Criticism of Joe Biden’s Israel course is growing – not only among the population, but also in the ranks of the Democrats. This particularly displeases a large organization that exerts rigorous influence.
The USA stands on Israel’s side. This was true before the Hamas attack – and has been truer than ever since the October 7 massacre. At least that’s how it sounded when US President Joe Biden met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet a few days after the escalation in the Middle East began. “I don’t think you have to be Jewish to be a Zionist, and I am a Zionist,” Biden said at the time. Clear words for someone who represents a country that no longer knows exactly how to position itself in the conflict.
This is particularly evident in the US Congress. There, a group of left-wing Democrats led by the American-Palestinian politician Rashida Tlaib has been questioning the US government’s Israel course for several years. Since Hamas’ attack on Israel, these critical voices have become louder. Tlaib, for example, viewed President Biden’s Middle East policy as support for genocide in the Gaza Strip and advocated for a ceasefire in the contested coastal strip.
Congress disapproved: 234 members of Congress voted to censure Tlaib for her pro-Palestinian statements. Of the representatives, 22 were Democrats. According to a report by the investigative platform “The Lever”, 18 of them are said to have, which is known in the USA as a pro-Israel lobbying organization: Aipac (short for American Israel Public Affairs Committee).
Jewish donations to Democrats and Republicans
Whether it supports the interests of Jews or just the Israeli government is controversial among experts. According to its own information, Aipac wants to strengthen Israeli-American relations and has more than three million members. Its predecessor, the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs, was intended to defend Israel’s reputation in the 1950s. The organization was renamed after a bloody attack by Israeli troops on a West Bank village that left 60 Palestinian civilians dead. As Aipac, it helped ensure that the USA supplied Israel with weapons in the 1960s, even though Washington was critical of the young state (read more about this here).
Aipac is not the only Israeli lobbying group in the US. But she is considered the most powerful. More liberal groups such as J Street or Pro-Israel-America can hardly assert themselves against the organization, which is classified as right-wing conservative. Critics accuse her of pushing the US government towards a warmongering foreign policy.
The fact that pro-Palestinian voices are now becoming louder in Congress has led Aipac to actively intervene in the election process for the first time. Specifically, it’s about campaign financing in the Democratic primaries. In the past two years, the lobby organization has shelled out more money than any other pro-Israel group: According to the Open Secrets platform, the sister organization United Democracy Project invested more than $23 million in political campaigns. The J Street association (six million dollars) and Pro-Israel-America (just under 2.7 million dollars) follow far behind.
Campaign financing for Israel supporters
Both Republicans and Democrats benefited from the donations, such as Congressmen Shontel Brown, Haley Stevens and Glenn Ivey. According to Open Secret, they are among the top beneficiaries of Aipac donations – but they are not the only ones:
- The Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnsonreceived last year $25,000 – more than any other group. However, only $10,000 came from the Aipac Political Action Committee (PAC), with individuals from the group donating the rest.
- Chuck Schumer, more democratic Majority Leader in the Senate, received campaign contributions amounting to between 2017 and 2022 $95,000. Most recently, he supported the Senate resolution in favor of Israel, which was passed on September 19th. Before the vote, Schumer reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself and condemned “the heinous, vicious attacks of the terrorist group Hamas.”
- The Democratic representative Josh Gottheimer benefited from last year 217,000 dollars from the ranks of Aipac. He recently voted for the US’s $14 billion aid package for Israel.
- The Republican Michael McCaul received in 2022 almost 8000 dollars from Aipac circles. Most recently, a pro-Israel resolution he introduced was passed in the House of Representatives.
The money is apparently also intended to exclude those candidates who do not follow a clearly pro-Israel line and who could possibly ally themselves with the Israel-critical left wing in the Democratic ranks.
The Andy Levin case
Prominent example: Andy Levin from Michigan State. The Democrat in the US Parliament and former president of a pro-Israel synagogue also spoke out in favor of Palestinian rights. With a resolution in Congress, he also called for an end to the “Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories” and advocated a two-state solution.
According to an internal email, Aipac now saw “a rare opportunity to defeat probably the most vitriolic member of Congress for U.S.-Israel relations,” reports The Lever. The lobbying group raised nearly $4 million to support Levin’s challenger, Haley Stevens, who ultimately won. In an interview with MSNBC, Levin said that without human rights for the Palestinians, there would be no safe home for the Jewish people. Aipac could not tolerate him advocating this thesis. “That’s all.”
How loyal is the US to the Israelis?
US President Joe Biden was also one of the Aipac beneficiaries. During his time as a senator in Delaware, he received a total of $4.2 million from 1990 to 2009. To what extent the donations influence his current attitude towards Israel is uncertain. The fact that the US President calls himself a Zionist may also be due to his father, who vehemently supported the founding of the State of Israel after the Holocaust.
Biden has been preoccupied with the Israeli-Arab conflict throughout his political career. As Vice President, he patched up one or two imbalances between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. “Whenever things got out of hand with Israel, Biden was the bridge,” Middle East adviser Dennis Ross told Reuters. “His commitment to Israel was so strong… And that’s the instinct we’re seeing now.”
Similar to his supporters in Congress, the US population is not as united behind Biden’s solidarity with Israel. In mid-November, a third of US citizens surveyed said the US should be a neutral mediator in the Middle East war and not side with Israel. A third also said the opposite.
A survey from the same period found that more than half of respondents sympathized with Israel and a quarter with the Palestinians. These numbers are remarkable when you compare them with the survey results from October: At that time, 61 percent still sympathized with Israel and only 13 percent with the Palestinians. And: Younger people under 30 in particular are more likely to position themselves in a pro-Palestinian manner.
The director of the Center for Middle East Policy, Natan Sachs, also observes the ideological differences between the generations. Younger people in particular would view “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of human and civil rights rather than under the auspices of security and terrorism.” , . This is also evident among young Democrats. It is questionable how Aipac’s donations can influence the party’s stance in the future.
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I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.