Progressive Groups Urge Democrats To Reject AIPAC Money Amid Israeli ‘Assault On Gaza’

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has aggressively targeted Democrats critical of Israel, the coalition said.

A coalition of progressive groups has called on Democrats to reject political donations from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee because it has aggressively targeted progressives who have been critical of Israel.

“We have watched as AIPAC has done everything it can to silence growing dissent in Congress against [Israeli leader Benjamin] Netanyahu’s assault on Gaza ― which has killed over 31,000 Palestinians ― even as Democratic voters overwhelmingly support a ceasefire and oppose sending more blank checks to the Israeli military,” the Reject AIPAC coalition said in a statement.

The statement referred to reports that AIPAC is preparing to spend tens of millions of dollars on the 2024 elections and that the group’s top contributors include Republican Party megadonors.

The coalition is made up of about 25 organizations, including Justice Democrats, the Working Families Party, the Democratic Socialists of America, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights Action, Jewish Voice for Peace Action, Our Revolution and the Sunrise Movement.

The groups said they would launch a lobbying effort to build on grassroots efforts “calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and ending Congress’ unconditional political and financial support for the Israeli government and its decades of illegal occupation, flagrant violations of international law and human rights, continued annexation of the West Bank, blockade of Gaza, and forced second-class citizenship of Palestinians in Israel.”

The coalition said it hopes members of Congress will sign a pledge to not to take AIPAC money ― “just like Democratic voters and their elected officials have rejected special interest groups like the NRA after they cemented themselves as a far-right group out of step with Democratic Party values.” Reject AIPAC said it would release the names of lawmakers swearing off AIPAC money “in the coming weeks.”

The coalition also said it would launch a “seven-figure electoral defense campaign” of paid media and field organizing to support members of Congress who have been targeted by AIPAC.

For its part, AIPAC is preparing to spend $100 million across various entities in 2024, Politico recently reported, citing unnamed sources. One of those groups is the United Democracy Project, an AIPAC-affiliated super PAC that raised $35 million in the second half of last year and started 2024 with $41 in cash on hand. UDP’s top donors include Bernie Marcus, the Home Depot CEO who retired in 2002, and billionaire financier Paul Singer, Slate reported. AIPAC claims to be bipartisan, but its super PAC affiliate spent money only in Democratic primaries in 2022, according to federal records analyzed by Open Secrets.

In a statement, AIPAC defended its political activity.

“Our sole criteria for evaluating candidates from both parties is their position on strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Marshall Wittmann, a spokesperson for the group, told HuffPost in an email. “We believe it is entirely consistent with progressive values to stand with the Jewish state. That is why we endorse numerous progressive Democrats who support our democratic ally.”

Jewish American demonstrators rally Feb. 22 outside the Manhattan headquarters of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the offices of Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who accept donations from the group.
Jewish American demonstrators rally Feb. 22 outside the Manhattan headquarters of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the offices of Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who accept donations from the group.
Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images

AIPAC’s own political action committee has raised nearly $25 million since the start of 2023, according to federal campaign finance records.

The coalition pointed out that AIPAC endorsed numerous Republicans who refused to acknowledge the legitimate results of the 2020 election ― or, as one AIPAC memo put it, according to Jewish Insider, Republicans who “disagree strongly on issues surrounding the 2020 presidential election” ― in addition to anti-abortion Republicans.

As some progressive Democrats have grown more outspoken in their criticisms of Israel, AIPAC has grown more aggressive in attacking them.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), author of a bill calling for an immediate cease-fire in Israel and the Palestinian territories, recently called for Democrats to stop accepting AIPAC money altogether.

“It’s simply not good enough for Democrats to run against Donald Trump and his MAGA extremist allies while running toward right-wing, dark-money groups like AIPAC,” she said.

In 2022, groups with ties to AIPAC spent millions against U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), who was called “the most corrosive member of Congress to the US-Israel relationship” in an email written by AIPAC’s president, David Victor.

Levin was defeated in the Democratic primary. Five other Democrats opposed by AIPAC also lost in their primaries.

“I’m really Jewish,” Levin said during the campaign, “but AIPAC can’t stand the idea that I am the clearest, strongest Jewish voice in Congress standing for a simple proposition ― that there is no way to have a secure, democratic homeland for the Jewish people unless we achieve the political and human rights of the Palestinian people.”

Wittmann told HuffPost that AIPAC’s political action committee “supports nearly half of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Black Caucus and Hispanic Caucus” and that “our affiliated super Pac supported Democratic progressive candidates, who defeated anti-Israel candidates in their primary, won their general election, and are currently serving in Congress.”

But many progressives have objected to AIPAC’s political spending in recent years.

“It’s a Trojan horse — it’s a way to smuggle Republican money into Democratic primaries,” Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) told HuffPost in January. “People should have to answer for taking that toxic money.”

At least two Democrats have said they were offered millions of dollars in support if they would run against Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the only Palestinian American in Congress and an outspoken critic of Israel. AIPAC has denied involvement in those offers.

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