Trump claims ‘Israel literally owned Congress’ in bizarre attack on the Squad

Rep Ilhan Omar, U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district since 2019

JVL Introduction

Much of what former President Trump said in office was bizarre, off-the-wall ranting which – unfortunately – many tens of millions of Americans seemed nonetheless to treat as gospel.

How bizarre, then, his recent interview, bemoaning the election of “the Squad” (Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar et al) to Congress.

The had destroyed the natural order of things, according to Trump. And what was that natural order?

That the US Congress was “rightfully” controlled by Israel!

Suggesting this is rightly regarded as an antisemitic allegation, but clearly not from Trump’s world view.

Far from being a critique of “Jewish power” it is an affirmation that such power ought to be how things are as was his 2019 claim about Jewish Americans that if “you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel…”


Added 5th November at 18.00 after the Independent article below: Richard Silverstein, “Trump May Be an Anti-Semite, But He’s Right About the Lobby When it comes to protecting Israel’s interests, Congress is in the Lobby’s Pocket”

This article was originally published by the Independent on Mon 1 Nov 2021. Read the original here.

Trump claims ‘Israel literally owned Congress’ in bizarre attack on the Squad

Former president and others accused Ilhan Omar of antisemitism for similar comments in 2019

Former President Donald Trump said during an interview on Monday that the US Congress was “rightfully” controlled by Israel’s government until members of the Squad joined Congress in 2018.

In an eyebrow-raising tirade against progressive members of the Democratic Party that occurred during an interview with the Ari Hoffman show, Mr Trump told a nodding Mr Hoffman that “Israel literally owned Congress” for years before the left-leaning Democrats were elected and began clearly espousing scepticism and criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinian civilians.

“It was so powerful, so powerful, and today it’s almost the opposite,” the former president continued, adding: “Between [Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and [Rep Ilhan Omar], and these people who hate Israel … with a passion.”

“Israel is not a force in Congress any more,” he went on to claim.

The remarks were startling for a number of reasons; most obviously, they far exceeded the suggestion made by Ms Omar in 2019 that the Israel lobby was involved in “political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country”. In his remarks, Mr Trump flat-out suggested that Israel “owned” and “controlled” US politicians; such claims echo antisemitic conspiracy theories claiming that Jewish people have undue influence over global financial systems and politics.

Beyond that, the claim that Israel has no sway in Congress clashes deeply with the recent fight in Congress over $1bn in additional funding for the country’s Iron Dome defence system (on top of the millions the US has provided annually for the system).

The former president and his allies have long sought to demonise their political opponents for supposedly antisemitic remarks while making at best similar comments themselves. In 2019, just a few months after Ms Omar faced criticism for her above comment, Mr Trump found himself in hot water over his suggestion that Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats were being “disloyal” to their people and to Israel.

“In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people, and you’re being very disloyal to Israel,” he said to reporters, adding: “And only weak people would say anything other than that.”

Antisemitic threats and violence are an ongoing issue in America. In 2017, white nationalists famously chanted “Jews will not replace us” as they marched through Charlottesville, Virginia, and in 2018 a mass shooting occurred at a Pittsburgh-area synagogue committed by a man who espoused antisemitic and white nationalist views.

Added 5th November at 18.00

Trump May Be an Anti-Semite, But He’s Right About the Lobby When it comes to protecting Israel’s interests, Congress is in the Lobby’s Pocket

Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam blog, 2nd November 2021

Donald Trump gave an interview to Seattle Jewish Trumper, Ari Hoffman, yesterday in which he said that Israel “owned Congress.”  And the world seems to be all atwitter with the shocking news that our ex-president is an anti-Semite.  We all know he’s always been one.  This is nothing new.  It’s just that now he can unbutton himself and let his fascist freak flag fly:

“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 said.

“And we’re not talking about over a very long period of time, but I think you know exactly what I’m saying. They had such power, Israel had such power — and rightfully — over Congress, and now it doesn’t. It’s incredible, actually,” Trump claimed.

…”You have – between AOC [Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez] and [Rep. Ilhan] Omar 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.

“Israel had such power – and rightfully – over Congress, and now it doesn’t. It’s incredible, actually.”

Nor did he spare American Jews his wrath:

“I was affectionately told I could run for prime minister of Israel and win very easily. They like me over there,” he said before contrasting his popularity in Israel with how Jews in the US felt about him.

“It’s incredible that I didn’t get the kind of a vote from Jewish people that you would think I would get. Jewish people in this country — many of them do not like Israel.

“Look at The New York Times. The New York Times is vicious against Israel, and it’s just a terrible thing to watch,” he added, apparently suggesting that the outlet is run by Jews.

The notion that the New York Times, because it is owned by Jews, is anti-Israel is in itself anti-Semitic.  But also so far out of left field that it’s left the ballpark.

Besides the anti-Semitism in this statement, there is a strong streak of misogyny, racism and Islamophobia as well targeting AOC and Omar.  The claim that they “hate Israel with a passion” and that they control Congress would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous as well.  This inciting rhetoric has motivated much of the hate and death threats that have stalked these women during their time in Congress.

Not to mention the claim that with their rise, the Israel Lobby has lost clout and exercises no power over Congres.  Of course, there is a battle between the Lobby and progressive Democrats who don’t take orders as many in the Party used to.  But the Lobby remains a potent force.

It’s critical too not to lose sight of something important in Trump’s words.  While saying Israel owns Congress may be anti-Semitic, saying that Israel owns Congress when it comes to Israel’s interests is full-on truth.  Pro-Israel Jews will make no distinction between those two statements, but there is a world of difference.  In that sense Trump, in his typical shoot-from-the-lip style, spoke without nuance.  But there is much truth in the notion that Israel exerts a stranglehold over US policy related to that country’s interests.  And the Lobby is the linchpin undergirding that system.

Ari Hoffman enjoying his Trump interview

When progressive Democrats voted not to approve the $500-million expenditure to restock Iron Dome weaponry for Israel, the Lobby and Prime Minister Bennett roared their displeasure and the vote was rammed through by the Democratic leadership within 24-hours.  If that’s not naked power, then what is?  When the ICC announced it would begin an investigation of Israeli war crimes, the US was the strongest opponent of the plan. Then Pres Trump not only denounced it, he laid sanctions on then prosecutor general Fatima Bensouda.  When Israel announces it will build thousands of new housing units in settlements in contravention to international law and US policy, we offer a few words of opposition but never take any action.  When the Security Council considers a resolution condemning Israel for invading Gaza, we veto it.

Before the pro-Israel hasbara apparatus rushes to accuse me of anti-Semitism, none other than Labor Party liberal Zionist and former Israeli diplomat, Alon Pinkas, echoes my views:

What Trump is…pointing to is a change in the dynamic of Israel’s relationship with Congress over the last decade – and that is accurate and true.

In the last few years, the much cherished…“Bipartisanship on Israel” seems like an empty relic of yesteryear. The combination of hyper-partisanship in the United States, the evaporation of the political center, the toxicity of the political discourse, and the politics of disruption…together with a deliberate Netanyahu policy to align with the GOP and distance his government from the Democrats…has turned Israel into a wedge issue.

This is coupled with major demographic changes in the United States, a more educated and critical generation that strongly trends Democratic and a changing political culture. Instead of either making the imperative adjustments or keeping out of the political mix altogether, Israel made a choice.

Decades of careful…Israeli policy of trying to maintain bipartisanship and keeping above the American political fray have been replaced by a patently clear political inclination: brawls with then-President Barack Obama; disassociation from centrist Democrats; alienation from progressive Democrats; distancing from the vast majority of American Jews…an affinity with evangelical Christians; a partnership with the Tea Party; and, since 2016, a bromance with Trump.

…In the U.S., changing demographics and generational political evolution led to a strengthening of the “progressive” discourse on foreign policy and growing criticism of Israeli policies…Israel did nothing to address this development.

Trump is wrong and misleading in attributing this to the congressional “Progressive Caucus” – a loose association of 95 House members, most of whom are ardent Israel supporters. But he is right that Israel’s clout in Congress has changed over the last decade.

…No, AOC didn’t do this.  Israel did this…

A word about Trump’s interview host. Hoffman married into a wealthy local Jewish real estate empire. His father in law is a powerhouse in the Orthodox Jewish community and was responsible for firing the long-serving rabbi of his shul. Hoffman is a bastion of the pro-police, anti homeless, “Seattle is dying” coalition battling for political control in Seattle.  He ran for city council a few years ago and lost.  It is no accident that Trump offered anti-Semitic views to Hoffman, who undoubltedly agrees with most of what Trump said, especially the attacks on American Jews for supporting “anti-Israel” Democrats.  Which makes Ari himself an anti-Semite.

Richard Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.


Comments (2)

  • James Simpson says:

    I’m not sure why Trump or the author of this piece take for granted the Squad’s anti-Zionism. It’s not borne out in the Squad’s actions. For example, take AOC who appears to be gearing up for a run for the Senate:

    “After changing her vote from ‘no’ to a noncommittal ‘present’ at the last moment, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was seen crying as the House passed funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
    The House passed a $1 billion bill on Thursday to replenish Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense system, depleted after a week of relentless rocket attacks from Palestinian militants this summer…

    It is still unclear why Ocasio-Cortez switched her vote at the last minute, and whether her tears were an expression of genuine anguish at the decision, or an attempt to stave off anger from her progressive supporters. However, AOC has broken with her base in a similar manner before, voting ‘present’ on a bill to provide funding of $2 billion to the Capitol Police earlier this year, despite her advocacy for defunding law enforcement several months earlier. The bill ended up passing by a single vote.”

    The Squad are not socialists. They are mildly left Democrats with more interest in their own careers than in the causes they claim to espouse.

  • Jacob Ecclestone says:

    It is now more than 15 years since the London Review of Books published a remarkable 12,000-word article on the influence of the Israeli lobby in Washington written by Professor John Mearsheimer of Chicago University and Professor John Walt of Harvard. The article was originally commissioned by The Atlantic, but – realising the explosion which was likely to follow publication – the magazine got cold feet and rejected it . The authors turned to the LRB, which published the article in March 2006. “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.”

    Even from this side of the Atlantic, the article caused a furore. The former U.S. Ambassador, Edward Peck, wrote that “The expected tsunami of rabid responses condemned the report, vilified its authors, and denied there is such a lobby — validating both the lobby’s existence and aggressive, pervasive presence and obliging Harvard to remove its name.” Peck endorsed the authors’ central thesis: “Opinions differ on the long-term costs and benefits for both nations, but the lobby’s views of Israel’s interests have become the basis of U.S. Middle East policies.”

    Rather unusually, Trump was speaking the truth – and confirmed what the learned professors said all those years ago.

    The LRB article can be found on-line and is well worth reading.

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