Halie Soifer in Haaretz: AIPAC’s Latest ‘pro-Israel’ Political Stunt Endangers America
By Halie Soifer
In early March, the newly-created American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) political action committee (PAC) announced political endorsements, the first time it had explicitly backed candidates in its 70-year history.
Astonishingly, these endorsements include 37 Republicans who refused to certify the 2020 presidential election and, among them, two members of Congress who refused to testify before the January 6th Committee about their role in the Capitol insurrection.
AIPAC PAC’s endorsements are profoundly troubling because they suggest that, at times, one must compromise support of America’s democracy to support Israel. This is a patently false dichotomy rejected by the overwhelming majority of American Jews.
According to a poll conducted last year by the non-partisan Jewish Electorate Institute voting rights constitute one of the most important issues for American Jewish voters. When asked about the impact of state voter suppression laws inspired by Donald Trump’s Big Lie, 83 percent of Jewish voters, including 50 percent of Jewish Republicans, said they were concerned.
In addition to ignoring the views of Jewish voters, its endorsements suggest that AIPAC has overlooked its own principles. On November 7, 2020, AIPAC rightly congratulated Joe Biden on winning the election. Two months later, on January 6, 2021, AIPAC condemned Donald Trump’s incitement of the deadly insurrection and violent attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Therefore, AIPAC is contradicting its own pronouncements by endorsing and financially supporting members of Congress who returned to the House chamber immediately following that deadly insurrection and refused to certify Biden as the winner.
AIPAC PAC responded to inquiries about their endorsements by asserting they are a single-issue organization, solely focused on “building bipartisan support in Congress to strengthen the US-Israel relationship.” This argument is flawed for two reasons.
First, if it were true, why did AIPAC itself speak out on January 6, expressing outrage about the “assault on our democratic values and process,” when obviously January 6 had nothing to do with Israel? Second, the U.S.-Israel relationship cannot be strengthened at the cost of America’s democracy. Without democracy in the United States and Israel, our bilateral relationship will no doubt falter.
AIPAC’s website declares that the “U.S.-Israel relationship is a mutually beneficial partnership that reinforces America’s moral values and strategic interests.” Yet the message sent by these endorsements directly belies this point and suggests that AIPAC believes that, at times, the U.S.-Israel relationship requires a degradation – not reinforcement – of America’s moral values.
No two AIPAC PAC endorsees underscore this point more clearly than Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Scott Perry (R-PA), both of whom reportedly plotted for months with White House officials to overturn the election results. Rep. Jordan played a leading role in publicly defending false claims about the election, while Rep. Perry orchestrated a failed plan to replace the acting U.S. Attorney General with a more compliant official.
They both played a role in the “stop the steal” movement that led to the January 6 Trump rally, at which Trump incited the attack on the Capitol. They also declined to meet with the House committee investigating January 6, which will likely subpoena them both.
As if that weren’t enough, in April 2021, Rep. Perry publicly paid homage to the white supremacist “replacement theory” in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing by asserting that Democrats are “importing” new voters “from the third world” to disenfranchise existing American voters.
This white supremacist ideology is the origin of the insidious “Jews will not replace us” mantra chanted by neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville three years before, and the motivation for the white supremacist who committed the horrific massacre of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
AIPAC came out strongly against the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, as well as Trump’s “good people on both sides” equivocation and his failure to condemn it. The day after the march, AIPAC tweeted its “outrage and deep concern” and urged “all elected officials to reject moral equivalence between those who promote hate and those who oppose it.”
So why would the same organization support any candidate who embraces the very moral equivalence AIPAC condemned years before? It’s a question being asked by many, including some Democratic members of Congress it recently endorsed.
These 37 endorsements are simply a bridge too far for the overwhelming and bipartisan majority of American Jews who aren’t willing to compromise their support of American democracy or their support of Israel.
According to Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin, the endorsements are “truly horrifying” and a “gross misjudgment” because “democracy is at the root of the Israel-U.S. relationship.” Similarly, Richard Haass, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, has described the endorsements as “morally bankrupt and short-sighted.”
Former Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Director Abe Foxman called the endorsements a “sad mistake.” While former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and Egypt Dan Kurtzer characterized the endorsements as “very disappointing” and suggested that AIPAC “should reconsider and do the right thing for America.”
The majority of Jewish Americans, who overwhelmingly support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, would likely agree. AIPAC’s decision to play a zero-sum game with America’s democracy and support of Israel suggests it should either get out of electoral politics or immediately rescind its endorsement of insurrectionists and right-wing extremists who endanger the security and values of Americans, and especially American Jews.
Halie Soifer is CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America. She previously served as national security advisor in the Senate to Vice President Kamala Harris, as foreign policy advisor to Senator Chris Coons, and as a senior policy advisor to former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. Twitter: @HalieSoifer