Former PM Benjamin Netanyahu and then-President Donald Trump in Jerusalem. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL) (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Netanyahu Trump

“Israel had such power – and rightfully – over Congress, and now it doesn’t. It’s incredible, actually,” the former president said in his attack on the current U.S. administration.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Former President Donald Trump put his foot in his mouth again by saying that “Israel literally owned Congress” on Friday.

“Well, you know the biggest change I’ve seen in Congress is Israel literally owned Congress – you understand that, 10 years ago, 15 years ago – and it was so powerful, it was so powerful, and today it’s almost the opposite,” Trump told conservative radio personality Ari Hoffman.

Trump, considered by many the most pro-Israel American president in history, went on to accuse progressive Democratic membes of Congress of hating Israel.

“You have – between AOC [Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, D-NY] and [Rep. Ilhan] Omar [D-Minn] and these people that hate Israel, they hate it with a passion – they’re controlling Congress and Israel is not a force in Congress anymore, it’s – I mean – it’s just amazing. I’ve never seen such a change,” he said.

Trump concluded with this bombshell comment: “Israel had such power – and rightfully – over Congress, and now it doesn’t. It’s incredible, actually.”

At that point, Hoffman shifted the conversation to COVID and the U.S. economy.

Let’s get the facts straight.

Jews don’t control Congress and never did. Full stop.

The influence of pro-Israel voices and lobbying groups waxes and wanes over time just as it does for every other interest group. Anyone who is active for a long-enough time in issues such as health care, energy, education, or foreign issues, to name a few, knows this.

Trump’s insistence that Israel’s alleged influence over Congress was “rightful” politicizes Israel and the fight against antisemitism. His remarks echoed antisemitic tropes coming from both the Republican and Democratic parties. Four examples come to mind.

1. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer claimed in 2019 that billionaires George Soros, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, who are Jewish, “bought control of Congress for the Democrats.” Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Cal), who was then the House Majority Leader, posted — and then deleted — a tweet saying, “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election!”

2. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) tweeted in 2019 that American political leaders’ support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins.” The backlash against that tweet forced her to apologize.

3. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in 2018, “It’s not that Jews are bad, it’s just they are the head of the Jewish mafia in the United States. They run Uber, they run the health care, they’re going to scam you, they’re going to hurt you.” Those remarks were made during an appearance on InfoWars, a radio show hosted by right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

4. More recently are comments by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) in August. During a talk on exploitation, Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent, said, “If you open the curtain and look behind the curtain, it’s the same people that make money and, yes they do, off of racism, off of these broken policies. There is someone there making money.” Jews called Tlaib’s comments a dog-whistle for hate.

Such antisemitic remarks are bad enough. Even worse is that they were made by public officials from both parties. Omar, Tlaib and Gaetz maintain important committee assignments. McCarthy is the Senate minority leader. Emmer remains as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

And Trump, of course, is expected to either run for president in 2024 or heavily influence whoever the Republican Party nominates.

American Jews are feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the rise of antisemitism in recent years. Certainly such comments do not help.