AIPAC’s War Chest Draws Opposition

Foreign Policy Brief #146 | By: Mindy Spatt| June 18, 2024
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AIPAC’s Political Action Committee has a huge war chest and has announced plans to spend it defeating “the Squad” and other legislators it believes are insufficiently pro-Israel. To do so the group is allying itself with republican donors and candidates, some of whom are hard core Trump supporters. Progressive Jewish groups are pushing back, but J Street, the liberal lobbying alternative to AIPAC, is not among them.


The powerful pro-Israel lobbying organization AIPAC, the American Public Affairs Council, has announced plans to spend a $100 million war chest to defeat the Squad and other elected officials who have spoken out publicly in support of a ceasefire in Gaza, opposed military aid to Israel or are perceived as pro-Palestinian. Although AIPAC’s efforts often focus on defeating progressives by pushing more moderate democrats, several high profile republican donors are major contributors to AIPAC’s Political Action Committee, the United Democracy Project including Paul Singer, a Nikki Haley megadonor, and the sponsor of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s luxury vacations.

One of AIPAC’S top targets is New York City District 16 Representative Jamaal Bowman. Bowman was one of the first in Congress to call for a ceasefire, and has been outspoken in his opposition the war in Gaza. Bowman’s challenger for the democratic nomination is George Latimer, a Westchester County official who entered the race with the backing of AIPAC. J Street, the lobbying firm that formed as liberal alternative to AIPAC’s hard line on Israel has backed Bowman in the past, but will not support him in this year. The group issued a statement saying “We have been pleased to work with Congressman Bowman for over four years to promote a shared set of values and principles rooted in the pursuit of justice, equality, and peace. The past few months have, however, highlighted significant differences between us in framing and approach.”

Despite record spending, AIPAC has had limited success. Dave Min, a moderate state senator running for California’s Representative Katie Porter’s House seat, has not called for a Ceasefire, but has been critical of Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu. AIPAC put $4.5 million into his primary race, but their candidate failed to beat him. AIPAC also failed to defeat Summer Lee, a freshman congresswoman from Western Pennsylvania who won election to Congress two years ago despite millions being spent by AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups who consider her pro-Palestinian. AIPAC didn’t waste much of its money on her recent reelection bid, but Republican megadonor Jeffrey Yass did, bankrolling ads attacking Lee for calling for a ceasefire and supporting her opponent, Bhavini Patel, who Lee easily defeated.

With J Street no longer providing an alternative for progressive Jews a new coalition has sprung up to oppose AIPAC’s influence, simply called “Reject AIPAC.” Leading anti-occupation groups involved in the campaign include the Justice Democrats, the advocacy arm of Jewish Voice for Peace and the activist organization IfNotNow. Other established progressives in the coalition include the Sunrise Movement and the Working Families Party. “We have watched as AIPAC has done everything it can to silence growing dissent in Congress against Netanyahu’s assault on Gaza,” said the coalition in a statement, “even as Democratic voters overwhelmingly support a ceasefire and oppose sending more blank checks to the Israeli military.”

The coalition recently announced that it plan to spends a least a million dollars to defend the Squad and other lawmakers who have earned AIPAC’s ire. They are highlighting the “dark money” bankrolling AIPAC’s campaigns and urging democratic candidates not to accept funding from AIPAC or seek its endorsement. Eva Borgwardt, IfNotNow’s Political Director said in a statement, “AIPAC is not just an obstacle to progress for Israelis and Palestinians. Their intervention in Democratic primaries serves as a huge obstacle to necessary policies like universal healthcare, meaningful climate action, and workers’ rights. AIPAC’s endorsement should be as welcome in progressive circles as the NRA or the fossil fuel lobby.”

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