All About the (Qatari) Benjamins: Qatar Funded Ilhan Omar’s World Cup Trip

'Squad' member has a history of making anti-Semitic comments about Israeli lobbyists

Ilhan Omar (Getty Images)
August 16, 2023

Representative Ilhan Omar, the "Squad" member with a history of making anti-Semitic comments about American support for Israel, attended the 2022 World Cup on a trip funded by Qatar, the oil-rich Gulf nation that bankrolls the terrorist group Hamas.

The Qatari government paid for the lodging and food for Omar from Nov. 19-23, according to her financial disclosures. The Minnesota Democrat met with Qatari officials and posted a photo from a World Cup match she attended with her husband and former British soccer star David Beckham. According to Jewish Insider, the Qatari embassy said the oil-rich Gulf monarchy funded Omar’s trip as part of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, which allows foreign governments to fund some congressional trips.

The foreign junket suggests Omar is less interested in how the Gulf nation gains influence over Congress than the Jewish State, whose support among U.S. lawmakers she attributed to money. "It's all about the Benjamins baby," Omar tweeted in 2019 in reference to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, America's most prominent pro-Israel advocacy group. Omar has also said "Israel has hypnotized the world."  Congress voted to remove Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this year over those remarks and others. She once compared the United States and Israel to the terrorist groups Hamas and the Taliban, saying that all have committed "crimes against humanity." Qatar is Hamas's largest funder.

Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Omar’s coziness to Qatar shows her "selective outrage" when it comes to foreign influence.

"If there is a lobby right now that is truly ‘all about the Benjamins,’ it is the lobby that is spending tens of millions of dollars per year in order to acquire influence in the capital of the United States," Schanzer told Jewish Insider. Qatar has spent $226 million on lobbying since 2016, compared to Israel’s $162 million, according to OpenSecrets.

Omar, a member of the progressive Squad, defended her trip last year after outcry over Qatar’s criminalization of homosexuality and its reliance on slave labor to build stadiums for the World Cup tournament. She drew parallels between Qatar’s human rights record and the United States’ "history of indigenous people, of enslavement, of police brutality."

Other American lawmakers attended the World Cup. The New York Times reported that the U.S. government paid for Sens. Todd Young (R., Ind.), Chris Murphy (D., Conn.), and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) to visit Qatar during the World Cup. Qatar funded trips for a bipartisan group of House members, including Reps. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.), Andre Carson (D., Ind.), Claudia Tenney (R., N.Y.), and Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.).

Swalwell, who praised "Qatar’s showcasing of the region’s religion and culture," during the World Cup, has made several high-profile trips to Qatar. The U.S.-Qatar Business Council, a pro-Qatari trade group, doled out $19,000 to host Swalwell and his wife in Doha in April 2021. Swalwell was infamously photographed during the trip with Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.) riding shirtless on camels in the Qatari desert. After the trip, Swalwell and Gallego praised Qatar’s preparation for the World Cup and insisted it was safe for American tourists.