Progressives are afraid to tackle AIPAC. AIPAC and a right-of-center ad hoc coalition directed by Hakeem Jeffries operatives and including Democratic Majority For Israel, Sam Bankman Fried, plus Reid Hoffman and Deborah Simon (Mainstream Democrats PAC), directed tens of millions of dollars towards defeating progressives in primaries last year and destroyed the electoral chances of Andy Levin (MI), Marie Newman (IL), Donna Edwards (MD), Alan Grayson (FL), Nina Turner (OH), Erica Smith (NC), Christina Garcia (CA), Jessica Cisneros (TX), Nida Allam (NC), Daniel Lee (CA), in each case, helping secure the nomination for someone to the right of these candidates (and incumbents). In AIPAC’s case most of the money spent in Democratic primaries came from Republican fat cats.
AIPAC and the Hakeem Jeffries anti-progressive coalition won almost all their races with just a couple of exceptions, one of which was extremely significant, Summer Lee, though even in her case, AIPAC was able to reduce her margin of victory tremendously. Last week, Alexandra Rojas and Waleed Shahid of Justice Democrats, writing for The Nation, focused on the Summer Lee race as some kind of a model for how to beat AIPAC. They’re dreamin’. “The importance of Lee’s victory cannot be overstated. It is a recent and concrete example of how a strong candidate with a well-run, community-driven campaign and large progressive coalition can overcome AIPAC’s multimillion-dollar machine.” The problem here is that you can’t go to a store and find a Summer Lee on shelf somewhere. There just aren’t many candidates as strong and well-positioned as she is— and who gets lucky enough to have a nothing opponent.
Still, Rojas and Shahid assert that her victory is “a road map for how progressive Democrats can unite to build infrastructure to elect candidates whose values will be consistent both at home and abroad.” I wish it were true, but AIPAC and the Hakeem Jeffries coalition of PACs (unmentioned by Rojas and Shahid) scored in almost every other race, even against strong contenders and proven vote-getters like Marie Newman, Alan Grayson, Nina Turner, Donna Edwards, Andy Levin, Erica Smith… each of whom— like Summer Lee— was leading until AIPAC and their allies started dumping millions into the races.
They wrote that “The AIPAC network is spending millions of dollars precisely because it is losing the generational and partisan battle to progressive Democrats. Instead of capitulating, progressives should continue building off Lee’s victory by coordinating our own network of anti-occupation donors, operatives, and local community members on the ground— precisely mirroring the ideologically driven electoral infrastructure that the AIPAC network has already built.” Sounds good… I hope they can recruit top notch candidates and raise tens of millions of dollars.
The AIPAC network’s multimillion-dollar spending operation to punish Democrats who stray even one step away from unconditional support for the Israeli occupation makes sense considering how politically untenable such stances would be otherwise. A Gallup poll released this month found that for the first time a majority of Democrats now sympathize with Palestinians more than with Israelis. And as of 2019, 56 percent of Americans and 71 percent of Democrats said the United States should not “give unconditional financial and military assistance to Israel if the Israeli government continues to violate American policy on settlement expansion or West Bank annexation.”
However, because of the massive political and financial power of the anti-Palestinian lobby, only 14 percent of Democrats in the House of Representatives have signed legislation to condition aid to Israel on ending the expansion of settlements. If the AIPAC network can spend unlimited money to ensure that US politicians don’t represent the generational shift in the Democratic Party and the evolving views of the American people, it will have nothing to worry about.
After Bronx public school principal Jamaal Bowman unseated Eliot Engel— the anti-Palestinian lobby’s favorite Democrat, and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee— the lobby tripled down on an electoral strategy. In the last cycle, for the first time in history, AIPAC launched its very own super PAC and— alongside the AIPAC-affiliated Democratic Majority for Israel— spent over $41 million attacking Democrats who violated its purity test on unconditional aid and support for the Israeli government.
AIPAC’s aggressive entry into Democratic primaries signals the increasingly partisan track that the anti-Palestinian lobby is taking, mirroring Israel’s rightward shift and the Democratic disavowal of groups like the NRA and more recently, Big Oil. While today there is only one NRA-backed Democrat in the House, just 12 years ago Democratic candidates in the House represented nearly 20 percent of NRA-financed candidates (a drop from 39 percent in 1992).
In the last cycle, AIPAC backed over 100 insurrectionist-aligned Republicans, opposed Democrats in general elections and primaries, spent zero dollars against Republican candidates— and were largely funded by pro-Trump Republican donors Robert Kraft, Bernard Marcus, and Paul Singer. Given the generational shift taking place in the Democratic Party— led by Justice Democrats like Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Summer Lee, and many others— it is clear that the extreme anti-Palestinian sentiment championed by AIPAC will increasingly fall along party lines, which is exactly what AIPAC’s multimillion-dollar spending seeks to avoid.
Just as with Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, or criminal justice reform, we must organize to align the preferences of Democratic legislators with the voters who elected them. It is through Congress, after all, that we have the power to ensure that American taxpayers are not funding the violation of human rights and subsidizing the endless occupation of the Palestinian people. AIPAC and its largely Republican donors know that Democrats who speak out about the occupation also make the party more progressive on a range of other issues. A progressive movement, and a Democratic Party that sells out Palestinians for an easy reelection, is not a movement that can be counted on to fight back for any community when they need us most. Our end goal is not winning for the sake of winning. It’s winning to bring about fundamental change.
I’ll have to re-read their piece and see if I can find a plan that’s going to help out candidates over come AIPAC (and the unmentioned Hakeem Jeffries and Just Gottheimer).