The Weaponization of Israel/Palestine in US Elections Campaigns
Thursday, May 12th
Rania Batrice (Organizer, communications and legislative strategist, mediator, and advisor to elected officials, candidates, and non-profits both domestic and around the globe) &
Peter Beinart (Newmark J-School and CUNY Graduate Center; editor-at-large for Jewish Currents, MSNBC political commentator, and fellow at the Foundation for Middle East Peace)
in conversation with
Lara Friedman (President, the Foundation for Middle East Peace)
Israel/Palestine has long played an outsized role in US politics and elections. Candidates’ views on issues like aid to Israel, the status of Jerusalem, settlements and the two-state solution, and sympathy for Palestinians and Palestinian rights are actively elicited, to be used as levers to mobilize financial and political support for chosen incumbents and challengers, or as cudgels to to attack their opponents. On the Hill, members who express even mild support for Palestinian rights, or criticism of Israeli policies, or reservations about additional aid for Israel, open themselves up to being attacked as anti-Israel or antisemitic.
In the run-up to the 2022 mid-term elections, Israel/Palestine has come up over and over, including with the decision by AIPAC’s new political action committee to endorse a long list of Republicans who sought to overturn the last presidential election; the huge investment by pro-Israel organizations and funders in targeted races, including in Michigan and Ohio; and the controversial recent decision by a Jewish Democratic pro-Israel organization to endorse a (non-Jewish) candidate in a primary battle against a (Jewish) incumbent previously endorsed by that same organization, apparently as retribution for the incumbent’s slightly more progressive views on Israel/Palestine.
What is going on now and how is it different from the past? For a deep dive into how Israel/Palestine is manifesting as an issue in the 2022 political cycle and what that means for the future, please join FMEP for this timely event, featuring Peter Beinart and Rania Batrice, in conversation with Lara Friedman.
Resources shared in the webinar:
Follow our participants:
- Lara Friedman → https://twitter.com/LaraFriedmanDC
- Peter Beinart →https://twitter.com/PeterBeinart and https://peterbeinart.substack.com/
- Rania Batrice → https://twitter.com/RaniaBatrice
- And for more from Rania, Lara interviewed her about Palestine and Congress in 2021: “Winds of Change in the Grassroots & Congress on Palestine” → https://fmep.org/resource/podcast-winds-of-change-in-the-grassroots-congress-on-palestine/
- Lara Friedman’s current Twitter thread documenting the role of Israel/Palestine in many races across the US → https://twitter.com/LaraFriedmanDC/status/1516796358333771778
- “The End of Oslo Is an Opportunity” co-authored with Khaled Elgindy in Foreign Policy, 4/3/19, → https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/04/03/israel-palestine-settlements-peace/
- Peter Beinart’s new article on Tom Malinowski, “How a Defender of Palestinian Rights Lost His Way,” → https://jewishcurrents.org/how-a-defender-of-palestinian-rights-lost-his-way
- On Ritchie Torres and the Richie Torresization of political candidates, see this Jewish Currents article: “Ritchie Torres Is the Future of “Pro-Israel” Politics” → https://jewishcurrents.org/ritchie-torres-is-the-future-of-pro-israel-politics
On AIPAC’s new PAC:
- For some data on the amounts of money AIPAC and DMFI are investing in current races —> https://twitter.com/danielmarans/status/1524753718293450754
- On AIPAC funding insurrectionists: ‘Morally bankrupt’: outrage after pro-Israel group backs insurrectionist Republicans → https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/mar/23/aipac-pro-israel-group-backs-insurrectionist-republicans
- “Republicans Slam New White House Press Secretary as ‘anti-Israel’ Over Support for AIPAC Boycott” (Haaretz) → https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-republicans-slam-anti-israel-white-house-press-secretary-over-aipac-boycott-1.10793610
- “Top Pro-Israel Group Reshapes Democratic Primaries With Multimillion-Dollar Barrage” → https://www.huffpost.com/entry/aipac-super-pac-democratic-primaries_n_627135a0e4b01131b1278391
Current races & dynamics:
- On the phenomenon that Rania described of ads that don’t mention Israel, see “Pro-Israel group attacks Lee as bad Democrat without mentioning Israel, or its own support for GOP” → https://www.wesa.fm/politics-government/2022-04-28/pro-israel-group-attacks-lee-as-bad-democrat-without-mentioning-israel-or-its-own-support-for-gop
On the Michigan race and attacks against Andy Levin:
- Abe Foxman’s denuciation of Levin, which includes this line: “He uses his Jewishness [and] respected political family name as a cover for softness on both issues,” → “Former ADL chief Foxman endorses Stevens in Michigan, says Levin ‘leaves a lot to be desired’ on Israel, antisemitism” → https://jewishinsider.com/2022/05/abraham-foxman-endorse-haley-stevens-michigan-congress/
- “Jewish congressman calls attacks by AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups ‘ridiculous’” → https://forward.com/news/501923/andy-levin-jewish-congressman-andy-levin-calls-out-attacks-by-aipac-israel/
- “Ex-head of AIPAC calls Jewish Michigan congressman ‘corrosive’ to US-Israel ties” → https://www.timesofisrael.com/ex-head-of-aipac-calls-jewish-michigan-congressman-corrosive-to-us-israel-ties/
- “Brown: Jewish community ‘helped me get over the finish line’ in tight primary” → https://jewishinsider.com/2022/01/shontel-brown-good-won-over-evil-in-ohio-special-election-race/
- “In the race against Nina Turner, GOP donors fund Shontel Brown” —> https://theintercept.com/2021/07/27/nina-turner-shontel-brown-ohio-gop/
- “Progressives, ‘massively outgunned,’ ditched Nina Turner” : “Justice Democrats blamed pro-Israel super PACs run by DMFI and AIPAC for its decision to stay out of the rematch with Ohio Rep. Shontel Brown” –> https://theintercept.com/2022/05/03/ohio-primary-elections-nina-turner-shontel-brown/
- For more on North Carolina: “Crypto billionaire and pro-Israel PACs, not the candidates, are top spenders in NC race —> https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article260975442.html
On the erosion of the meaning of antisemitism:
- The New Yorker interview with Jonathan Greenblatt: “Is Anti-Zionism Anti-Semitism?” → https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/is-anti-zionism-anti-semitism
- For Peter’s analysis of the ADL and Jonathan Greenblatt, see “Why is the ADL Equating Palestinian Rights with White Nationalism?” —> https://peterbeinart.substack.com/p/why-is-the-adl-equating-palestinian?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email&utm_content=share&s=r
- Criticizing Israel Shouldn’t Be Confused With anti-Semitism, Sanders Tells Jewish Supporter → https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-bernie-sanders-says-criticism-of-israel-shouldn-t-be-confused-with-anti-semitism-1.7682234
Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI):
- The quote from Rep. Jayapal: ““The other thing we’re really looking at is do we need to have some kind of a change in endorsement based on whether somebody accepts this kind of giant PAC money, whether it’s from the crypto billionaires or whether it’s from DMFI [Democratic Majority for Israel].”” from https://punchbowl.news/archive/5-2-22-punchbowl-news-am/
- And Jonathan Greenblatt’s response: “
- @RepJayapal needs to clarify her remarks here, because singling out pro-Israel groups would be deeply problematic.” → https://twitter.com/JGreenblattADL/status/1521918547190075392
- The DMFI Tweet about Shireen Abu Akleh on the day she was killed: “It is worth noting that Al Jazeera is owned by the government of Qatar, which funds and supports Hamas.” → https://twitter.com/DemMaj4Israel/status/1524430381834928129
Rania Batrice is founder and president of Batrice & Associates, a strategic policy and public relations firm specializing in making progressive vision a reality. As a daughter of Palestinian immigrants, Rania has blazed a life path as a voice for the voiceless, working on issues ranging from gun violence and climate change to immigration and foreign policy. She has worked as a Democratic operative for nearly twenty years, lending her expertise across political, non-profit, legislative strategy and crisis management. For Bernie Sanders’ 2016 run for president, Rania served as Iowa Communications Director, the National Director of Surrogates and then as Deputy Campaign Manager. She tweets @RaniaBatrice.
Peter Beinart teaches national reporting and opinion writing at the Newmark J-School and political science at the CUNY Graduate Center. He is editor-at-large for Jewish Currents, a MSNBC political commentator, and a fellow at the Foundation for Middle East Peace. He is also a nonfiction author and former Rhodes Scholar. His first book, The Good Fight, was published by Harper Collins in 2006. His second book, The Icarus Syndrome, was published by HarperCollins in 2010. His third, The Crisis of Zionism, was published by Times Books in 2012. Twitter: @PeterBeinart.
Lara Friedman is the President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP). With more than 25 years working in the Middle East foreign policy arena, Lara is a leading authority on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, with particular expertise on the Israeli-Arab conflict, Israeli settlements, Jerusalem, and the role of the U.S. Congress. In addition to her work at FMEP, Lara is a Contributing Writer at Jewish Currents and a non-resident fellow at the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP). Prior to joining FMEP, Lara was the Director of Policy and Government Relations at Americans for Peace Now, and before that she was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, serving in Jerusalem, Washington, Tunis and Beirut. Lara tweets @LaraFriedmanDC.