AIPAC's financial interference in US primaries
The American "Israel" Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) decides to exclude Jewish lawmakers whose support for "Israel" is insufficient.
"Israel" will play an important role in the upcoming US primaries, where two Democratic candidates will compete against a Republican candidate to represent the Michigan congressional district.
According to an article in Asharq Al-Awsat by the former US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, the American "Israel" Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is seeking to dismiss the representative of the Jewish Congress Andy Levin, a fierce defender of "Israel’s" right to exist and a self-declared Zionist. The problem, according to the article, is that despite his pro-"Israel" views, he is in favor of the "two-state solution."
In the past years, AIPAC identified some of the names of American politicians whose support for "Israel" was considered insufficient, and accordingly financial donations were secured by individuals and institutions to finance the electoral campaigns of their opponents. But the difference this year is that AIPAC has created a subsidiary organization to donate directly to political campaigns across the US. Because US political transparency laws require campaigns to report their donations, it was found that the AIPAC funding branch has so far donated about $30 million to political campaigns in Congress.
AIPAC did not deny its financial interference. On the contrary, some officials from the institution linked their direct intervention in the campaigns to the changes taking place within the Democratic Party. For example, 24 senators from the Democratic Party sent a statement last month to US President Joe Biden asking him to intervene to ensure a fair investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
AIPAC disputed the letter, and then in May, 57 House Democrats, mostly from the party's left wing, wrote a letter urging the administration to investigate the killing of Abu Akleh. Levin was among those who signed it.
On the other hand, Hayley Stevens, a Democratic member of Congress who affirms her endless support for "Israel", refused to sign a letter urging an American investigation. Therefore, AIPAC donated $3 million to her campaign, in the August 2 primaries, in competition with Levin himself.
On top of that, The Intercept reported that AIPAC used more than $8 million to support its "candidates", and nearly half of that amount went toward the race to oust Levin, who was behind Stevens with 40% to 60% of the vote.
Moreover, pro-"Israel" associations with deep ties to AIPAC made huge financial investments in the Michigan election races. The right-wing "Israel" lobby had spent more than $10 million in total across the state's 11th, 12th, and 13th congressional districts, far outstripping any other interest group or fundraiser from the candidates themselves.
In an interview for MSNBC last week, Levin said, "I'm really Jewish, but AIPAC can't stand the idea that I'm the clearest and strongest Jewish voice in Congress defending a simple proposition: that there is no way to have a secure, democratic home for the Jewish people unless we achieve the political and human rights of the Palestinian people."
According to Ford, AIPAC's financial interference in the Democratic primaries resulted in nine successful candidates out of the ten that they backed.
Strategically, AIPAC handpicks its candidates. Therefore, they avoid investing money in campaigns against congresswomen Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota, despite their sharp criticism of "Israel", because AIPAC realized, according to its studies, that it will be very difficult to defeat them.
In contrast, AIPAC's direct interference in the Democratic primary was not without a quick reaction. Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders described the association's intervention as a war against the Democratic Party. One of the Democratic Party's most important progressive politicians, Senator Elizabeth Warren, also flew to Michigan to speak in support of Levin.
In addition, the national organization J Street, which strongly supports the "two-state solution" and argues against AIPAC's preferred US policy approach in the region, had begun to fund its own candidates' political campaigns. However, the funding offered by J Street is significantly less than that offered by AIPAC.
Furthermore, Ford stated that he has a long experience with AIPAC. After he resigned from the State Department in 2014 because he did not agree with former President Barack Obama's policy on Syria, he received invitations from the committee to speak at some of its conferences about Iran's role in Syria and the region. In return, Ford asserted that he received "a small reward for such lectures, the last of which was in 2018."
In those years, AIPAC directors assured him that support for "Israel" had to come from both sides in order for it to be strong. Their decision this year to target politicians similar to Levin indicated a confrontation with the more progressive pro-"Israel" wing of the Democratic Party.
If AIPAC succeeds, it will increase the influence, within the Democratic Party, of conservatives to push out the more progressive and left-wing persons, including many young activists.