“Benjamin” Uses Ilhan Omar to Defend Himself!
Saad Saeb Saad Saeb

“Benjamin” Uses Ilhan Omar to Defend Himself!

US media, and Western media in general, are still preoccupied with discussing the removal of Ilhan Omar from the Committee on Foreign Relations in the US Congress, by a House resolution passed on Thursday, February 2. The resolution passed by a vote of 218-211. The vote was divided exactly along party lines, where Republicans supported it and Democrats opposed it, with the exception of a Republican representative who voted “present”, meaning that he neither supported nor opposed the resolution.

The justification for the resolution, according to the Republicans, were Ilhan tweets and statements that go back to 2019 and 2021, which at the time were considered “antisemitic” and “anti-Israel”.

This is the third time in nearly four years, where a controversy surrounding Ilhan Omar, the 40-year-old Democratic US Representative who is a Somalian Muslim and refugee, occupies the top spot for best seller in the box office of the American political media show, and also to a large extent in Western media in general.

The first two times were in 2019 and 2021. In the first instance, Omar was attacked following a tweet in which she implicitly attacked the influence of funding in the American “democratic” process, and that funding is not related to principles as much as it is related to interests. At the time, she used the phrase “It’s all about the Benjamins baby”. What is ridiculous in the way Omar was attacked at the time is that her use of this particular expression was considered anti-semitic and targeting Jews based on the fact that the name Benjamin is a common Jewish name.

Omar apologized after the attack, and “unequivocally” per her own words. Her justification was that she did not know that there was this kind of implication in this phrase. This is despite the fact that the term a “Benjamin” is well-known and broadly used in the US, having nothing to do with Jews, “Israel”, or anti-Semitism. What is meant by the term is the hundred-dollar bill, which bears the image of US President Benjamin Franklin. This expression is also widely used in the entertainment industry, be it films, shows, or music. There is a rap song that bears the title “It’s All About the Benjamins”, meaning it is all about the money, which no one had thought twice about what it could mean or misunderstood it to mean anything other than being about money. This meaning of “Benjamin” was probably the one in Ilhan’s mind when she wrote her tweet, which makes her subsequent apology and how she apologized very strange.

What is worth mentioning is that the entire American political system united in attacking Omar at the time, and those who led these attacks were Democrats themselves, especially Nancy Pelosi.

The second time that Omar was attacked, was in a tweet following something she said within her capacity as a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, during the hearing session with Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken. In the tweet, she said: “We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban. I asked @SecBlinken where people are supposed to go for justice”.

The argument used in the second attack against Omar at the time was that in her aforementioned tweet she put “Israel”, the US, the Taliban, and Hamas on equal footing. She again quickly apologized and justified by saying: “To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding those ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel. I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems”.

The accusations directed at Omar generally revolve in the orbit of anti-Semitism and the position on “Israel”, especially the issue of considering “Israel” an apartheid state (and anyway this is not only her opinion, but rather an opinion that has become widespread worldwide, even in the US, and as expressed by human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International). However, can we describe a country as an apartheid state and as a democratic state with a well-established judicial system at the same time? According to Ilhan Omar, this is possible, as her above statement indicates.

Moreover, according to Omar, “Israel” is not only a democratic state with a well-established judicial system, but also an ally and a friend, as she said in a CNN interview in 2021 within the framework of defending herself in face of the attacks directed at her. In that interview, she said: “Israel is an ally of the United States and I think as much as you would look to your neighbor to your friends to live out the same values as you are, we want to make sure that our allies are living out the same values that we push for here”.

The Problem is Elsewhere

The brief review presented above of the development of “Ilhan Omar’s case” allows us to draw two clear conclusions:

First: The issue of the position on “Israel” or on “anti-Semitism” is not a matter of dispute between Democrats and Republicans. In fact, there is a unified bipartisan position that supports “Israel” to the fullest extent.

Second: Ilhan Omar herself, and despite the criticisms she launches from time to time against “Israel”, she does not have a consistent position on this issue, and she certainly does not have a firm and principled position on the issue of “Israel”.

Therefore, in looking for an explanation and understanding of what lies behind this media show, attention should be turned elsewhere to investigate the truth.

Cases of severe divisions between Republicans and Democrats in voting on any resolution, which reach the point of complete and disciplined alignment by voting along party lines, is not a frequent occurrence, but rather somewhat rare in the history of the Congress. Most of the resolutions, including the problematic ones, and although they get more support from this or that party, the actual voting process always includes crossing party lines with quite a few votes in which members of Congress go against their party’s vote. This discipline in voting on an issue that is in fact not a matter of contention between the two parties, as we explained previously, means that what is intended is the sharp alignment itself, as a step that seems necessary in preparation for a heated electoral battle in 2024.

Of course, voting on Omar’s issue is not a diversion from the position on “Israel” or the Palestinian cause. It is ridiculous for someone to consider that the Democrats’ vote in favor of Omar is a vote against “Israel”, or that the Republicans’ vote against Omar is a vote in favor of the “Israelis”. What we are suggesting is that Ilhan Omar being a Muslim, black, and of African descent, is what was actually voted on, and not her political position.

On the one hand, the Democrats seek to present themselves as representatives of the various types of minorities in the US, including blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, LGBTQ, etc. On the other hand, the Republicans seek to present themselves as representatives of “white” Americans, particularly those of Western European descent.

The more severe the crisis in its political and economic sense, the more it is required that Americans are sharply divided along ethnic, religious, sectarian, and identity issues in general, and away from the natural division over interests, especially economic ones.

At a time when the US national debt crisis is approaching the point of an explosion, the repercussions of which will be incomparably greater than the 2008 crisis, and at a time when the BRICS group is getting closer to issuing a new global currency, which poses enormous threat to the Western financial and political system, and particularly to the “Benjamin”, i.e., to the dollar. At this time in particular, this “media show” emerges, that is primarily directed at Americans in the US and secondarily to the rest of the world. In this sense, while this American show is presented to us as if they are punishing Ilhan Omar for attacking “Benjamin”, if we ponder the matter, we can realize that the “Benjamin” is the one that is actually using Ilhan Omar and this commotion around her to defend “himself”.

(Arabic version)