This evening, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that he would “take action” against Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for their criticism of Israel, according to Haaretz.
“If they do not take action I think you’ll see action from myself,” Kevin McCarthy told reporters. “This cannot sustain itself. It’s unacceptable in this country.”
McCarthy drew an absurd false equivalence between Rep. Steve King’s years of racism and Omar and Tlaib’s comments about Israel. Omar and Tlaib, it should be noted, are the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.
But don’t worry, things got worse!
Omar took to Twitter, retweeting a Glen Greenwald tweet about McCarthy’s threat with a caption referencing a rap song by Puff Daddy (as the rapper was known at the time).
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People did not take this well. Omar was immediately accused of anti-Semitism for referencing money and Zionist influence on Congress in the same breath.
Omar responded to some of these criticisms by pointing to AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group that exerts immense power in Washington.
Nitpickers responded by stating that AIPAC doesn’t pay candidates directly, as if that rules out their massive influence on politics. AIPAC regularly spends millions lobbying for policies and campaigns. On their website, AIPAC touts a few of their achievements in Congress, listing U.S. monetary support for Israeli defense and “dozens of congressional resolutions and statements of support for Israel’s right to self-defense.”
Former Congressman Brian Bard explained the power that AIPAC has to influence candidates to the New Yorker in 2014.
“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,” he said.
But, despite being fundamentally correct, Omar also did something incredibly stupid: she retweeted and then immediately deleted a tweet that accused her of anti-Semitism.
Omar also fell short on explaining how AIPAC influences politics in America. She could have clarified that she doesn’t consider AIPAC a representative of all Jews. And she could have explained why their influence on Congress, like that of many lobbying groups, is harmful. But she instead kept her responses short, leaving an opening for others to misconstrue her comments.
When asked for comment by Politico, Omar’s spokesperson said the tweets “speak for themselves.”
This, again, was a bad move. Yes, it is unfair that Muslims are targeted with accusations of anti-Semitism, and that even the most minor criticism of Israel elicits a howl of rage from the political establishment. But there are plenty of people out there who are willing to listen to an argument against U.S. support of Israel’s policies if it was presented in a way they could understand. Omar’s tweets failed to do that. And now they’ll be used to smear anyone who supports her or the policies she endorses. Everything sucks.