Jhe largest pro-Israel lobby group in the United States is backing dozens of racists, homophobes and Holocaust deniers who are running for Congress next month because they pledged to defend Israel against mounting criticism of its oppression of the Palestinians.
The powerful US Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) has justified support for Republicans with extremist views, including members of Congress with ties to white supremacist groups and representatives who tried to block Joe Biden’s election victory , on the grounds that the singular issue of support for Israel trumps other considerations.
But AIPAC’s support for right-wing politicians has privately embarrassed some Democrats also backed by the powerful group and drawn accusations from more moderate pro-Israel organizations that it is trying to stifle legitimate criticism of hardline Israeli policies. .
Logan Bayroff, a spokesperson for J Street, a group campaigning for Washington to take a tougher stance to end the occupation of Palestinian territories, accused AIPAC of trying to impose a narrow definition of what is to be pro-Israel in a context of changing ranks.
“Their actions have made it clear that they view progressive pro-Israel, pro-peace Democrats as threats — and Trumpist Republicans as allies. This worldview could not be further from the vast majority of American Jews,” he said.
“Aipac can hope to silence and intimidate political leaders who believe that settlement expansion, endless conflict, and continued occupation are detrimental to Israel, the Palestinian people, and American interests. Ultimately, however, these commonsense views are too popular, widespread, and important to suppress, and will continue to gain strength within American politics and within American Jewry. »
AIPAC’s support for far-right Republicans follows its $27 million ad campaign during the Democratic primaries to defeat candidates who championed Palestinian rights, mostly with attacks on issues that had no nothing to do with Israel.
The campaign is part of efforts by more hawkish pro-Israel groups to bolster support for Congress in the face of rising advocacy for the Palestinian cause within the Democratic Party and eroding approval of Israeli actions among voters. American Jews, especially young people.
Earlier this year, Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Alon Ushpiz said protecting bipartisan support for the Jewish state in the United States topped a list of Israel’s diplomatic priorities amid broader government concern about the impact of a range of international human rights. reports that it practices a form of apartheid against the Palestinians.
Among the candidates endorsed by AIPAC is New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, a Trump loyalist whose hometown newspaper criticized her for her “despicable” advertising and “hateful rhetoric” that promote the “theory of the great replacement” racist and anti-Semitic, asserting that the United States is flooded with immigrants to put white people in the minority. The Times Union accused Stefanik of “fear-based political tactics”.
Another AIPAC-backed candidate, Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry, advanced the same theory when he told a Foreign Affairs Committee meeting that “native-born” Americans were replaced in order to “permanently transform the landscape of this very nation”.
AIPAC has also backed other candidates who have associated themselves with QAnon, the far-right conspiracy theory. Among them are Georgia Congressman Buddy Carter, who attended a QAnon-related rally claiming ties between Democrats and pedophile rings, and Florida Congresswoman Kat Cammack, who appeared on related channels. to QAnon, including Patriots’ Soapbox.
Other AIPAC-backed Republicans have appeared on the Patriots’ soapbox. Among them is Utah Congresswoman Burgess Owens, who has promoted claims by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars website, including anti-migrant rants and false claims of election rigging. Owens distributed an Infowars article that defamed the bereaved Muslim father of a US soldier by baselessly suggesting that his legal work helped the 9/11 hijackers enter the United States.
AIPAC has backed Rick Allen, a Georgia congressman who refused to debate a fellow Republican at an Islamic community center, calling it a “suspicious place.”
The hawkish lobby group also backs candidates known for their anti-LGBTQ+ views. They include Mark Green, a Tennessee congressman who once said that “transgenderism is a disease”, as well as members of Congress who denounced the Supreme Court’s decision making marriage equality a right. .
Aipac’s approved list includes Steve Scalise, who opposed ending anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in the military, and Randy Weber, who broke down in tears as he begged God to forgive America’s judgment. the Supreme Court.
“Father, oh Father, please forgive us,” he begged.
AIPAC’s support for far-right and homophobic candidates runs counter to its routine defense of Israel as a liberal democracy surrounded by authoritarian Arab regimes.
Pro-Israel groups routinely deflect criticism of what Israel’s leading human rights group B’Tselem has called its “regime of Jewish supremacy” over Palestinians, systematic discrimination against citizens Israel’s Arabs and the recent “Nation-State” law that places Jewish identity above democracy, emphasizing Israel’s democratic credentials.
AIPAC has always conveyed the message that Israel is “the only LGBTQ+ friendly country in the Middle East”.
Last year, in one of Israel’s periodic attacks on Gaza that killed hundreds of Palestinians, the pressure group again resorted to what has come to be known as “pink washing” when it tweeted: “Do you support LGBTQ+ rights? Hamas no. Hamas discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
AIPAC upset its supporters earlier this year when it endorsed more than 100 Republican members of Congress who refused to certify Biden’s 2020 election victory. The list again includes Scott, who voted against the award of the Congressional Gold Medal to the officers who defended the Capitol on January 6.
Richard Haass, a former US diplomat and chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, described endorsing politicians who “undermine democracy” as “morally bankrupt and short-sighted”. Former head of the strongly pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League Abe Foxman described the Holocaust deniers’ endorsement as a “sad mistake”.
AIPAC has defended its support for extremists on the grounds that support for Israel is more important than other issues.
“Now is not the time for the pro-Israel movement to become selective of its friends,” the group said in a message to supporters earlier this year.
“The only thing that guarantees Israel’s ability to defend itself is sustained US support. When we launched our political action committee last year, we decided that we would base our political contribution decisions on one thing: whether a political candidate supports the US-Israel relationship. Not on another question – just this one.
Although some Democrats have been called out to reject AIPAC’s endorsement, a senior congressman said they weren’t ready to get into a public confrontation with the lobby group.
“Aipac is now an embarrassment, but frankly, it’s too powerful to be against,” the staffer said. “We don’t need them pouring money on us, so we push back against public criticism. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t serious political differences, particularly over Iran.
AIPAC is not alone.
The Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) was founded three years ago to bolster support for Israel within the party after polls showed younger supporters increasingly wanted to see Washington take a stronger stance in favor of the Palestinians.
The differences within the party were highlighted recently when a row erupted over comments by Palestinian US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who said there was a contradiction between supporting policies that oppress Palestinians and claiming be progressive.
“I want you all to know that among progressives it is becoming clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values while supporting the apartheid government of Israel,” she told a conference of Americans for Justice in Palestine.
Although Tlaib’s comments were aimed at the actions of the Israeli government, she was denounced by fellow Democrats who accused her of questioning Israel’s right to exist. Among them, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former president of the Democratic National Committee supported by AIPAC and the DMFI.
“Rashida Tlaib’s outrageous and progressive litmus test on Israel is nothing short of anti-Semitic. Proud progressives support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. To suggest otherwise is shameful and dangerous. Dividing rhetoric does not lead to peace,” she said. tweeted.
Americans for Peace Now, a sister organization to the Israeli Peace Now movement, supported Tlaib.
“No part of what [Tlaib] says is anti-Semitic. Arming accusations of anti-Semitism cheapens the real fight against anti-Semitism and does nothing to make Jews safer,” he added. said.
AIPAC responded to questions about its support for extremist candidates by saying their views on issues other than Israel were irrelevant.
“Our only factor in supporting Democratic and Republican candidates is their support for strengthening US-Israeli relations,” spokesman Marshall Wittmann said.
“Indeed, our political action committee has endorsed dozens of pro-Israel progressive candidates, including more than half from the Congressional Black Caucus and Hispanic Caucus and nearly half from the Progressive Caucus. Our political engagement has shown that it is entirely progressive policy to support America’s alliance with our democratic ally, Israel.