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
February 27, 2020
Jim Kavanagh
Bloomberg’s Game
Kenneth Surin
Trump in Modi’s India
Jonathan Cook
How We Stay Blind to the Story of Power
David Swanson
Bernie Finally Puts a Number on Cutting Military Spending
Nyla Ali Khan
Jammu and Kashmir Cannot be Reduced to Rubble
Aya Majzoub
Return to Bahrain: Nine Years After the Uprisings, the Nation’s Human Rights Record Has Worsened
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange Against the Imperium
Dean Baker
The NYT’s Analysis of Democratic Tax Plans: a Really Big Number Orgy
Lawrence Wittner
Trump Betrays His Promise to Protect and Fight for American Workers
George Wuerthner
Wilderness Preservation is Our Best Protection Against Wildfires
Brian Horejsi
Dancing Bears Weren’t Having Fun
Jesse Jackson
The Important Word in “Democratic Socialism” is Democratic
John Stanton
Democratic Socialism: From Fromm to Sanders
February 26, 2020
Matthew Hoh
Heaven Protect Us From Men Who Live the Illusion of Danger: Pete Buttigieg and the US Military
Jefferson Morley
How the US Intelligence Community is Interfering in the 2020 Elections
Patrick Cockburn
With Wikileaks, Julian Assange Did What All Journalists Should Do
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change and Voting 2020
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Russiagate: The Toxic Gift That Keeps on Giving
Andrew Bacevich
Going Off-Script in the Age of Trump
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Anti-Russian Xenophobia Reaches Ridiculous Levels
Ted Rall
Don’t Worry, Centrists. Bernie Isn’t Radical.
George Wuerthner
Whatever Happened to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition?
Scott Tucker
Democratic Socialism in the Twenty-First Century
Jonah Raskin
The Call of the Wild (2020): A Cinematic Fairy Tale for the Age of Environmental Disaster
George Ochenski
Why We Shouldn’t Run Government Like a Business
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Imperium’s Face: Day One of the Extradition Hearings
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s Extradition Hearing Reveals Trump’s War on Free Press Is Targeting WikiLeaks Publisher
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon? (Part Two)
Max Moran
Meet Brad Karp, the Top Lawyer Bankrolling the Democrats
David Swanson
Nonviolent Action for Peace
Ed Sanders
The Ex-Terr GooGoo Eyes “The Russkies Did it!” Plot
February 25, 2020
Michael Hudson
The Democrats’ Quandary: In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give
Paul Street
The “Liberal” Media’s Propaganda War on Bernie Sanders
Sheldon Richman
The Non-Intervention Principle
Nicholas Levis
The Real Meaning of Red Scare 3.0
John Feffer
Cleaning Up Trump’s Global Mess
David Swanson
How Are We Going to Pay for Saving Trillions of Dollars?
Ralph Nader
Three Major News Stories That Need To Be Exposed
John Eskow
What Will You Do If the Democrats Steal It from Sanders?
Dean Baker
What If Buttigieg Said That He Doesn’t Accept the “Fashionable” View That Climate Change is a Problem?
Jack Rasmus
The Nevada Caucus and the Desperation of Democrat Elites
Howard Lisnoff
The Powerful Are Going After Jane Fonda Again
Binoy Kampmark
Viral Losses: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and Greed
John W. Whitehead
Gun-Toting Cops Endanger Students and Turn Schools into Prisons
Marshall Sahlins
David Brooks, Public Intellectual
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail