For once in my life, I’m on the side of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Despite this lady’s expressions of loathing for the white Christian West and for the country that gave her asylum and masochistically elevated her to a congressional seat, I stand with Ilhan against Kevin McCarthy, who (God help us!) may be the new Republican Speaker of the House.
McCarthy, in a well-publicized oration at a Jewish Republican conference in Las Vegas last month, stated his intention to remove Congresswoman Omar from her position on the House Foreign Relations Committee. McCarthy planned to take this radical step because Omar had rashly criticized Israel in public statements. She claimed that Israel had “hypnotized the world” and that, given the treatment of the occupied West Bank by the Israeli government, boycotting Israel is like “boycotting Nazi Germany.”
Allow me to say the obvious here: I do not agree with Omar’s over-the-top attack on the Israelis and find her comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany breathtakingly inappropriate. Given the source, however, I am not surprised by Omar’s less than carefully considered statements. The “anti-Semitic” comments she made last year, for which McCarthy also intends to punish her, seem somewhat blander than her later statements.
Omar’s earlier charge that the Israel lobby bribes politicians with “Benjamins” may in fact be a crude way of telling us the truth. Although Omar may have chosen her words more thoughtfully, she is right that there is an Israeli lobby and Zionist donors in the U.S. who will act in accordance with what they—correctly or incorrectly—perceive as Israeli interests. I don’t think these defenders and promoters always represent Israel’s interests accurately or that they act in all cases on instruction from Israeli leaders. But they do try to isolate critics of Israel in the U.S. McCarthy is acting in such a way that he seems to be doing this lobby’s bidding with slavish obedience.
Politicians have been known to court particular constituencies; examples of this practice are legion. Both parties, for example, work hard at attracting or holding on to black voters, although only one of the two national parties has had success in this endeavor. Hispanics seem more open to competition from both parties, and in recent election cycles, the GOP worked arduously to make inroads with that group. But the Jewish vote seems to be a harder nut for the GOP to crack. Republicans usually only manage to pick up slightly more than 30 percent of this demographic. What they garner is usually taken from the Orthodox community, the assimilated remnants of the 19th-century German Jewish settlement in the U.S., and very fervent, usually quite wealthy Zionists, like the late Sheldon Adelson.
The gathering at which McCarthy spoke was loaded with affluent Jewish Republicans who, like Adelson (one of Trump’s major donors), are very much committed to Israel and, predictably, Israel’s right-wing party. McCarthy was pitching his remarks about Omar specifically to these listeners, and like other politicians, he strained to tell them exactly what they wanted to hear. But McCarthy managed to sink even below those very low standards of propriety that ought to be in force among congressional leaders. He did more than grovel in the way that politicians often practice their art. He decided to punish members of the Foreign Relations Committee for criticizing a foreign government, about which McCarthy feels impelled—for his own advantage—to say only nice things.
Needless to say, no one on that committee will be threatened with expulsion for chastising the German government about ending its use of atomic energy and thereby becoming dependent on Russian natural gas. McCarthy would heartily concur if such a censure were voiced on the floor of Congress. Nor would he likely care if someone on that committee laced into the Hungarian, Polish, or Italian government—however intemperately. After all, those acts would not bring down the wrath of Zionist donors from whom McCarthy was angling to get money when he spoke in Las Vegas. Nor would he promise to remove such congressional critics from their positions on the foreign relations committee.
I would also distinguish McCarthy’s threat from ordinary efforts to win support from the Zionist lobby: e.g., when Trump boasted about all he had done for Israel when he was president. Such a comment, which came while Trump was addressing Christian Zionists, may strike one as tasteless but certainly not irresponsible to the same degree as McCarthy’s statements. There was something uniquely awful about McCarthy’s threat, and for those of us on the right who regard him as an unprincipled opportunist, his pandering confirmed our worst suspicions.
To strengthen his own position, McCarthy will do whatever it takes, including bullying members of Congress who upset useful foreign governments and their American fans. We might wonder whether Republican house members can come up with a more honorable house speaker. Let’s hope so.