Everyone remembers Ilhan Omar’s remark about American support for Israel: “It’s all about the Benjamins.” This was a reference to Jewish financial support for politicians being the only conceivable explanation for their support for Israel. Omar couldn’t imagine that anyone might support Israel for any other reason. She can’t imagine anyone being moved by Israel remaining a steadfast ally of the U.S. for its entire history or being impressed by the tiny country’s ability to defend itself successfully against three attempts on its young life, in 1948, 1967, and 1973, or admiring the scientific and entrepreneurial talent that has made Israel, famously, the Start-Up Nation. But, argues Daniel Pomerantz of Reality Check, her remarks about Jews and money are far worse than that. More on his claim can be found here: “Ilhan Omar Didn’t Say That Jews Are ‘Into Money’; It Was Far Worse,” by Daniel Pomerantz, Algemeiner, February 16, 2023:
With 11 million streams per episode, “The Joe Rogan Experience” boasts an audience almost 20 times CNN’s prime time news ratings, nearly double the subscription readership of The New York Times, and larger than most, if not all other episodic programs in any form of media. In short: what happens on Joe Rogan’s podcast, matters.
That’s why we must talk about what happened on February 4, when Rogan hosted Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti of the “Breaking Points” podcast. During a discussion about embattled Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN)’s infamous 2019 tweet “It’s all about the Benjamins” (a reference to Jews and money), Ball came to Omar’s defense saying “She shouldn’t have apologized” and Rogan agreed, saying “It’s not an antisemitic statement, I don’t think that is. Benjamins are money. You know, the idea that Jewish people are not into money is ridiculous. That’s like saying Italians aren’t into pizza.”
Joe Rogan clearly has his own problem with antisemitism – he cannot recognize it when it is so obvious, as in Omar’s remark about “the Benjamins.” Joe Rogan’s convinced that Jews are “into money” the way that Italians are “into pizza.”
It’s not clear whether Rogan shared this antisemitic trope out of malice, or merely out of ignorance. In either case, he had essentially misinformed his audience because Congresswoman Omar didn’t actually say that Jews are “into money.“ To the contrary, Omar made her infamous tweet in the context of several longer statements from around the same time: including one in which she claimed that pro-Israel groups exert control over the United States Congress by paying off its members, as well as another in which Omar questioned whether, as a group, American Jews owe their allegiance to a foreign country.
In sum, the Congresswoman has articulated a narrative in which Jews stand accused of being untrustworthy, disloyal citizens, who control America through the use of money. This is characteristically different from saying that Jews like money or Italians like pizza. To the contrary, Omar’s rhetoric almost precisely tracks the content and structure of the propaganda used by the Nazi party in the years leading up to Hitler’s Final Solution, as well as countless other leaders who sought to persecute and murder Jews.
Ilhan Omar was not saying that “Jews are into money.” She was saying that “Jews are into money” for a reason: money is used by Jews to control the American government, buying the support of American politicians for the sake of Israel. The Jews are “into money” not merely to enjoy it (the way Italians may “enjoy pizza”), but to put it to work for the sake of a foreign state – Israel – to which they owe their sole loyalty. They are reminiscent of the powerful Jewish bankers depicted in The Protocols of the Elder of Zion, who form an all-powerful secret cabal to control the world for the sake of world Jewry. The Protocols were, of course, written before Israel existed to become, as it is now, the main target of antisemites.
In his 1925 autobiographical manifesto “Mein Kampf,” Hitler blamed Germany’s Jews for controlling the country’s politics through money, destroying its economy, and undermining the state itself:
In economics, he [the Jew] undermines the state until the social enterprises which have become unprofitable are taken from the state and subjected to his financial control … In the political field he refuses the state the means for its self-preservation, destroys the foundations of all national self-maintenance and defense, destroys faith in the leadership, scoffs at its history and past, and drags everything that is truly great into the gutter.
Hitler’s specific threats against Jewish communities evolved over time, but the underlying philosophy remained firmly rooted in the idea that Jews use wealth to exert political control over others.
For example, in a 1941 speech to the Reichstag, Hilter blamed Jewish “financiers” for causing World War II, as well as the previous world war, saying, “If the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging nations once more into a world war, then the result [will be] the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!”
The Final Solution began six months later.
When Ilhan Omar said “It’s all about the Benjamins,” she didn’t mean that Jews “are into” money. According to her own statements, Omar meant that America’s support for Israel (one of its closest allies) and for American Jewish communities (one of America’s most loyal and most vulnerable minority groups) couldn’t possibly be the result of shared values or even American self interest, but rather the result of Jewish manipulation of the political system through the use of money. This idea isn’t true and it isn’t new: we’ve already seen where it leads.
This should not be seen as an issue of Democrats versus Republicans: Omar’s own party has more than once condemned her statements as being “antisemitic tropes” and “deeply offensive,” and in 2019, Congressional committees debated “House Resolution 241 – Condemning the anti-Semitic comments of Representative Ilhan Omar from Minnesota.”
However, the bill was subsequently watered down to a critique of antisemitism in general, and the Democratic House leadership allowed Omar to continue serving on the House Foreign Relations committee, a body that manages America’s relations with the world, including with its key ally, Israel. This year, the new Republican House leadership removed Omar from the Foreign Relations committee, sparking a renewed public debate about her antisemitic rhetoric.
Ilhan Omar did not merely claim, as Joe Rogan insisted on his program, that Jews are “into money” the way “Italians are into pizza.” They are into money, she has made clear, in order to control the American government for the sake of Israel, the only country to which they owe their loyalty. This is much worse than simply ascribing a love of money to them. This is Protocols-of-the-Elders-of-Zion stuff. it’s exactly what Hitler claims about “international Jewry” in Mein Kampf. Ilhan Omar needs to be shamed and shunned as a purveyor of such claims. Kicking her off the House Foreign Relations Committee was a good start in limiting the damage she can do to the U.S.-Israel relationship. Now she needs to be booted from Congress altogether. In Minnesota’s 10th Congressional District, the 2024 election can’t come fast enough.