Photo: Erik S Lesser/EPA
Hardline pro-Israel lobbyists have been accused of using Republican mega-donors to hijack the Democratic primary following the “alarming” defeat of a prominent Jewish congressman because he criticized Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
The American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) spent more than $4 million to defeat Andy Levin in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for a congressional seat in northwest Detroit.
Levin, who comes from a distinguished political dynasty that includes his father and an uncle who served long terms as Democrats in Congress, said he had been “the target of a largely Republican-funded campaign” because he dissented from support. from AIPAC to hard-line Israeli policies.
Aipac invested funds to support Levin’s opponent, Haley Stevens, who won with about 60% of the vote. The lobby group heralded her victory as evidence that “being pro-Israel is both good politics and good politics.” But critics pointed out that much of Aipac’s spending was devoted to negative campaigns against Levin that did not mention Israel.
Levin was backed by the more liberal pro-Israel group, J Street. He contrasted Aipac’s endorsement of more than 100 Republican members of Congress who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s presidential election victory with the “attack of foreign spending from the right and unsubstantiated slander” to defeat a progressive candidate with a track record. in support of unions and civil rights.
Aipac, through its political action committee, the United Democracy Project, has raised millions of dollars from Republican billionaires like Trump campaign backers Paul Singer and Bernie Marcus to defeat candidates not seen as pro-Israel enough.
Other pro-Israel groups, such as the Democratic Majority for Israel and America Pro-Israel, have also spent heavily to oppose candidates deemed anti-Israel in Democratic primaries from Texas to Ohio to California.
“This aggressive intervention in the Democratic primary, by a group funded in part by Republican mega-donors, to promote an unpopular agenda is harmful to American foreign policy, to the Democratic Party, and ultimately to the State of Israel.” Said J Street, that’s more critical of Israeli policies that perpetuate the domination of the Palestinians.
in a interview With The Guardian during the campaign, Levin warned that Aipac’s involvement raised the specter of the entire primary process being hijacked by well-funded lobbyists such as Big Oil and the arms industry.
“I don’t think the Democratic Party can really take it and maintain the integrity of our own elections,” he said.
Following his loss, Levin said he “will continue to speak out against the corrosive influence of dark money on our democracy.”
J Street has called on Democratic candidates to reject Aipac’s endorsement, saying their goal is to warn politicians against criticizing Israel’s actions or risk a well-funded campaign against them.
“With its staggering spending, Aipac hopes to send a daunting message to others: cross our red lines and you could be next. While the political space for open and healthy debate about US foreign policy has opened up considerably in recent years, they seem determined to close it down,” he said.
AIPAC has spill more than $24 million to defeat Democratic primary candidates critical of Israel. Last month he celebrated defeating former congresswoman Donna Edwards who was the favorite to win a seat in Maryland until the UDP spent $7 million to unleash a publicity blitz on her.
But Aipac suffered a rare setback Tuesday in another Detroit seat where it spent heavily to defeat a member of the Michigan state legislature, Shri Thanedar, who has been a harsh critic of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Thanedar, an Indian immigrant and wealthy businessman, defeated state Sen. Adam Hollier, who is black and strongly pro-Israeli, in a field split between several candidates in the largely African-American district.
Some of Aipac’s followers have He suggested that Aipac’s campaign financing focus on candidates critical of Israeli government policies is anti-Semitic because the group is doing no more than other lobbying organizations.
In responseLara Friedman, president of the Middle East Peace Foundation, tweeted: “So AIPAC can do it… and AIPAC can brag about doing it… But to talk about what AIPAC did (at least critically) is anti-Semitic. See how it works?