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US: Progressive coalition teams up to take on pro-Israel lobby group Aipac

American Israel Public Affairs Committee suffered a defeat in a California Democratic primary where it spent more than $4m
Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat, greets supporters during his primary election night gathering at The Avalon in Los Angeles, California, on 4 March 2024 ( Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP)

A coalition of more than 20 progressive groups has teamed up to protect pro-Palestinian lawmakers from the powerful Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as Aipac.

The group, calling itself Reject AIPAC, is made up of several progressive and pro-Palestinian organisations including the Working Families Party; Sunrise Movement; Jewish Voice for Peace; IfNotNow; Peace Action; Democratic Socialists of America; and others.

“For decades, AIPAC has been a hawkish, warmongering, and bullying force in US politics,” the coalition said in a statement that calls on lawmakers not to accept endorsements from Aipac or other political action committees aligned with it.

“[Aipac] advocates for a US foreign policy directly at odds with human rights and international humanitarian law, and has supported an unconditional flow of US military funding and weapons to the Israeli government that have been used to support human rights violations against Palestinians,” the statement added.

The coalition has promised to launch a “seven-figure electoral defence campaign” for lawmakers who have been targeted by Aipac for their criticism of Israel, but the groups face an uphill battle.

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Aipac has already kickstarted what is reported to be a $100m in funding for the 2024 election campaign, to take aim at lawmakers it considers unsupportive of Israel.

On Aipac's website, the group claims that all 32 Democratic Congressional lawmakers it backed on 5 March won their primary races. However, in the highly competitive congressional district of Orange Country, California, Aipac appeared to suffer a loss.

Aipac spent $4.6m attacking Democrat Dave Min, in his bid to represent California's 47th congressional district. Israel wasn’t the main topic of the campaign, and ads deployed against Min mainly highlighted his arrest for drunk driving. Despite this, Min pulled off a victory.

Top Democrats line-up for Aipac event

It’s unclear how many lawmakers will join Reject AIPAC, which has also criticised Aipac for funding “far-right politicians and candidates, including insurrectionists”, in a reference to the 6 January Capitol Hill riots.

Aipac has honed its ability in recent years to back pro-Israel lawmakers considered to be moderate or progressive in US politics.

The US's two top Democratic members of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, are set to attend Aipac's flagship event in Washington, DC, this week. 

Former Israeli prime minister urges Jewish Americans to bypass Aipac in Washington
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Aipac-backed Congressman Adam Schiff won California’s Democratic primary for the US Senate last week. Schiff is widely known for heading the Congressional committee investigating 6 January. While he is billed as a "progressive",  his victory speech last week was interrupted with cries of “Free Palestine." 

The emergence of Reject AIPAC and the disconnect between protestors and traditional Democrats like Schiff underscores how the war in Gaza has fractured one of the US’s main political parties.

The US has been a close ally of Israel for more than 50 years, and President Joe Biden has positioned himself as a staunch supporter of Israel since he began his political career as a senator in the early 1970s. However, his unconditional backing has riled the Democratic Party’s progressive base, which is upset over the unfolding war in Gaza. 

Since 7 October, Israel's offensive has killed more than 31,000 Palestinians, mainly women and children. 

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