By focusing on lobbyists, Omar suggests that America’s interests are corrupted by a small clique. That lets the US off the hook – and gives fodder to antisemites
Representative Ilhan Omar is not a vicious antisemite, she is one of few good things about Congress. But she was wrong to suggest this week that America only supports Israel because a powerful lobby buys off US politicians. Far from being too radical, the problem with that view is that it lets America off the hook. The American state needs no conspiracy or blackmail to encourage it to do damage around the world. It is because her worldview can entertain this very possibility – so rarely contemplated in Washington – that Omar represents an enormously hopeful step in national politics. That critical instinct can enable opposition to the American-Israeli alliance and to antisemitism too.
When Democrats dissent on foreign policy, they usually insist that America is a gorgeous dream poorly applied by foolish leaders. Barack Obama sang this tune in complaining that the invasion of Iraq was a “dumb” war, pleading instead for the intelligent practice of American power. Bernie Sanders labels imperial adventures like the Iraq escapade “counterproductive”, echoing the assumption that America’s intentions are basically benign. Hillary Clinton’s response to MAGA in 2016 went noticeably further: “America never stopped being great!”