A Response to a Common Criticism of Rep. Ilhan Omar

Andrew has been seeing multiple formulations of this same claim and tries to offer a response...


The other day I ran a story about the public shaming of Rep. Ilhan Omar for saying that the Israel lobby exerts tremendous influence in Washington, one of the most commonsense but taboo topics of discussion in American discourse.

Rep. Ilhan Omar/Photo by MPAC National (CC BY 2.0)

I have dealt with a few different responses from people that all say the same thing, invocation of Jews with money influencing policy is antisemitic. The most articulate formulation of this came from Prof. Michael Meeropol via Louis Proyect’s MarxMail ListServ. The correspondence on that forum is publicly available online for anyone who is interested so I don’t think I am breaking confidence by publishing some of it here.

Now let’s be clear about who Meeropol is. His birth name is Michael Rosenberg, son of Julius and Ethel. If you want to find an episode in the last 100 years that was a clearly antisemitic, it was the Rosenberg trial, regardless of whether Jews were involved in the prosecution. The whole case was intended to scare the hell out of troublemaker Jewish Communists and it worked. Ethel was completely innocent and Julius had given intelligence to the Soviets, yes. But it was intelligence about airplane propellers DURING World War II, back when we were allies with the USSR! The Meeropol family itself has its own place in history because Abel, who adopted the Rosenberg boys, wrote the lyrics for the classic Billie Holliday ballad Strange Fruit. Michael and his brother Robert now run a fund that gives money to support the children of political activists. I don’t have a shred of animosity towards the man. Anyone who is looking to pin the label of racist on someone needs to go elsewhere. (For those who are interested, one of the finest documentaries made in the past 25 years about the Rosenberg case and the meaning of the Old Left was made by Michael’s daughter Ivy, Heir to an Execution: A Granddaughter’s Story.)

Dr. Michael Meeropol/Photo by Thomas Good

Sorry but I actually was persuaded by Michelle Goldberg’s piece — Yes, much of the bare facts that Rep. Omar stated are true (though emphasizing the manipulation by AIPAC neglects the long-run confluence of interests between the US ruling class and the Israeli government — the US doesn’t need to be manipulated by AIPAC) — BUT — the tossed off reference by Rep. Omar to the “Benjamins” harkens to the usual trope about rich Jews controlling everything — Allowing oneself to be called an anti-semite plays into the hands of the right wing and Goldberg was right to call her out on it …. and SHE was right to apologize —

It is unfortunate the victims of discrimination have to be twice as good as everyone else to be considered equal — in this context Muslims in the US have to be like Ceasar’s wife in order not to be subject to unfair attacks — (and they will anyway — ) Its totally unfair and with time that unfairness will be less effective — but that’s the reality —

The important come-back about McCarthy’s use of antisemitism to attack Soros, et al is useful and important.

I wrote this in response:


Knowing your family history and your background, I am going to be as polite as possible as opposed to my response to others, whom I have been rather different with about the same point.

The fact is that neither of her Tweets actually mentioned Jews. One mentioned a rap lyric and the other mentioned a Zionist lobby group.

If you subscribe to the notion that Zionism does not by default equal Judaism, something that seems to be the major argument of every anti-Zionist Jew these days, then why should I give credence to you making such a false tautological leap? Are you therefore saying that in fact Zionism, and in particular the AIPAC brand of Zionism, actually DOES equal Judaism? You don’t get to have it both ways.

Lobbies in America curry favor and influence by way of political campaign donations to candidates, not with Matisyahu records and latkes imported from Tel Aviv. You’re an economist and a Marxist, money is the basic universal commodity of capitalism.

Are we supposed to engage in a historical materialist critique of a political system while excluding THAT fundamental cornerstone of the political system because of an unfortunate coincidence that you infer has a prejudiced slant despite the fact that she was talking about AIPAC and not Judaism? It’s a pretty awesome leap of logic, it stinks to high heaven, and it also simply has no resemblance to either a) problematic statements made by Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, or b) the honest-to-God real deal antisemitic filth that is the stock and trade of Breitbart.

Here is an amazing segment carried by The Real News Network where one guest, Phyllis Bennis, who has been advocating for decades for Palestinians after being raised in the milieu of an American Jewish community that included a viable strain of Zionism within liberal Democratic Party politics, knocks it out of the park. Her discussion points and responses are fabulous and should put all this business to rest.

Video by The Real News Network/Fair Use

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