FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”

Wait. Let me get this straight.

First GOP leader Kevin McCarthy threatened two recently elected Muslim women members of Congress with punishment for holding views critical of Israel. On Feb. 11 he stated: “If they [the Democrats] do not take action I think you’ll see action from myself. This [criticism of Israel] cannot sustain itself. It’s unacceptable in this country.”

The California Congressman has decided criticizing Israel as an apartheid state oppressing Palestinians in occupied territory is “unacceptable” in the U.S. of A. He and a lot of his colleagues and everyone trying to choke the righteous BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement criminalizing support for concrete actions to end Israeli apartheid want to silence discussion about the most burning issue in the Middle East and perhaps whole world today: Palestinians and their future.

Journalist Glen Greenwald noted this statement in a tweet from Brazil, stating matter-of-factly: “It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.”

Greenwald no doubt referred to McCarthy’s threat, and the ongoing attacks by U.S. political leaders on people’s rights to boycott or advocate boycotts on a particular country’s products, or products from illegally occupied areas. Such leaders might as well demand that all Americans or legal residents swear to affirm not only Israel’s legitimacy as a state but its right to colonize the West Bank and Golan Heights despite the recognition by all governments in the world that its occupations are illegal.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted in a curt response to Greenwald: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” (Benjamins means one-hundred dollar bills, nicknamed because since 1914 Benjamin Franklin’s face has appeared on them. See Miriam-Webster’s Dictionary. “It’s All About the Benjamins” is the name of a Puff Daddy gagsta rap song released in 1997.)

The entire Democratic Party leadership and every media talking head expresses immediate outrage at the antisemitic “trope” (suddenly postmodernist jargon is part of the cable news teleprompter talking points) that they find here. (Benjamin is a Hebrew name; recall the story of Joseph in the Bible, sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers, except for his youngest brother Benjamin. So it’s been hinted that “Benjamins” refers specifically to Jewish money but I find no such usage online.) Nancy Pelosi ordered Omar to apologize, and she did “unequivocally,” having now been educated to these tropes to avoid.

The lesson: if you are an elected politician in this country, never associate the votes of your colleagues with money—or at least, never link votes in support of the Israeli government with lobbyists’ dollars. Don’t ever suggest that the opinions of legislators who vote almost 100% in favor of Israel every time around are influenced by campaign donations. (These are of course donations exchanged in the normal traditional way, as argued empirically by John Mearsheimer and Stephan Walt among others.) The AIPAC lobby is formidable and everybody knows it. What does that mean? It means it is effective in winning friends in Congress, a huge number of whom religiously attend its annual events. It need not fund them so much as to merely endorse the reliably pro-Israel candidates–to signal millions of evangelical Christians to support them. I can say this. But you cannot say this, and be in Congress in what postures to the world as a democracy with freedom guaranteed by the U.S. bombing of Syria .

The president denouncing Omar demands she resign from Congress or at least be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Meanwhile, some Democrats come to her defense, not arguing that she said anything wrong, but merely arguing that she’s new and hasn’t learned to how to control her natural inclination to speak freely.

So you can be a Muslim woman, even one in a veil, elected to the U.S. Congress showing how diverse this country is. But you can’t criticize Israel, or suggest that the suppression of such criticism has anything to do with money. That goes beyond the pale! You will be slapped in the face by your own leadership, ordered to kowtow.

She should never, ever have said: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.” Now she’s been smacked down, humbled, forced to apologize for speaking the truth. Capitalism, imperialism, slavery, global warming: it’s all about the billion of Benjamins that make it all happen. Kevin McCarthy is a tool of his main donors (Goldman-Sachs, MetLife, CitiGroup) and the Israel Lobby, there being considerable overlap. He uses his clout to intimidate, like Joseph McCarthy of old, and beat down free speech. He won this round.

But may there be many more such confrontations, gradually awakening people in this country to the fact that there is a population of some five million Palestinian chafing under Israeli occupation and oppression, needing liberation if there’s to be a solution to the “Israel-Palestine problem.” My Omar be allowed free speech to address their suffering and expose the U.S. role in inflicting it.

More articles by:

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 26, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The U.S.-Iran Imbroglio: Dangerous Lessons To Be Learned
Paul Street
Reflections and Correspondence at the Abyss
John Laforge
Trump’s Ministry of No Information
Paul Edwards
Fool Me Twice
Rob Hager
Warren and Sanders: Compare and Contrast
John Steppling
The Monkey’s Face
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A World of Shadows
Jaspal Kaur Sadhu Singh
Correcting a Colonial Injustice: The Return of the Chagos Islands to Its Natives
Binoy Kampmark
Violent Voyeurism: Surveillance, Spyware and Human Rights
Jonah Raskin
Reflections on Abbie Hoffman and Joshua Furst’s Novel, Revolutionaries
Dave Chapman
The Hydroponic Threat to Organic Food
June 25, 2019
Rannie Amiri
Instigators of a Persian Gulf Crisis
Patrick Cockburn
Trump May Already be in Too Deep to Avoid War With Iran
Paul Tritschler
Hopeful Things
John Feffer
Deep Fakes: Will AI Swing the 2020 Election?
Binoy Kampmark
Bill Clinton in Kosovo
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Japanese Conjuncture
Edward Hunt
Is Mexico Winding Down or Winding up the Drug War?
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump’s Return to Full-Spectrum Dominance
Steve Kelly
Greed and Politics Should Not Drive Forest Policy
Stephen Carpa
Protecting the Great Burn
Colin Todhunter
‘Modified’: A Film About GMOs and the Corruption of the Food Supply for Profit
Martin Billheimer
The Gothic and the Idea of a ‘Real Elite’
Elliot Sperber
Send ICE to Hanford
June 24, 2019
Jim Kavanagh
Eve of Destruction: Iran Strikes Back
Nino Pagliccia
Sorting Out Reality From Fiction About Venezuela
Jeff Sher
Pickin’ and Choosin’ the Winners and Losers of Climate Change
Howard Lisnoff
“Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran”
Robert Fisk
The West’s Disgraceful Silence on the Death of Morsi
Dean Baker
The Old Japan Disaster Horror Story
David Mattson
The Gallatin Forest Partnership and the Tyranny of Ego
George Wuerthner
How Mountain Bikes Threaten Wilderness
Christopher Ketcham
The Journalist as Hemorrhoid
Manuel E. Yepe
Yankee Worship of Bombings and Endless Wars
Mel Gurtov
Iran—Who and Where is The Threat?
Wim Laven
Revisiting Morality in the Age of Dishonesty
Thomas Knapp
Facebook’s Libra Isn’t a “Cryptocurrency”
Weekend Edition
June 21, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Brett Wilkins
A Brief History of US Concentration Camps
Rob Urie
Race, Identity and the Political Economy of Hate
Rev. William Alberts
America’s Respectable War Criminals
Paul Street
“So Happy”: The Trump “Boom,” the Nation’s Despair, and the Decline of Joe Biden
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Ask Your Local Death Squad
Dr. Vandana Shiva
Fake Food, Fake Meat: Big Food’s Desperate Attempt to Further the Industrialisation of Food
Eric Draitser
The Art of Trade War: Is Trump Winning His Trade War against China?
Melvin Goodman
Trump’s Russian Problem
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail