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GOP pretends to care about anti-Semitism after campaigning on it

Republicans only seem to care about anti-Semitism if they can use it to attack Democrats.

By Emily Singer - February 11, 2019
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Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy

Republican lawmakers are attacking Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota over comments she made on Twitter Sunday night about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobbying group. They say that by critiquing the GOP’s relationship with AIPAC as being “all about the Benjamins,” Omar perpetuated anti-Semitic tropes and must be condemned by all.

However, the same Republicans who are eager to rebuke Omar seem to have forgotten their own use of anti-Semitic dog whistles during the 2018 midterm elections — not to mention their failure to stand up to Nazis and white supremacists in their own party.

“Anti-Semitic tropes have no place in the halls of Congress,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote in a holier-than-thou Twitter thread Sunday night. “It is dangerous for Democrat leadership to stay silent on this reckless language.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats did in fact call Omar’s remarks “deeply offensive” on Monday and called on her to apologize.

A short while later, Omar did just that in a statement. “Anti-Semitism is real and I am thankful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” she wrote. “This is why I unequivocally apologize.” She added that she still intends to address “the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry.”

But Republicans like McCarthy have no room to talk when it comes to perpetuating anti-Semitic tropes.

Ahead of the midterms in October 2018, McCarthy tweeted: “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer and Bloomberg to BUY the election! Get out and vote Republican Nov 6th! #MAGA.”

It was bad enough for McCarthy to accuse three men who are Jewish or have Jewish heritage of trying to “buy” the election. But Holocaust survivor and philanthropist George Soros has also been the subject of deeply anti-Semitic right-wing conspiracy theories about being a “globalist” who is trying to control the world economy.

McCarthy ended up deleting that tweet after Soros was the target of a mail bomb from a pro-Trump domestic terrorist.

Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, who is Jewish, also called Omar’s choice of words “deeply hurtful and offensive” and said she “appears to traffic in old anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money.”

But Nadler was also quick to point out the hypocrisy of GOP lawmakers, too many of whom have trafficked in either hateful anti-Semitic conspiracy theories or equally hateful Islamophobia, and warned Americans not to be fooled by bad-faith arguments.

“Even as this is the case, one must also note and be concerned about the concerted Right-wing tactics aimed at advancing their agenda by distracting and dividing those committed to equality and social justice,” Nadler wrote. “These tactics have painted some unfairly and we must guard against this as well, because to unfairly accuse someone of a particular hatred undermines the legitimacy of the condemnations when they are truly warranted.”

It’s worth noting that Omar’s original comment was a response to what she apparently saw as an unfair attack from McCarthy, who threatened to take unspecified “action” against both Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), both Muslim women, for unspecified remarks about Israel that McCarthy said were offensive.

Meanwhile, top Republicans, McCarthy included, have been shamefully slow to condemn outright white supremacy and Nazi sympathizing in their own party, particularly from Rep. Steve King of Iowa.

Republicans also ran into trouble during the midterms when a shocking number of open white supremacists, and even literal Nazis, kept winning Republican primaries and becoming the official GOP nominee.

In addition to McCarthy, the entire GOP establishment used Soros extensively in their midterm messaging — painting him as a shadowy, nefarious figure funding radical policies.

The National Republican Congressional Committee even refused to take down its anti-Soros ad in the wake of the anti-Semitic mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue — even when it emerged that the alleged shooter believed Soros was funding the migrant caravan that the GOP and Trump tried unsuccessfully to use as a scare tactic to rally their base voters.

“That ad is factual,” then NRCC Chair Steve Stivers told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “And it also has nothing to do with calling for violence. That ad is a factual ad.”

Let’s also not forget Trump, who claimed there were good people on “both sides” of the Charlottesville protest, equating anti-racism counter-protesters with neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

Omar’s comments have sparked intense debate about U.S. policy on Israel, AIPAC’s lobbying efforts, Palestinian human rights, and how to talk about those things without using bigoted tropes.

But the GOP’s outrage over Omar is hypocritical at best and phony at worst, given how consistently the party has trafficked in anti-Semitism for political gain.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation. 


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