Donna Edwards seemed headed to an easy victory in the primary for Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, a predominantly Black suburb of Washington, D.C., in Prince George’s County. Early polls showed her having a 13 point lead ahead of former state attorney Glen Ivey. Ms. Edwards served eight years as the first Black woman elected to Congress from Maryland before losing a Senate campaign in 2016. She was endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other major Democratic leaders.
Then AIPAC, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, spent $6 million changing the outcome of the election. They funded attack ads in support of Mr. Ivey. AIPAC was joined by another pro-Israel group, the Democratic Majority for Israel, that spent an additional $426,000.
Instead of Ms. Edwards cruising to victory, she lost to Mr. Ivey by at least 16 percentage points.
What happened to American Democracy where votes count? It’s supposed to be a political system where the people elect candidates to serve them. That’s not the case with AIPAC pouring millions into campaigns to get candidates they want elected.
Many see the infusion of AIPAC’s cash as a threat to American Democracy.
“AIPAC is trying to ensure that they eliminate all sources of support for the Palestinian cause and any pushback to Zionism in the Congress of the United States,” Dr. Wilmer Leon, author, journalist and political scientist told The Final Call. “They don’t tolerate any dissension. They have been going into primary races, like in Ohio with Nina Turner, targeting candidates for defeat.
“This tactic goes all the way back to Cynthia McKinney in Georgia. They underwrite the campaigns of Black candidates so they can be sure that they eliminate anybody that they perceive is in opposition to what they consider to be anti-Zionist legislation.”
Nina Turne, lost in Cleveland’s primary as AIPAC and friends gave contributions to her opponent’s campaign. Ms. Turner was targeted for defeat because she expressed support for a Jewish group that accuses Israel of “apartheid” in its treatment of Palestinians.
“These people are pouring in this kind of money because they want to be able to control the outcomes that happen on the congressional level,” Ms. Turner told Democracy Now. “This is it, plain and simple. You don’t invest that kind of money without expecting a return. There is nothing so spectacular about the people who they endorsed and who they supported, whether it was my race in particular, especially so, or any other races across the country. They are investing in corporatist-type Democrats because they want a return on their investment.”
American Democracy hinges money and the biggest spender usually wins regardless of the candidates’ platform. AIPAC funds candidates in both parties—whoever aligns with Israel is their choice. This approach has angered many who see it as hypocritical.
Israel’s equal opportunity political influencer and powerful force against U.S. democracy
AIPAC is unmoved by criticism over its support of Democratic and Republican candidates including 109 of the 147 Republicans who refused to accept President Joe Biden’s election. AIPAC responds to critics by admitting its endorsements are purely on the strength of candidates’ records on Israel. And, AIPAC promises, that will continue in the “bipartisan spirit” that AIPAC has long boasted of.
In a statement expressing their joy at Glen Ivey’s win, AIPAC said, “Pro-Israel activists mobilized in this race because there was a clear and unambiguous choice between a candidate who will strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance and one who would weaken it.”
AIPAC was formed in the late 1950s in response to Washington holding up aid to Israel due to the country’s atrocities against the Palestinians in Qibya. In 1953, Israelis chose nearby Qibya to suffer retribution for the killing of a Jewish woman and her two children. Sixty Palestinians were randomly massacred. America was outraged and put a hold on funding to Israel.
With Israel’s reputation damaged, Zionists had to quickly do something to salvage U.S.-Israel relations. The American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs (AZCPA) was born and was renamed AIPAC in 1959. U.S. funding later was released after a UN censure of Israel.
The result is Israel can do no wrong that jeopardizes American Jewish support or American political funding, arms sales or giveaways and federal financial aid.
The modern Israel lobby started slow but over time began to target more and more politicians for defeat.
However, politicians began to notice who was funding their opponents. Rep. Gus Savage (D-Ill.) spoke before Congress in 1989 about his concerns regarding AIPAC when they funded nearly 90 percent of his opponent’s campaign. “AIPAC is supportive of a foreign nation,” he said. “It’s very dangerous when a foreign nation can pour 96 percent of the money into a campaign,” Mr. Savage explained. “Don’t confuse AIPAC with the Jewish community. I’m not convinced AIPAC would have the support of the Jewish community.”
For decades AIPAC has relentlessly picked and tailored who would win in elections around the country. These politicians, Democrats, Republicans, Black, White, Christian and Jewish, serve one purpose, to support Israel at all costs.
“AIPAC is detrimental to what this nation claims to be, which is a democracy,” Nation of Islam National Spokesperson Ava Muhammad told The Final Call. “There’s every indication that the time we live in that was spoken about in the Bible, where it says, ‘Satan would reveal himself.’ We are seeing in every facet of life the opposition to freedom, justice and equality is now open.”
“Look at the election system in Michigan’s 11th district. Jewish American progressive leader, Andy Levin, has been targeted by AIPAC for defeat. They have funded over $3 million to help his opponent of Haley Stevens. AIPAC has labeled Andy Levin, ‘the most corrosive member of Congress to the U S Israeli relationship.’ Why would he be characterized in that way? He is closely tied to Israel. His father was a congressional representative. His uncle was a senator. This is a leading Jewish family,” said Student Minister Muhammad.
“His mistake is that he viewed the Palestinians as being entitled to human rights. The crime that Levin committed that has put him on the AIPAC hit list to run him out of Congress is that he introduced in the current Congress, a bill entitled a Two-State Solution Act.”
That bill would restrict the $3.8 billion in annual U.S. aid to Israel from being used for the Israeli occupation or annexation of Palestinian territories. This bill crossed a line with AIPAC consequently putting a target on Rep. Levin.
“For 55 years, Israel has occupied Palestinian land under the name of settlement. They’re not settlers they’re intruders, they’re invaders. That bill would put conditions on the financial aid that Israel gets from the United States. It would ensure that the money is only used for legitimate security needs, because what Israel does is use that money to deepen and expand her occupation,” Min. Muhammad added.
There is a growing list of names that Rep. Levin joins. It includes Cynthia McKinney who served in Congress for 10 years before being an AIPAC target, and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan who has also been attacked by AIPAC.
“Minister Farrakhan suffered for decades,” Ava Muhammad, who serves as his National Spokesperson, said. “If you disagree with Jewish leadership in America, who are pushing military policies and crushing the Palestinian people you become anti-Semitic. Now they’re specifically calling people anti-Israel. AIPAC has failed to come out against right wing so-called conservatives. For example, those who attacked the U.S. capital on the infamous Jan. 6 attack after Donald Trump’s claim that the U.S. elections were fraudulent.”
“There’s been no outcry by AIPAC against those people. This is an exceedingly wealthy group, millions and millions of dollars. They are narrowly focused on running out of office, preventing from getting in office, anybody that disagrees with the intrusion of Israel on the Palestinian people,” said Student Minister Ava Muhammad.
AIPAC attempts to thwart democracy, the voice of the voters, every chance they get. They frequently approach elected officials on Capital Hill with pro-Israel letters that politicians are asked to sign to affirm their support for Israel. Many sign but if you don’t, get ready for trouble. In 2012, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) was approached with a letter.
He told Aaron David Miller, for his book “The Much Too Promised Land” that he declined to sign in spite of 80-90 senators on it. “I don’t think I’ve ever signed one of the letters,” he said. He was immediately accused of being anti-Israel.
His response to claims he was anti-Israel, “I didn’t sign the letter because it was a stupid letter,” he said. Mr. Hagel considers himself a strong supporter of Israel. “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” but as he put it, “I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”
AIPAC attacks Min. Farrakhan and other voices
When Minister Farrakhan said something similar, he was subjected to attacks by AIPAC. “Special interests, along with Zionist AIPAC, are robbing America of the ‘principle of democracy’ and ‘representative government,’ ” Minister Farrakhan warned during his 52 week lecture series “The Time and What Must Be Done.”
Donna Edwards received support from Jewish PAC J Street, a more liberal pro-Israel group. J Street spent close to $720,000 in Glen Ivey attack ads that highlighted his acceptance of AIPAC funds. It wasn’t enough. Ms. Edwards even went on the attack saying Mr. Ivey received support from “his dark-money super PAC.”
“AIPAC has spent not a cent to defeat members of the House or Senate who have threatened American democracy, voted against certifying the 2022 elections, and endorsed Donald Trump’s Big Lie,” explained Jeremy Ben-Ami, president and founder of J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy group to The New Republic.
“Instead, it has actually endorsed over three-quarters of the insurrectionist enablers—109 of them in total. Rather than devoting its resources to defending the democratic values on which the U.S. and Israel stand, its super PAC is putting 100 percent of its funds into crushing Democrats it has labeled—without any good reason—‘anti-Israel.’”
Ms. Edwards was called “anti-Israel” because of her congressional voting record. She consistently voted “present” on legislation concerning Israel rather than in favor of. This includes a 2009 resolution that backed Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Gaza and a law that increased security cooperation between the United States and Israel in 2012.
“Israel exudes a lot of influence in American politics. That’s very clear because at this point, many Americans are worried about jobs, healthcare, and conditions in the United States. They are questioning U.S. relationships overseas, questioning the devotion the United States has to certain policies in the Middle East. Israel is kind of on the defensive. They really want continued U.S. support, which is vital to their activities,” Caleb Maupin, journalist and author, told The Final Call. “Without U.S. support, from the billions of taxpayer dollars to the billions of dollars of free weapons, to support in the U.S. media and what U.S. politicians give to Israel, Israel wouldn’t be able to exist.
“It’s vital that Israel exercises a lot of influence in American politics. That’s why Israel is so heavily involved in the American political process,” Mr. Maupin continued.
“It shows how hypocritical all this talk of foreign meddling is. If you look at the amount of influence that the American Israeli Political Action Committee has in American politics, if Russia had that kind of influence, or China had that kind of influence, if Iran or Venezuela, or Saudi Arabia or another country had that kind of influence, it would be considered scandalous,” he noted.
“Israeli influence is something that is taboo to discuss in America. If you bring it up, people just accuse you of being anti-Semitic and the conversation gets shut down.”
The AIPAC money Mr. Ivey received set a new record in political spending for the group. The AIPAC super PAC is called United Democracy Project (UDP). The name says nothing of Israel and deceives voters who see their ads into thinking this is a neutral group. In the Maryland campaign, UDP outspent Ms. Edwards by a staggering 7 to 1.
In Texas, the group spent nearly $2 million to defeat Jessica Cisneros who was running against conservative incumbent Henry Cuellar. In Pittsburgh, AIPAC and friends spent $3 million in a failed attempt to defeat progressive Summer Lee. To date AIPAC has launched both a traditional federal political action committee, AIPAC PAC, and a super PAC UDP that has poured $30 million in primary campaigns.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, (D-Mich.) is being targeted for defeat by the Urban Empowerment Action PAC, a new PAC that called the campaign against Tlaib its “premier race.” The group plans to spend at least $1 million to unseat her. The Atlanta-based Urban Empowerment Action PAC was started in October by more than 40 Black business and civic leaders. Billionaire hedge fund investor and philanthropist Daniel Loeb, who contributes to AIPAC, is the group’s main contributor.
Rep. Tlaib is another voice against U.S. military support for Israel and human rights abuses in Palestine. Her comments about unchecked U.S. funding for Israeli occupation forces has put her in the crosshairs of AIPAC. Rep. Tlaib’s stance on Israel has been criticized by her opponent, former Michigan state Rep. Shanelle Jackson.
According to their website, the AIPAC PAC is the largest bipartisan, pro-Israel political action committee in the country. Unbeknownst to many, it is quickly emerging as a leading force in American politics that supports a group of 329 pro-Israel Democratic and Republican candidates.
While many are quick to accept AIPAC money as a sure way to victory, former New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, running for a new seat in Congress, was asked during a June virtual candidate forum if he supports AIPAC. He said, “No, I don’t,” according to media reports. “I am not seeking their endorsement and would not accept it even if it were offered,” he added.
Mayor De Blasio explained that he supports the two-state solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict and suggested it was “the only path forward to peace in the region for both Israeli and Palestinian people to have their own states.”
“I would fight for that, and I would certainly fight against any organization that attacks my fellow progressives,” he said, according to media reports.