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AIPAC and The "Squad"

posted on: Jul 10, 2024

Former Congressman Jamaal Bowman, Source: Wikimedia Commons

By Luke McMahan/ Arab America Contributing Writer

On June 25th, with the loss of incumbent Jamaal Bowman to the AIPAC backed George Latimer, the pro-Israeli committee earned its first victory over the “Squad,” an informal group of House Democrats, most of whom have spoken out against Israel’s and the United States’s support of the War in Gaza. The campaign was the most expensive in Congress’s history, with the AIPAC-led super PAC backing Latimer to the tune of $14.5 million. Now, AIPAC’s gaze has shifted to fellow Squad member and Israel critic Cori Bush, whose primary is scheduled for August 6th. These victories come during a resurgence of Democratic moderates, who, among their oppositions to further left candidates, align themselves more towards Biden in his unwavering support of Israel.


Jamaal Bowman rose to prominence in 2020, defeating 32 year Congressional veteran Eliot Engel in New York’s 16th district. His victory, along with other contemporaneous victories of young progressives such as Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, signaled a rise of further-left Democrats in the Party at large.

These nine representatives, informally referred to as “Squad,” whose ranks also include the first Palestinian-American congressperson Rashida Tlaib, have also been some of the most vocal critics of Israel since October 7th. Bowman himself called for a ceasefire in the first month of the conflict; and later charged Israel with committing genocide.

But while being one of the most outspoken representatives in regard to the ongoing war, he has never stated that he was anti-Israel. In fact, in a letter of support for the incumbent, members of the group Jews for Jamaal wrote, “He is not ‘anti-Israel,’ and to refer to him that way is to deliberately distort his record, which includes many votes in favor of military and economic aid to Israel”(Times).

But his comments were enough to engender AIPAC’s strong opposition. As stated, this financial opposition was historically unparalleled in scale, with the support of Latimer estimated at $17,000 an hour. Despite AIPAC going after Bowman due to his criticism of Israel, the attack ads did not focus on his position in this context, instead casting him as a chaotic and unpredictable Democrat, and one often at odds with President Biden. This has led many to claim that Bowman, due to other unorthodox and controversial actions in office, was bound to lose to a moderate anyway.

But regardless, the strength of the super-PACs offensive cannot be understated; and that intensity was due to Bowman’s Israel comments. In a text sent to fundraisers last week, AIPAC made its goals absolutely clear: “On Tuesday night, the pro-Israel community helped ensure anti-Israel Rep. Jamaal Bowman won’t be returning to Congress next year”(JTA).

Other “Squad” Members

The second part of the above text message states, “With your support, we can also help defeat Rep. Cori Bush, another member of the anti-Israel Squad”(JTA). Another strong critic of Israel, back in mid-October, Bush introduced the first failed ceasefire resolution; and in March, she accused Israel of genocide via Twitter. Furthermore, Bush and Rashida Tlaib were the only two to oppose a resolution barring Hamas members from entering the United States. The AIPAC led super-PAC now looks to the August 6th primary in Missouri’s 1st District pitting incumbent Bush against opponent Wesley Bell, who has made his support of Israel very clear.

After Bowman’s loss, several House Democrats, including Ocasio-Cortez and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries have jumped to restate their support for Bush. Some have directly called out AIPAC for its obscene spending and the fact that it is a largely Republican organization heavily involving itself in key Democratic races. In addition to Bowman and Bush, Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar is also a target due to her slim election victory over an opponent who has since shown more support to Israel. In fact, AIPAC tried to find a worthy opponent to Tlaib preceding her primary; but her Michigan district, which includes Dearborn, safely ensured her reelection.

Earlier this year, Bush stated, “I’m being targeted by AIPAC because not only do I believe Palestinians deserve to live freely and peacefully just like Israelis, but because I want to protect our democracy from Republican extremism”(Times). Despite more recent moderate left victories and Republican dominant organizations entering Democratic races, the core of this battle is over criticism of Israel. Pro-Israel organizations are spending millions of dollars to stamp out the political power of those questioning America’s total support of Israel. For the growing number of Americans who are speaking out against this support, a major congressional ally has been defeated with several others at risk. At this point in time, powerful lobbying organizations like AIPAC are concentrating extraordinary efforts on maintaining a status quo in American politics, leaving the opposition, from those expressly anti-Israel to those who merely support a ceasefire or the cessation of large weapons shipments, with less representation. Whether losses like this will continue to plague Israel’s critics or lead to their energizing in future congressional elections, no one is sure. But regardless, AIPAC and other organizations’ strategies seem short-term: ensure congressional support now against weaker progressives.


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