When Congresswoman Ilhan Omar asserted that U.S. support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins”—i.e., all about money—and that the money came from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), most of the ensuing controversy revolved around whether these statements were anti-Semitic. But that misses the point, argues Michael Walzer:
Omar’s claim about “the Benjamins” is simply false. Money counts in American politics, but not in the way she says it does. American support for Israel has moral, political, religious, and strategic reasons; it isn’t bought. That falsehood is more important than the anti-Semitism that probably motivates it—or, better, we shouldn’t care about Omar’s moral character but rather about what she says.
Jewish critics of Omar have complained more about her character or her anti-Semitism than about the lies she repeats. . . . A congressional resolution condemning all forms of bigotry is no doubt commendable, but it doesn’t serve our political purpose. What is necessary is a fierce and detailed exposé of all the lies about the Jews. And it is important that the word be used: lies.
Many of Omar’s critics prefer to be offended, hurt, and distressed by her repetition of anti-Semitic tropes rather than outraged by the dishonesty of the tropes. And they are, in turn, afraid to offend Omar’s supporters, who seem to think that the lies Omar repeats are simply her opinions; they are just like everyone else’s opinions. . . .
If Jewish Democrats don’t get tough about this, they will soon find themselves unable to be tough about anything. They will be pushed out of the Democratic party just as Jews are being pushed out of the Labor party in the UK. Long ago, [the German socialist leader] August Bebel gave a name to left-wing anti-Semitism: “the socialism of fools.” Now the fools are in Congress.