old anti-Semitic tropes that
wealthy Jews control the world. Even the Democratic leadership put out
a statement condemning her. All because she dared to point out that
the emperor has no clothes.

As a Jew, an Israeli citizen, and a professional lobbyist (ahem,
activist), I speak from personal experience when I say that AIPAC is
tremendously effective, and the lubricant that makes its operation hum
is dollar, dollar bills
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXJXLq1lN7U].

In 2006, fresh out of college, I landed a job as the first real
staffer on a long-shot Democratic congressional race in deep-red Ohio.
My boss, Victoria Wulsin, was a charming hippie doctor with a lefty
perspective on international affairs. She was skeptical of military
force and opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

About a month after winning the Democratic primary, we were struggling
to gain attention or money. Nobody gave us a chance to win. One
political-action organization, however, did reach out to us. It
wasn’t Emily’s List, although Vic was fiercely pro-choice. It
wasn’t a labor union or even a doctors’ association. It was AIPAC.

A local Democratic volunteer leader of the Cincinnati AIPAC chapter
sat down in Vic’s living room and I recall him saying that he would
like to raise $5,000 for our campaign and would also like to see Vic
take a public stance on two relatively obscure issues relating to
Iranian sanctions, arms sales to Israel, or some other such topic that
very few voters in the district cared about.

Vic and I both thought of ourselves as pro-peace, not pro-Israel. We
both felt icky about doing it; it was too hawkish and too quid pro
quo. But we were desperate. So I read the AIPAC position papers that
the volunteer left with us, I wrote up a statement saying that Vic
supported AIPAC’s stance on its two pet issues of the cycle, she
approved it, I posted it online, and the checks promptly arrived in
the mail thereafter. We didn’t win, but the money helped us get
close.

It was, I am ashamed to say, definitely about the Benjamins. We never
would have done it otherwise. AIPAC’s power is about more than
money, certainly. It’s about great organizing (they built a local
chapter, and sent a local Democratic volunteer emissary who then
facilitated the contributions). It’s about diligence (they paid
attention to Vic’s campaign long before anyone else, and were happy
to donate to both us and the militaristic, pro-Likud Republican
incumbent). Their lobbyists on the Hill are the best in the business,
and their legislator junkets to the Holy Land are masterfully
orchestrated. But money is central to the whole system.

Technically, AIPAC doesn’t make the political contributions.
Instead, as it notes proudly on its website, individual members of its
“Congressional Club,” like that Cincinnati resident, do the
bundling and donating directly, both as individuals and through
Political Action Committees that AIPAC and its members have set up.

Omar is right to point all this out. These dynamics are not unique to
the Israel-Palestine issue, however, and there is no reason that
Americans should be surprised or offended by what she and I are
saying. The NRA and the broader gun lobby operate in the same way.
Same with ExxonMobil and the fossil-fuel lobby. But since Omar and
Tlaib are powerful new spokeswomen for the movement to end the Israeli
occupation, delegitimizing them is a central aim of the Israel lobby.

AIPAC and its partners, which include Christian Zionists and military
contractors, are a central pillar of the Israeli occupation. Without
congressional support, the Likud/anti-Palestine/pro-occupation project
would be radically undermined. The money that AIPAC and the rest of
the lobby spend is indispensable to that work. That’s why they spend
it. Pointing this out is not anti-Semitic.

We do, in fact, have a growing anti-Semitism problem in America. But
Omar and Tlaib are not a part of it. They are allies of mine and of
Jews across this country who are fighting for peace, racial justice,
immigrants’ rights, and the defeat of fascism. The anti-Semites are
the Nazis and white supremacists who marched and murdered in
Charlottesville, whom Donald Trump called “very fine people,” and
the MAGA supporter who massacred worshippers at a Pittsburgh
synagogue.

The Israel lobby flexed its muscles in response to Omar’s tweet.
Almost all of Capitol Hill, sadly including the Democratic leadership
that I have supported, was up in arms. It flexed with equal potency
last month in marshaling through the Senate a clearly unconstitutional
law to ban speech promoting a boycott of Israel.

For 12 years, I have harbored minor private shame for advising Vic to
endorse AIPAC’s position papers and more significant shame for not
doing enough to stop the oppression of the Palestinian people.

I am speaking up now because it may be my last chance. Although I am
only 35, I am dying. As I write these words, I am sitting with my wife
in the waiting room of the Santa Barbara hospital emergency room,
slowly bleeding from my stomach into a pile of gauze. I had a feeding
tube inserted four days ago but it isn’t healing properly. I am
losing the ability to swallow, because I have ALS, a poorly understood
neurological disease with no treatment, which seized my body 28 months
ago and has basically paralyzed me since. My hands do not work and
almost nobody can understand my mumbling, so I am using amazing
technology that tracks the location of my eyes and allows me to slowly
type out these words with my pupil-tips.

This is my chance to redeem my Jewish guilt, to speak out against the
oppression that is being perpetrated in my name, and I do not intend
to let a minor obstacle like ALS stop me.

Young Jews across America increasingly agree with Omar and me, and
that is making the Israel lobby very nervous. As it should: The
occupation is too immoral, illegal, and inhumane to survive an open
and honest conversation in the marketplace of ideas. That is why AIPAC
and its associates work to silence criticism of Israel by accusing its
detractors of anti-Semitism and claiming that nobody may ever talk
about how the Israel lobby uses money to build power.

The ugly truth is that the Israel lobby, like other powerful lobbies
led by Jew and gentile alike, wields its money strategically and
effectively. Outrage should be directed not at those who point this
out (most often Muslims and people of color) but at the suffering of
the Palestinian people and the simultaneous dependence of the
Republican Party on genuine anti-Semites.

I do not expect to live to see the liberation of the Palestinian
people. But I maintain hope that my toddler son will. If he does, it
will be because young American Jews like him do the honest
self-reflection taught by our forebears, take pride in our tradition
of justice, and join in solidarity and struggle with fellow Semites
like Omar.

[_Ady Barkan is an organizer with the Center for Popular Democracy and
the founder of the Be A Hero PAC. His memoir, Eyes to the Wind, will
be published by Atria Books in the fall.]_

Related Article

I’m Dying. Here Is What I Refuse to Accept With Serenity.
[https://www.thenation.com/article/im-dying-here-is-what-i-refuse-to-accept-with-serenity/]

Ady Barkan

_Copyright c 2018 The Nation. Reprinted with permission. May not be
reprinted without
[http://thenationreprints.magreprints.com/services/e-prints/]permission
[http://thenationreprints.magreprints.com/services/e-prints/].
Distributed by
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ILHAN OMAR IS NOT ANTI-SEMITIC. SHE’S AN ANTI-IMPERIALIST.

By Raphael Magarik

February 14, 2019
The Forward
[https://forward.com/opinion/419360/ilhan-omar-is-not-anti-semitic-shes-an-anti-imperialist/]

Representative Ilhan Omar
Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP  //  The Guardian 
There are two stories this week about Rep. Ilhan Omar
[https://forward.com/opinion/419112/ilhan-omar-tweeted-something-anti-semitic-again/],
the new Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota. But the trick is, you
cannot understand one without the other. Let me explain.

First, she tweeted that Republican attacks on her and Rep. Rashida
Tlaib were “all about the Benjamins.”
[https://twitter.com/IlhanMN/status/1094747501578633216] Her
suggestion that money heavily influences politicians’ positions on
Israel (which is an obvious fact
[https://www.thenation.com/article/ady-barkan-aipac-ilhan-omar/]) was
widely attacked as anti-Semitic, and she was forced to apologize. That
story attracted massive attention — statements
[https://nypost.com/2019/02/12/trump-calls-on-ilhan-omar-to-resign-over-anti-semitic-tweets/] from
Trump and cable network debates.

Second, on Wednesday, she had a fiery, tense exchange
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Mutu-P7_NA] with Elliott Abrams,
Trump’s special envoy to Venezuela, over his involvement
[https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/26/americas/elliott-abrams-venezuela-special-envoy-career/index.html] in
atrocities and coups in Latin America in the 1980s. Somehow, I doubt
this second story will get the same intensive coverage. And yet it is
the far more interesting, surprising story — and without it, we have
no chance of understanding the real dynamics of the anti-Semitism
[https://forward.com/opinion/419117/no-ilhan-omar-is-not-anti-semitic-for-calling-out-aipac/] charges.

 [https://twitter.com/jacobinmag/status/1095782644619587584]

Listen here
[https://twitter.com/jacobinmag/status/1095782644619587584].

Some background: Trump has picked Abrams to advise him on how to
respond to a right-wing coup in Venezuela against the democratically
elected, but deeply unsavory, corrupt, and authoritarian Maduro
regime. Observers worry
[https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/31/opinion/us-intervention-venezuela.html] that
Trump means to back the coup, perhaps even militarily. The choice of
Abrams confirms those worries, because in the 1980s, Abrams oversaw
brutal, cold-war American colonialism in Latin America: support
[https://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/17/world/americas/trial-on-guatemalan-civil-war-carnage-leaves-out-us-role.html] for
the Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt as he butchered his own
people, the cover-up
[https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/26/americas/elliott-abrams-venezuela-special-envoy-career/index.html] of
the El Salvadorian military’s murder of several hundred civilians in
El Mozote, and the covert overthrow
[https://theintercept.com/2019/01/30/elliott-abrams-venezuela-coup/] of
the democratically elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

For his role in the Iran-Contra Affair, he pled guilty to two
misdemeanors
[https://theintercept.com/2019/01/30/elliott-abrams-venezuela-coup/].

Elliott Abrams’ continued role in American foreign policy is a
shanda, a scandal. But it is a normal scandal. The surprise is
Omar’s line of questions — not just about Abram’s criminal
record, but about his role in American war crimes.

Even the words she uses to describe American foreign policy
[https://forward.com/opinion/400912/how-moving-the-embassy-and-nixing-the-iran-deal-challenge-american-jewish/] is
shocking: “Would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that
engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide,” she
asked him, “if you believe they were serving U.S. interests as you
did in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua?”

Such brutal, honest language about American foreign policy
[https://forward.com/opinion/401312/guess-what-israel-doesnt-care-what-american-jews-think/] is
rarely heard in Congress.

It is the language of committed anti-imperialism — of someone who
views American foreign policy with sizeable suspicion, who does not
assume that our military is virtuous, who is all too aware of the ugly
work done by American proxy-states around the world.

Indeed, Omar’s foreign policy platform
[https://www.ilhanomar.com/peaceandprosperity] announces that she
will “reduce total spending on the military,” “end sanctions and
embargoes against countries” and renegotiate free-trade agreements
to stop “multinational corporations [which] exploit working
people.”

Moreover, she has attracted the wrath
[https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/12/11/saudi-arabia-declares-war-on-americas-muslim-congresswomen/] of
the Saudi government, who fear she will attack links between the U.S.
and Middle Eastern dictatorships. In other words, Omar
[https://forward.com/news/national/419326/ilhan-omar-jewish-anti-semitism/] is
well outside the foreign-policy mainstream—in my view refreshingly.
She would curtail the projection of American military power abroad,
and she thinks America
[https://forward.com/opinion/412816/what-has-trump-done-to-us-america/] gets
in bed with too many bad actors.

This context is crucial for understanding her policy and tweets
about Israel
[https://forward.com/news/israel/417033/democratic-newcomers-herald-new-reality-for-israel-in-congress/],
for two reasons.

Narrowly, arguments about supposed anti-Semitism
[https://forward.com/fast-forward/419154/ilhan-omar-apologizes-antisemitic-aipac/] often
rest on the claim that critics single out Israel unfairly. There is
some truth to this, because for the most part, American politicians do
not question most of the horrible things that American money and
troops do overseas. (Remember the catastrophic, pointless war in
Afghanistan which has claimed more than 60,000 Afghani lives
[https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2015/War%20Related%20Casualties%20Afghanistan%20and%20Pakistan%202001-2014%20FIN.pdf]?
Exactly one member of congress, Rep. Barbara Lee, voted against it in
2001.)

But it is totally unfair when applied to Omar
[https://forward.com/news/national/414050/muslim-trailblazer-ilhan-omar-admits-she-backs-bds-now-that-election-is/].

She genuinely holds radical, risky views on all aspects of American
foreign policy. She is opposed to violence against civilians in Latin
America
[https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ilhan-omar-elliott-abrams-venezuela-envoy-clash-over-us-meddling-in-latin-america/],
in Yemen [https://www.ilhanomar.com/peaceandprosperity/], and yes,
in Gaza too
[https://alphanewsmn.com/ilhan-omar-continues-defend-her-anti-israel-comments/].
She believes the United States should end sanctions everywhere — not
just against Iran, but against North Korea too
[https://www.ilhanomar.com/peaceandprosperity/]. Say what you want
about her foreign policy, but she is a peacenik and skeptic of
American empire—consistently.

But beyond the question of her consistency, Ilhan Omar’s
anti-imperialism is important because it heralds new possibilities in
American politics—and a new conversation about Israel and Palestine.

While she is clearly on the left of the Democratic Party, there are
reasons to think she is a vanguard, rather than just a fringe. For one
thing, Senator Bernie Sanders advocates many of the same policies,
albeit more moderately. Further, at the 2016 Democratic convention,
his faction pushed the question
[https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/06/29/inside-the-democratic-partys-showdown-over-israel-palestine/] of
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, long untouchable in U.S. politics.

More broadly, as Dov Waxman observes in his book
[https://press.princeton.edu/titles/10672.html] Trouble in the Tribe,
foreign policy in America has recently started to become a partisan
issue, rather than a matter of collective consensus. Compared to
twenty-five years ago, Republican and Democrat voters differ more
sharply and coherently on foreign-policy issues. Space is opening for
a foreign-policy Left, a politically viable anti-imperialism that has
power within the Democratic Party.

Such anti-imperialists will necessarily be suspicious of AIPAC and
of Israel
[https://forward.com/fast-forward/419103/ilhan-omar-anti-semitism-antisemitism-aipac/].
If you believe in cutting American military spending and reducing our
presence abroad, you will hardly favor giving Israel three billion
dollars in military aid every year.

If you are appalled by American-backed atrocities in El Mozote, you
will likely be equally upset about civilians being mowed down on the
Gaza border. If you use the word “occupation” to talk about
America’s role in Iraq and Afghanistan, then you will use the same
word to talk about the West Bank.

In short, the old rules may no longer apply. Much of the American
consensus on Israel has rested on a broader agreement about American
power and violence: that we are basically virtuous and
good-intentioned.

Debates largely play out within ideologically narrow bounds —
arguments between moderates and neo-conservatives over whether this or
that intervention is wise, while the military budget slowly grows, the
U.S. continues to support dictators and quiet wars, and so on. Debates
about Israel remain largely between conciliatory liberal Zionists and
rabid right-wingers, with the Left being pushed to the margins.

But things do not have to continue like this, and if the growing
polarization of American politics continue, that fundamental consensus
will crack. If it does, the argument about Israel and Palestine will
shift radically.

Omar may, in short, have caved this time. This particular tweet came
to seem indefensible: the pressure was too great. But it cannot
continue like that. Her broader vision of America’s role in the
world is simply incompatible with funding and arming the Israeli
occupation.

Having taken clear, radical positions on American foreign policy, she
simply will not be able to be “make nice” every time. And if 2020
is anything like 2018, and this nascent anti-imperialist group grows
— well, then, she may not have to.

_[Raphael Magarik is a graduate student in English Literature at UC
Berkeley. His work has appeared in The Atlantic and The Forward.]_

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