Because of the pre-conceptions people have about positions, I must preface by saying Representative Omar has demonstrated herself to be a principled, bright, and progressive member of Congress — and a lot of the attacks directed at her following many of her comments were fueled by racism, Islamophobia, and sexism.
Quite worryingly, however, a lot of people do not want to even entertain this idea: Ilhan Omar’s “all about the Benjamin’s, baby” tweet was inappropriate, even if well-intentioned.
Yes, this is just a P. Diddy lyric. Yes, she was not trying to suggest anything other than the flow of money from AIPAC was influencing these representatives. However, what she likely did not consider in that moment is Israel’s Prime Minister’s name is Benjamin.
Many people in good faith interpreted her comments to mean that these Congresspeople essentially were proxies for Benjamin Netanyahu, a sentiment that echoes the notion of a secret Jewish conspiracy where they are controlling everything.
Ilhan Omar apologized, which is all anyone should expect out of her in this situation — and we all should have moved on from this incident in which a rookie Congressperson made a genuine mistake.
Instead, people focused on the fact that Chelsea Clinton, by agreeing that it was anti-Semitic, had somehow jumpstarted a bad faith outrage mob — rather than agreeing with some members of the Jewish community. Many were not bothered by the phrase, but that doesn’t mean that those who were were feigning outrage.
Clinton made the poor choice of phrase, “as an American,” which could very easily be interpreted to mean she was questioning the legitimacy of Ilhan Omar’s status as a “real” American, given she was born in Somalia. However, she was trying to establish that she was not speaking for the Jewish community — by using boilerplate liberal rhetoric.
Chelsea and Ilhan publicly made up and spoke of a mutual desire to help further interfaith understanding and relations — which is where this probably should have ended.
However, two activists confronted Chelsea Clinton at an interfaith vigil to which she was invited at NYU, where she has a long history of working to help support interfaith relations. Emphasizing this is necessary, given how many people who commented on this story literally described it as Clinton going where she was “uninvited” or that it was a “Muslim” event.
Then, instead of showing solidarity in New Zealand and Muslims after fifty people were massacred in a place of worship, just a day later, everyone instead was talking about Chelsea Clinton, which, unsurprisingly became a relitigation of the 2016 election, given Clinton is seen as an extension of her mother.
Rather than engaging in solidarity against fascism in New Zealand or even an internationalist dialog about stopping white supremacy, the lens once again is shifted back to the United States and our issues.
I truly beg people to move on from this situation and begin discussing how we can address the biggest problems we currently face: the international resurgence of fascism and white supremacist violence, climate change, and a lack of economic and social justice.