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Glenn Greenwald Defends Rep. Ilhan Omar: Criticizing Israeli Lobby & AIPAC Is Not Anti-Semitic

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Democratic Congressmember Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is facing criticism today after commenting on a tweet by Glenn Greenwald. On Sunday, Greenwald tweeted, ”GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy threatens punishment for @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib over their criticisms of Israel. It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.” Rep. Omar retweeted his post and added the line: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” She later named AIPAC as the organization paying American politicians to be pro-Israel.

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. We’re speaking to Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, one of the founding editors of The Intercept.

In a moment, we’re going to talk about Brazil, where you live, Glenn, but I want to first go to one of your recent tweets, that’s making news today. On Sunday, you tweeted, quote, ”GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy threatens punishment for @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib over their criticisms of Israel. It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans,” you wrote.

Well, Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota retweeted your post and added the line, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”

Then, an opinion editor from The Forward newspaper tweeted, “Would love to know who @IlhanMN thinks is paying American politicians to be pro-Israel, though I think I can guess. Bad form, Congresswoman. That’s the second anti-Semitic trope you’ve tweeted.”

Ilhan Omar then responded to that tweet by writing, ”AIPAC.”

Democratic Congressman Max Rose responded to Omar by saying, “Congresswoman Omar’s statements are deeply hurtful to Jews, including myself.”

So, Glenn, can you respond to all of this?

GLENN GREENWALD: This is all so ridiculous. It’s all based upon this demand that we indulge what everybody knows is an utter and complete fiction, which is that we’re allowed to talk about the power of the NRA in Washington, we’re allowed to talk about the power of the Saudis in Washington, we’re allowed to talk about the power of big pharmaceutical companies and Wall Street and Silicon Valley and the fossil fuel industry in Washington, but we’re not allowed to talk about an equally potent, well-organized and well-financed lobby that ensures a bipartisan consensus in support of U.S. defense of Israel, that the minute that you mention that lobby, you get attacked as being anti-Semitic, which is what happened to Congresswoman Omar.

And I think the context here is really important. For a long time, the bipartisan piety was not just that the U.S. has to support Israel, but that, in particular, the effort to boycott Israel in protest of its occupation of Palestine is not just misguided, but anti-Semitic. That’s the official position of the Democratic Party, of Hillary Clinton, of Chuck Schumer, of every leading Democrat. And now, suddenly, you have these two really exciting, dynamic, charismatic women of color newly elected to Congress, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, who both are supporters of the boycott of Israel, which the Democratic Party says is bigotry and anti-Semitism, and it’s created this very awkward moment. So, of course, the minute two Muslim women arrive in Congress, they’re going to get attacked as anti-Semitic if they’re critical of Israel, which they are, just like Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, got vilified as being an anti-Semite by Haim Saban, the billionaire funder of the Democratic Party, when he tried to be the chairman of the DNC.

What the congresswoman said is very uncontroversial. Everyone knows AIPAC is an extremely intimidating lobby, just like the NRA is. There’s nothing wrong with pointing that out. There’s certainly nothing anti-Semitic about saying that, about criticizing the Israeli government for its aggression and militarism. And anybody who cares about Palestinians and about the ability of Muslims in the United States to be able to speak freely ought to be defending her.

And the last point I would add is, my point was, in saying how weird it is, what a priority it is for U.S. politicians to defend Israel, was based on the fact that the very first bill passed by the U.S. Senate was not about helping Americans; it was about empowering states to punish people who support a boycott of Israel, a bill sponsored by Marco Rubio, who got more money from Sheldon Adelson than any other politician in 2016, and then was supported by half of the Democratic Senate Caucus. That’s what I was referring to. And the congresswoman was saying a big reason for that is the monied interests in Washington that demand that. And of course everyone knows that’s true, and to call that anti-Semitic is just obscene.

AMY GOODMAN: I’ll add, Chelsea Clinton also tweeted, “I will reach out to her tomorrow.” She wrote this last night—Ilhan Omar. “I also think we have to call out anti-Semitic language and tropes on all sides, particularly in our elected officials and particularly now,” Chelsea Clinton tweeted.

GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah. When did—who is Chelsea Clinton to become the spokeswoman about what is and isn’t permissible debate when it comes to Israel? Her parents are the probably the two individuals most responsible for turning the United States into a steadfast defender of an apartheid, murderous and oppressive regime in that region. Her two parents are probably the leading politicians most responsible for ensuring the ongoing repression of the Palestinian people. So, Chelsea Clinton, who I don’t think has any public status other than being the daughter of two famous politicians, really has no place in trying to set the boundaries of what is and isn’t permissible debate, given what her family has done—so much harm—to ensuring that Palestinians don’t live with the basic, minimum dignity and sovereignty to which every human being is entitled.

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“This Is Just the Beginning”: Greenwald on Rising State Violence & Homophobia in Bolsonaro’s Brazil

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