In his novel 1984 George Orwell invented the expression “newspeak” to describe the ambiguous or deliberately misleading use of language to make political propaganda and narrow the “thought options” of those who are on the receiving end. In the context of today’s political discourse, or what passes for the same, it would be interesting to know what George would think of the saturation use of “anti-Semitism” as something like a tactical discussion stopper, employed to end all dispute while also condemning those accused of the crime as somehow outside the pale, monsters who are consigned forever to derision and obscurity.
The Israelis and, to be sure, many diaspora Jews know exactly how the expression has been weaponized. Former Israeli Minister Shulamit Aloni explained how it is done “Anti-Semitic”…”its a trick, we always use it.”
If one were to read the U.S. mainstream media, reflective as it nearly always is of a certain institutional Jewish viewpoint, one would think that there has been a dramatic increase in anti-Semitism worldwide, but that claim is incorrect. What has been taking place is not hatred of Jews but rather a confluence of two factors. First is the undeniable fact that Israel has been behaving particularly badly, even by its admittedly low standards. Its slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza has been unusually observable in spite of media attempts to avoid mentioning it, plus its support of terrorists in Syria and attacks on that country have also raised questions about the intentions of the kleptocratic regime in Tel Aviv, which is currently pushing for an attack on Iran. That all means that the perception of Israel, which boasts that it is the exclusively Jewish state, inevitably raises questions about the international Jewish community that provides much of its support. But the shift in perception is driven by Israeli behavior, not by Jews as an ethnicity or a religion.
Second, the alleged increase in anti-Semitic incidents is largely fueled by how those incidents are defined. Israel and its friends have worked hard to broaden the parameters of the discussion, making any criticism of Israel or its activities either a hate crime or ipso facto an anti-Semitic incident. The U.S. State Department’s working definition of anti-Semitism includes “…the targeting of the state of Israel” and it warns that anti-Semitism is a criminal offense. Recent legislation in Washington and also in Europe has criminalized hitherto legal and non-violent efforts to pressure Israel regarding its inhumanity vis-à-vis the Palestinians. Legitimate criticism of Israel thereby becomes both anti-Semitism and criminal, increasing the count of so-called anti-Semitic incidents. That means that the numbers inevitably go up, providing fodder to validate a repressive response.
One might add that Hollywood, the mainstream media and academia have contributed to the allegations regarding surging anti-Semitism, relentlessly unleashing a torrent of material rooting out alleged anti-Semites and so-called holocaust deniers, while simultaneously heaping praise on Israel and its achievements. Professor of Holocaust Studies Deborah Lipstadt has written a book Anti-Semitism: Here and Now about what she regards as the new anti-Semitism, supporting her belief that it is getting markedly worse in both Europe and the U.S. There is also a movie about her confrontation with holocaust critic David Irving called Denial. All of the media exposure of so-called anti-Semitism has a political objective, whether intended or not, which is to insulate Israel itself from any criticism and to create for all Jews the status of perpetual victimhood which permits many in the diaspora to unflinchingly support a foreign country against the interests of the nations where they were born, raised and made their fortunes. That is called dual loyalty and, in spite of frequent denials from Israel-apologists, it clearly exists for many American Jews who are passionate about the Jewish state, including members of the Trump Administration Jason Greenblatt, David Friedman and Jared Kushner.
In the past week, a newly elected member of congress has been derided, shunned and then forced to both recant and apologize for having said something that is manifestly true: that Jewish money corrupts the American political system to favor Israel. The controversy erupted after House minority leader Republican Kevin McCarthy said he would initiate investigations of two Muslim congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, over their criticisms of Israel. McCarthy called for the two to be denounced by the Democratic Party as anti-Semites after Tlaib had said that the sponsors of recent legislation intended to benefit Israel by limiting free speech “…forgot what country they represent. This is the U.S. where boycotting is a right and part of our historical fight for freedom and equality. Maybe a refresher on our U.S. Constitution is in order, then get back to opening up our government instead of taking our rights away.”
Indeed, Tlaib had a point as the Congressional Israel boosters have long since forgotten that they are supposed to uphold the Constitution of the United States while also promoting the interests of their constituents, not those of a country seven thousand miles away. Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept responded to the news of the McCarthy threat with a tweet “It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.” Ilhan Omar then tweeted her own pithy rejoinder to Greenwald on Sunday February 10th: “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby!” which was in reference to the Founder Benjamin Franklin’s portrait on hundred-dollar bills. Her comment was almost immediately interpreted as meaning that she was accusing McCarthy of being bought by Jews. She followed up on a question about who was doing the buying she tweeted “AIPAC,” an elaboration that unleashed something like an anti-Semitism shit storm in her direction.
It was manufactured outrage, with political leaders from both parties latching on to a media frenzy to score points against each other. Even though it is perfectly legitimate for a Congresswoman on the Foreign Affairs Committee to challenge what AIPAC does and where its money comes from, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi complained that Omar’s “use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel’s supporters” was “deeply offensive.” Chelsea Clinton accused Omar of “trafficking in anti-Semitism.” President Donald Trump, who has admitted that his Mideast policy is intended to serve Israeli rather than U.S. interests, also jumped in, saying “I think she should either resign from congress or she should certainly resign from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”
Ilhan Omar quickly understood that she had touched a live wire, surrendered, and recanted. She apologized by Monday afternoon, 18 hours after her original tweet, saying “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.” But she also bravely wrote “At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.”
Pelosi approved of the apology. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota who is running for president in 2020, chimed in to make sure that everyone knew how much she loves Israel, saying “I’m glad she apologized. That was the right thing to do. There is just no room for those kinds of words. I think Israel is our beacon of democracy. I’ve been a strong supporter of Israel and that will never change.”
Two days later, a motion sponsored by Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York passed by a 424 to 0 vote. It was specifically intended to serve as a rebuke to Omar. It stated that “it is in the national security interest of the United States to combat anti-Semitism around the world because…there has been a significant amount of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hatred that must be most strongly condemned.”
Congressional votes professing love for Israel notwithstanding, the fact is that there is a massive, generously funded effort to corrupt America’s government in favor of Israel. It is euphemistically called the Israel Lobby even though it is overwhelmingly Jewish and it boasts fairly openly of its power when talking with its closest friends about how its money influences the decisions made on Capitol Hill and in the White House. Its combined budget exceeds one billion dollars per year and it includes lobbying powerhouses like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) which alone had $229 million in income in 2017, supporting more than 200 employees. It exists only to promote Israeli interests on Capitol Hill and throughout the United States with an army of lobbyists and its activities include using questionably legal all expenses paid “orientation” trips to Israel for all new congressmen and spouses.
McCarthy and the other stooges in Congress deliberately sought to frame the argument in terms of Ilhan Omar having claimed that he personally was receiving money from pro-Israel sources and that money influenced his voting. Well, the fact is that such activity does take place and was documented three years ago by the respected Foreign Policy Journal, which published a piece entitled “The Best Congress AIPAC can Buy” as well as more recently in an al-Jazeera investigative expose using a concealed camera.
And Kevin McCarthy does indeed receive money from Israel PACs – $33,200 in 2018. The amount individual congressmen receive is dependent on their actual or potential value to Israel. Completely corrupt and enthusiastically pro-Israel Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey received $548,507 in 2018. In the House, Beto O’Rourke of Texas received $226,690. The numbers do not include individual contributions of under $200, which are encouraged by AIPAC and can be considerable. In general, congressmen currently receive over $23,000 on average from the major pro-Israel organizations while Senators get $77,000.
But, of course, direct donations of money are not the whole story. If a congressman is unfriendly to Israel, money moves in the other direction, towards funding an opponent when re-election is coming up. Former Rep. Brian Bard has observed that “Any member of Congress knows that AIPAC is associated indirectly with significant amounts of campaign spending if you’re with them, and significant amounts against you if you’re not with them.” Lara Friedman, who has worked on the Hill for 15 years on Israel/Palestine, notes how congressmen and staffs of “both parties told me over and over that they agreed with me but didn’t dare say so publicly for fear of repercussions from AIPAC.”
A good example of how it all worked involves one honest congressman, Walter Jones of North Carolina, who recently passed away. In 2014, “Wall Street billionaires, financial industry lobbyists, and neoconservative hawks” tried to unseat Jones by bankrolling his primary opponent. The “dark money” intended to defeat him came from a PAC called “The Emergency Committee for Israel,” headed by leading neoconservative Bill Kristol. Jones’ war views, including avoiding a war with Iran, were clearly perceived as anti-Israel.
And one should also consider contributions directly to the political parties. Israeli/U.S. dual nationals Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban are the largest single donors to the GOP and to the Democrats, having contributed $82 million and $8,780,000 respectively in the 2016 presidential campaign. Both have indicated openly that Israel is their top priority.
If they have demonstrated fealty to Israel while in office, many Congressmen also find that loyalty pays off after retirement from government with richly remunerated second careers in Jewish dominated industries, like financial services or the media. And there are hundreds of Jewish organizations that contribute to Israel as charities, even though the money frequently goes to fund illegal activity, including the settlements. Money also is used to buy newspapers and media outlets which then adhere to a pro-Israel line, or, where that does not work, to buy advertising that is conditional on being friendly to Israel. So the bottom line is indeed “the Benjamins” and the corruption that they buy.
Karen Pollock of the Holocaust Education Trust said in January that “One person questioning the truth of the Holocaust is one too many.” That is nonsense. Any, and all, historical events should be questioned regularly, a principle that is particular true regarding developments that carry a lot of emotional baggage. The Israel Lobby would have all Americans believe that any criticism of Israel is motivated by historic hatred of Jews and is therefore anti-Semitism. Don’t believe it. When the AIPAC crowd screams that linking Jews and money is a classic anti-Semitic trope respond by pointing out that Jews and money are very much in play in the corruption of congress and the media over Israel. Terrible things are being done in the Middle East in the name of Jews and of Israel and it all comes down to those Benjamins and the silence they buy by accusing all critics of anti-Semitism. Just recall what the Israeli minister admitted, “It’s a trick, we always use it.”