The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) may be the most influential, or even probably the most notorious, pro-Israel lobbying organization. When it decided this past year to take up a super PAC and obtain directly involved with unlimited election givingsomething it hadn’t done beforethe organization was clearly creating a statement. This season it has spent tens of millions on TV ads, but what speaks the loudest may be the a very important factor those ads never mention: Israel.
AIPAC has long preferred to use quietly and in the backdrop. As you of its former directors was keen on saying: A lobby is similar to a night flower: it thrives at night and dies in sunlight. But this sudden and dramatic overt intervention by the pro-Israel lobbying group in to the Democratic primary election process, combined with the clearly strategic decision to erase Israel entirely from its ad buys, may be the latest marker of precisely how seismic a political shift has had place on this matter in recent yearsand just how much harder it is becoming to guard Israeli policy.
Despite spending huge amount of money in election races on advertisements to ensure that what the business calls pro-Israel candidates are elected, none of the ads make any reference to Israel. Actually, watching the spots by the United Democracy Project, the generically named AIPAC PAC, a viewer could have no proven fact that this single issue the group spending money on the ads is focused on is support for Israel.
In Marylands fourth-district Democratic primary, for instance, AIPAC backed Glen Ivey over former representative Donna Edwards. The attack ads it covered against Edwards dont mention Israel at all, instead portraying Edwards being an ineffective congresswoman who ignores her constituents. In Pennsylvanias 12th district, AIPACs attack ads against Summer Lee also dont mention Israel, instead portraying her as a bad Democrat who criticized Joe Biden. In Texass 28th district, AIPACs ads against Julia Cisneros didnt mention Israel but claimed Cisneros will be harmful to jobs. Exactly the same pattern repeats in ads in races in NC-4, MI-13, CA-58, OH-11, NC-1, and so forth.
On Tuesday, Haley Stevens defeated Andy Levin in Michigans 11th district in a race AIPACs UDP spent over $4 million on. Levin, a Jewish American and person in a respected political family in hawaii, had criticized Israels treatment of Palestinians and introduced legislation supporting a two-state solution. But what really irked AIPAC wasnt his criticism of Israeli policy but instead he dared to take action while also being Jewish. Former AIPAC president David Victor wrote in a fundraising e-mail that Levin was probably the most corrosive person in Congress to the US-Israel relationship and said that why is matters worse is that Andy sincerely claims to be always a lifelong Zionist, proud Jew and defender of Israel.
However the ads AIPAC bought to improve Stevens didnt discuss Israel at all. Instead, they discussed her being pro-choice, best for jobs and an ally of President Obama. The ads also reveal the value-free nature of the PACs entire campaign. AIPACs PAC gladly instrumentalized Obama in the Stevens ads after spending some $30 million attempting to sink his signature foreign policy achievement, the Iran nuclear deal. In a few districts, the ads lauded AIPACs preferred candidates because of their positions on gun control and reproductive rights, while elsewhere they backed candidates who have been anti-choice and pro-gun. This dishonesty is exacerbated by the truth that the PAC is using millions in donations from Republican megadonors to elect candidates it describes as pro-Israel progressives in Democratic primaries. The complete campaign is detached from any guiding values but one: electing candidates ready to follow AIPACs line on Israelthe one issue it are hiding from voters in its ads.
If it appears strange a single-issue PAC would spend huge amount of money on political advertisements in Democratic primary contests and then not mention the single issue the PAC is focused on, you should look at the amount of opinion on Israel has shifted, among Democrats specifically.
Public opinion polls have already been capturing these major shifts for a long time now. In accordance with Gallup, Democrats views are actually at a tipping point, making use of their sympathy for the Palestinians roughly matching their sympathy for Israel, while liberal Democrats have fully crossed the threshold and today sympathize more with the Palestinians. Importantly, the shift among Democrats isn’t just noticeable with regards to sympathies but additionally policy. In 2013, for instance, the percentage of Democrats who thought america should put more pressure on Israel or put more pressure on Palestinians was even. In the years since, a substantial 20-point gap has emerged. Now 50 percent of Democrats think the united states must pressure Israel more while only 30 percent think more pressure ought to be placed on Palestinians. Newer polling demonstrates when asked should they support boycott, divestment, and sanctions targeted at Israel, 3 x as much Democrats support it as oppose it.
Through the years these trends in public areas opinion have begun to result in an opening of political space in Congress for dissenting opinions on blank-check US support for Israel. Last May, for instance, as Israel was once more bombarding the besieged Gaza Strip, several progressive Democrats spoke through to the home floor to criticize its human rights abusesa spectacle that could have already been almost unimaginable just five years earlier.
AIPAC is actually hoping to nip this growing congressional dissent in the bud with a multimillion-dollar power movespending nearly $25 million up to now in the 2022 cycle aloneprecisely so continued debate over US support for Israel will cease. But if AIPAC and pro-Israel advocacy groups more broadly could defend what Israel does to Palestinianswhich more information on respected human rights groups and international organizations have concluded amounts to the crime of apartheidthey should welcome the debate rather than seek to shut it down. Instead, these heavy interventions in the Democratic primaries reflect the broader, if unspoken, strategy of pro-Israel advocates today: to avoid the debate from happening since they cant win it.
We see this not merely with deceptive ad campaigns targeted at unseating even mild critics of Israels inhumane treatment of Palestinians but additionally with long-standing campaigns to pass repressive legislation targeted at making nonviolent dissent like boycotts of Israel off-limits, or instituting broad definitions of anti-Semitism offering criticism of Israel.
AIPAC is laughably claiming that the millions it really is shelling out for ads that dont mention Israel to elect its preferred candidates implies that being pro-Israel is good politics for Democrats. That may be true if good politics means Democrats ignoring the specific views of these base to secure money from Republican donors. But polling consistently demonstrates that Democratic voters come in an extremely different place from where AIPAC really wants to pretend they’re. With all this colossal change in public areas opinion, AIPACs spending spree may be the exact carbon copy of responding by sticking its fingers in its ears and screaming, la la la la la, i cant hear you!
AIPAC among others might continue steadily to throw huge amount of money behind an attempt to ensure criticism of Israel stays out of Congress, however the shifts which are occurring are on a tectonic scale, and can continue steadily to grow precisely because, as AIPACs ads inadvertently explain, apartheid is impossible to guard.