On December 4, 2023, the United States Congress debated House Resolution 894, proposed by Republican Representatives David Kustoff of Tennessee and Max Miller of Ohio. H. Res 894 “strongly condemns and denounces all instances of antisemitism occuring in the United States and globally.” It also “clearly and firmly states that anti-Zionism is antisemitism,” forever altering the conversation on the Palestinian issue. This resolution, a danger to democracy and free speech, and House Resolution 888, passed on November 28 to “reaffirm the State of Israel’s right to exist”, point to the increasing prevalence and influence of pro-Israeli political lobbying.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as AIPAC, is a bipartisan, pro-Israel political action committee (PAC), and the largest pro-Israel PAC with a membership of over 3 million Americans across party lines and congressional districts, in support of strengthening U.S.-Israel relations. Through its support of pro-Israel members of Congress and candidates, AIPAC encourages the U.S. government to enact specific policies that create a strong relationship with Israel.
House Resolution 894, equating anti-Zionism to antisemitism, and House Resolution 888, passed on November 28 to “reaffirm the State of Israel’s right to exist”, point to the increasing prevalence and influence of pro-Israeli political lobbying.
A super PAC for AIPAC
Prior to 2022, AIPAC propelled its agenda through the lobbying of elected officials. It did not endorse political candidates or give direct political contributions. However, since launching its super PAC, United Democracy Project, ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, it has contributed financial resources to bolster the campaigns of political candidates, and subsequently influence elections. Of the 20 top PACs, AIPAC is the only organization whose interests are focused on a foreign government. According to the lobbying organization, 98% of AIPAC-backed candidates won their general election races in 2022. AIPAC PAC worked on defeating 13 candidates that would have undermined the relationship with Israel, supported 365 pro-Israel candidates across party lines and gave over $17m in direct support last year. It is worth noting that AIPAC cannot contribute directly to an election campaign, although its individual donors can.
Instead, it can spend money on advertising. AIPAC spent approximately $7 million on producing and broadcasting advertising in attack of Donna Edwards and in support of Glenn Ivey in last year’s Maryland House Primaries. So why did AIPAC spend millions of dollars sabotaging Edwards’ campaign?
AIPAC interfered with the Congressional race in Michigan, spending over $4 million on inflammatory advertisements against progressive Democratic incumbent Andy Levin. Levin had previously proposed the Two State Solution Act, expressing his belief that securing rights for Palestinian people would help ensure Israel’s safety.
Donna Edwards had close ties with the more liberal, “pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy” JStreet PAC, and during her previous term in Congress, voted in favor of resuming peace talks between Israel and Palestine and voiced support for Palestinian rights. Ultimately, Ivey won the election, becoming the U.S. representative for Maryland’s 4th congressional district, despite Edwards’ tenure and an endorsement from Nancy Pelosi.
AIPAC also interfered with the Congressional race in Michigan, spending over $4 million through its super PAC on inflammatory advertisements against progressive Democratic incumbent Andy Levin. During his campaign, Levin, himself Jewish, was forced to defend his stance on a number of policies regarding Israel. He had previously proposed the Two State Solution Act, expressing his belief that securing rights for Palestinian people would help ensure Israel’s safety. Ultimately, Levin lost to AIPAC-backed candidate Haley Stevens by 20 points. Upon Levin’s defeat, AIPAC issued a statement celebrating the election result as “an opportunity to defeat a detractor of the US-Israel relationship and to strengthen support for Israel.” Levin, meanwhile, attacked AIPAC for its meddling and consequent undermining of American democracy.
A large and growing number of key political figures are on the AIPAC payroll. Hakeem Jeffries, Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, and Mike Johnson, Speaker of the House, are among those. Ritchie Torres, a self-described Christian Zionist and Democratic Representative for much of the Bronx, New York, received donations of over $140,000 from AIPAC. His government salary is $174,000. It is therefore unsurprising that Torres, in addition to being a staunch supporter of pro-Israel policies, including House Resolutions 888 and 894, has made violent and racist remarks towards Palestinians since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza.
Censuring and The Squad
Not all members of Congress and electoral candidates can be bought by AIPAC. Rashida Tlaib and her fellow members of The Squad, an informal group of 8 progressive Democratic members of Congress, are gearing up to be on the receiving end of a $100 million smear campaign by AIPAC. Yes, AIPAC spending is expected to hit $100 million next year as they fight to eliminate incumbent Squad members from their respective seats. This funding does not go towards highlighting or discussing these Representatives’ policies towards Israel, but rather towards slanderous ad buyouts. According to Squad member Summer Lee of Pennsylvania, AIPAC targets progressive congressmen of color.
On November 7 of this year, the House voted 234-188 to censure Rashida Tlaib, Democrat Representative for Michigan, and the only Palestinian in Congress, over comments she made about the Hamas attack on October 7. Although the majority of Democrats did not support Tlaib’s censuring, 22 Democrats joined Republicans in calling for her censure. For 18 of those Democrats, including Ritchie Torres, Kathy Manning, Lois Frankel, Josh Gottheimer, Jared Moskowitz and Donald David, AIPAC was a top contributor.
Rashida Tlaib is gearing up to be on the receiving end of a $100 million smear campaign by AIPAC, as the organization fights to eliminate incumbent Squad members from their respective seats. This funding does not go towards highlighting or discussing these Representatives’ policies towards Israel, but rather towards slanderous ad buyouts.
Just last week, Nasser Beydoun, the Lebanese-born, Michigan-based Senate candidate, claimed on social media that he was offered $20 million to drop out of the Senatorial race, and run against Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. This follows another expensive attempt to manipulate Congressional elections. Just a few weeks earlier, on October 16, Hill Harper, another Democrat from Michigan, shared that he was offered $20 million by Linden Nelson, a wealthy local businessman, to run against Tlaib in the primaries. Both Beydoun and Hill declined the offers.
I was offered $20 million to withdraw from the senatorial race and to run against my friend @rashidatlaib. Even knowing where I stand on AIPAC's influence on our elections and foreign policy, the pro-Israel lobby had the nerve to suggest that I would even consider taking a dime… pic.twitter.com/QTvFhbExj9— Nasser for Michigan (@NasserforMich) November 27, 2023
Public opinion versus AIPAC dollars
Although AIPAC has attempted to distance itself from Nelson and these bribes, it has become clear that a well funded campaign, dirty games, defamatory ads and voter manipulation are the tools needed to win a U.S. election. Despite public opinion –according to pollster Gallup, 67% of American 18-34 year olds, 63% of Democrats and 64% of people of color do not approve of Israel’s war on Gaza– U.S. congress and government policy remains firmly pro-Israel. AIPAC’s dollars (and influence) are entrenched in Congress and among the most notable voices in American politics, enabling false and dangerous claims, such as those made in H. Res 894, equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism, to pass without resistance. Any resistance would, of course, be deemed antisemitic.
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