Ilhan Omar systematically takes apart Netanyahu's Aipac speech: 'He wants to silence me, but I am not alone'

Tom Embury-Dennis

Ilhan Omar has responded to Benjamin Netanyahu in an excoriating series of tweets after the Israeli prime minister rebuked her comments about the influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) over US politics.

“Take it from this Benjamin. It’s not about the Benjamins,” Mr Netanyahu told an audience at Aipac’s annual policy conference on Tuesday.

The comments, in which he never mentioned Ms Omar by name, were a reference to tweets by the Democratic congresswoman earlier this month in which she claimed much of Israeli support by US politicians was “all about the Benjamins” – a slang reference to money.

Asked who she thought was paying members of Congress to support Israel, the lawmaker responded, “AIPAC!”

She later apologised "unequivocally" for the tweets, which critics said featured the antisemitic trope of "Jewish money", but nevertheless on Tuesday she criticised Mr Netanyahu’s speech, claiming “the topic PM Netanyahu chose to focus on was … me”.

“We are not even 6 months out from the Pittsburgh massacre. We are not even 2 weeks out from the Christchurch massacre,” Ms Omar, who is a Muslim, wrote. “Yet the topic Netanyahu chose to focus on was … me.”

“White supremacist violence is on the rise globally. Right-wing extremists killed more people in the US in 2018 than any year since 1995. Anti-Semitic violence accounted for 58% of religious hate crimes.

“Yet the topic Netanyahu chose to focus on was … me.”

Ms Omar went on to criticise Mr Netanyahu’s failure to mention his alliance with far-right party Jewish Power, and to defend herself against charges she is antisemitic.

“I —like so many others—have not criticized Aipac because of its membership or the country it advocates for. I’ve criticized it because it has repeatedly opposed efforts to guarantee peace and human rights in the region,” she said, in reference to the plight of Palestinians.

“Netanyahu and the GOP may want to make this about one Muslim-American refugee’s views, but I am not alone,” she continued, before naming a number of progressive organisations lobbying for a two-state solution.

“We cannot accept a status quo of perpetual armed conflict and occupation. We must forever strive towards peace.”

In his speech, Mr Netanyahu addressed Israel’s military response to a rocket attack from Gaza, and praised Mr Trump’s decision to recognise the Golan Heights as Israeli territory and his pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, before moving onto antisemitism.

“I have a message to all the antisemites out there – whether they live in modern Persia, in the palaces of Tehran or the bunkers of Beirut; whether they march through the streets of Charlottesville or murder worshippers in a synagogue in Pittsburgh; whether they voice their hatred in political parties in Britain, or Europe, or the United States…

“The Jewish people do not bow down. We stand up. We fight. And we win.

“My friends, ladies and gentlemen, some people will just never get it. They’ll never understand why the vast majority of Americans – Jews and non-Jews alike – support Israel.

“Take it from this Benjamin, it’s not about the Benjamins.”

Benjamin Netanyahu's speech in full

Good morning, AIPAC.

Unfortunately, I’m not able to be with you in person because I returned to deal with the security situation in Israel after that criminal rocket attack from Gaza on our territory.

We responded with great force. In the last 24 hours, the IDF destroyed major Hamas terrorist installations on a scale not seen since the end of the military operation in Gaza four years ago.

Now I’m just coming from a meeting with our Chief of Staff and our senior command. And I can tell you, we are prepared to do a lot more.

We will do what is necessary to defend our people and to defend our state.

In the midst of these events, I wanted to speak to you and say two words. Thank you.

Thank you, AIPAC. Thank you for bringing together 18,000 proud Americans – and more than 4,000 American students – who stand with Israel.

Thank you for working year after year, decade after decade to strengthen the remarkable alliance between our two countries. And I can tell you that alliance has never been stronger.

Thank you for working to strengthen support for Israel on both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans alike. That is how it has always been and that’s how it should always be.

Yesterday at the White House, President Trump again made history. He formally recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Now that deserves enormous applause.

The Golan Heights is indispensable for our defense. It’s part of our history. When you put a shovel in the ground there what you discover are the ruins of ancient synagogues. Jews lived there for thousands of years and the people of Israel have come back to the Golan.

Israel holds the high ground, and we shall never, ever give it up. It is part of Israel.

So on behalf of all the people of Israel, thank you, President Trump and thank you for all the historic decisions you have made.

I’m sure you remember that in 2015, I went to the American Congress. I spoke out against the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran. In 2018, President Trump walked out of that bad deal. He restored American sanctions against a genocidal regime in Tehran that vows to destroy the one and only Jewish state. He recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He moved the American embassy there.

He put a great ambassador there, Ambassador David Friedman. You just heard him. And with Ambassador Ron Dermer, Israel and the United States have two of the greatest ambassadors on earth. Thank you, Ambassadors. Thank you, President Trump.

Ladies and gentlemen, in recent weeks, we’ve heard a lot about the rise of forces who want to pull America and Israel apart. So I can tell you one thing. I guarantee you this. They will fail. They will fail.

Our shared values are too deep. Our shared interests are too strong. Our shared destiny too intertwined.

But having said that, I will also tell you we must never take anything for granted.

Those who seek to defame this great organization AIPAC, those who seek to undermine American support for Israel, they must be confronted.

Despite what they claim, they do not merely criticize the policies of Israel’s government. G-d I’m used to that. That happens every five minutes. They do something else. They spew venom that has long been directed at the Jewish people.

Again, the Jews are cast as a force for evil. Again, the Jews are charged with disloyalty. Again, the Jews are said to have too much influence, too much power, too much money.

Ladies and gentlemen, you know what the best way to respond to this kind of hatred is? We read it. We read it just a few days ago in the Book of Esther when Mordechai confronted Haman of Persia.

The best way to respond to those who hate the Jews is not to bow down to them. It’s to stand up to them.

So I have a message to all the antisemites out there – whether they live in modern Persia, in the palaces of Tehran or the bunkers of Beirut; whether they march through the streets of Charlottesville or murder worshippers in a synagogue in Pittsburgh; whether they voice their hatred in political parties in Britain, or Europe, or the United States…

The Jewish people do not bow down. We stand up. We fight. And we win.

My friends, ladies and gentlemen, some people will just never get it. They’ll never understand why the vast majority of Americans – Jews and non-Jews alike – support Israel.

Take it from this Benjamin, it’s not about the Benjamins.

The reason the people of America support Israel is not because they want our money, it’s because they share our values. They just don’t’ get it. It’s because America and Israel share a love of freedom and democracy. It’s because we cherish individual rights and the rule of law. It’s because we don’t judge people by the color of their skin, their religion or their sexual orientation.

I am proud of Israel’s vibrant democracy, where no one – no one – is a second-class citizen. All of Israel’s citizens are first-class citizens. All of Israel’s citizens whether Jew or Arab, Muslim, Christian, or Druze, have exactly the same individual rights. We vote in the same elections. We’re subject to the same laws. We study in the same universities. And we are also treated in the same hospitals.

But Israel is also the one and only country on earth in which the Jewish people exercise our collective right of self-determination. And that right is expressed in the Star of David that is on our flag, in the Hatikvah that is our national anthem, in Hebrew our official language and most powerfully, in the right of every Jew across the world to automatically immigrate to Israel and become a citizen if they choose to do so.

It is these features of our collective existence that the Nation State bill enshrined into an historic constitutional law. And contrary to the false attacks and allegations, it did not denigrate any individual rights, which remain sacred and equal for all our citizens. And it will always be that way.

Israel will always be a democracy, just as Israel will always be the Jewish State, a place where all Jews anywhere can always call home, no matter how they pray or how they wish to conduct their lives. Israel is the home of all Jews.

That is why we all celebrate today the democratic, Jewish State of Israel. We know the truth.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Jewish state that Herzl envisioned, the Jewish state that Ben-Gurion proclaimed, is the same Jewish state whose future I am working to secure.

I hope the people of Israel continue to allow me to lead them for many years to come.

And I am as confident as ever, that as Israel takes its rightful place among the nations, you will be there by our side. You’ve always been there by our side. America will be there by our side.

Thank you AIPAC. Thank you all for standing with Israel.

May G-d bless you, may G-d bless America and may G-d bless our great alliance.

Thank you all.