Pro-Israeli PACs Donating Millions to Oust Rep. Ilhan Omar

Primary challenger Antone Melton-Meaux has received 3.2 million dollars, largely from Pro-Israeli PACs.

By Henry Chang

It always stinks to high heaven when a political newcomer gets the majority of their money from out of state. Many knew something had run amok when Antone Melton-Meaux reported 84.7% of his campaign dollars had come from outside Minnesota’s 5th district. Political rookies who have never helped public office like Melton-Meaux would otherwise never see the millions of dollars come into his campaign. Yet he is not just running against any old incumbent — he is running against Rep. Ilhan Omar. 

‘Squad’ member Omar is the first of many things. First Somali born member of congress. First Muslim with a hijab. The first Black Muslim woman to serve in Congress. These distinctions have been hailed by most yet bemoaned by many.  Omar has built a firebrand image as a strident progressive champion who isn’t to speak her distinct views loudly and aggressively. She seems to have found no friend in President Trump. Trump has labeled her an anti-Semite, an “America-hating socialist”, and dubiously claimed that she publicly supports al Qaeda.

Omar has been vocal about her opposition to Israeli abuses and interventions into U.S. electoral politics.  Many of her Jewish constituents have been alienated by these comments. Predictably, many equated her criticisms of Israel with anti-semitism. This equivalence is of course an absurdity but boiler-plate tactic used by apologists for the Israeli apartheid state.

Nonetheless, Omar has used little tact when being vocal about Israel and it’s lobby. She publicly suggested that support for Israel relied on campaign donations, that many pro-Israel lawmakers had  a dual allegiance , and that the pro- Israel lobby had “hypnotized the world.” She might be right but did not exactly slam-dunk her explanation.

Facing a political newcomer who raised a jaw-dropping $3.2 million last quarter — much of it from pro-Israel donors who oppose Omar’s foreign policy stances — Omar suddenly finds herself on the defensive against claims that she’s too divisive to effectively represent the solidly Democratic district.

In what must have been a foreseen development, AIPAC and a slew of its subordinate PACs have come to the aid of a challenging Democratic primary candidate in Antone Melton-Meaux. (Though AIPAC does not directly fund candidates, they fund PACs who fund candidates. )

Melton-Meaux is an African-American attorney and civil rights mediator who has been gunning for Omar for some time. In April he penned an op-ed in the Minnesota Star-Tribune that eviscerated Omar. He described her as disconnected from her district and having failed to score any real legislation on behalf of her home state. Then came the boiler-plate scripted message which could have come right off AIPAC’s website: 

“Omar has repeatedly made divisive statements that have been hurtful to members of our Jewish community. She creates distraction and drama, not results. That doesn’t work for us.

Rep. Omar believes that sanctions are economic warfare and is a vocal advocate for abolishing them, particularly for Iran. Yet she supports sanctions on Israel. She has repeatedly refused to explain this inconsistency. That doesn’t work for us.”

But why is Israel a cornerstone issue for representatives in the 5th district of Minnesota? Despite occasional bumbling, Rep. Omar rarely made uninvited statements on Israel. Yet Melton-Meaux has made the Jewish State a central discussion point as Pro-Israel PACS have funded him generously.

Antone Melton-Meau answering questions from reporters in a recent Q&A. Photo by Jim Mone

Pro-Israel startegists are making an Ilhan Omar defeat a priority this cycle. They are particularly upset by her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Melton-Meaux has received money from a number of pro-Israel PACs who vehemently oppose Rep. Ilhan Omar’s foreign policy positions. The money does not stp at donations to her challenger. A super PAC that rigidly supports America’s ‘alliance’ with Israel is starting to broadcast attack ads in her district.

The total of Ilhan Omar’s fundraising is $471,000.

Despite a brimming war chest, Melton-Meaux’s chances of victory in the primary are uncertain. Omar is widely accepted as the frontrunner in the  Aug. 11 primary.

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