Americans Demand Independent, Transparent Investigation into Shireen Abu Akleh’s Killing

Today, Americans for Peace Now sent a letter signed by over 400 activists to Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanding that the administration fulfill its duty and conduct an independent and transparent investigation into the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh, an American citizen covering the West Bank for Al-Jazeera TV. She was shot to death on May 11th in the town of Jenin during an Israeli military raid.


The letter reaffirms the need articulated by both President Biden and Secretary Blinken for a “full and transparent accounting” and an “independent, credible investigation” and urges the administration to fulfill its obligation by ensuring this occurs.

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APN's Letter to Secretary Blinken

Dear Secretary Blinken, 

We write to you as American citizens who are deeply concerned about the lack of an  independent, credible and transparent US-led investigation into the May 11, 2022 killing of  Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. 

We share the conviction that both you and President Biden have expressed that there is a need  for a ‘full and transparent accounting’ and an ‘independent, credible investigation.’  Unfortunately, there has yet to be an investigation that meets these criteria. 

The United States Security Coordinator’s (USSC) involvement in an independent forensic  analysis of the bullet that killed Shireen Abu Akleh was an encouraging first step. However, it is  not a sufficient comprehensive investigation into her killing. 

Freedom of the press is of paramount importance, and it is vital to the safety of our foreign press  that other countries, particularly our allies, understand that the United States will not allow the  killing of our journalists to be brushed aside. 

The United States has an obligation to conduct a full independent, credible, and transparent  investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing. We urge this administration to do so immediately. 

Sincerely, 

APN

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Legislative Round-Up- August 26, 2022

1. Bills, Resolutions, Letters
2. Hearings
3. On the Record

NOTE: During August, the Round-Up will shift to a flexible schedule – as in, if there is something to report, there will be a Round-Up, but it may not always be on Fridays. And if there is little to report, the Round-Up may take a break. Thanks for your patience! [And yep, so far this has meant that the Round-Up continues to be produced on its regular schedule during August – sigh].

Events:

Media re: attacks on Palestinian NGOs (citing FMEP)

1. Bills, Resolutions & Letters

None.

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Yossi Alpher is an independent security analyst. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a former senior official with the Mossad, and a former IDF intelligence officer. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.

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Webinar Transcript- AIPAC vs Democracy, with Ruth Messinger and Mik Moore

Hadar Susskind  00:04

Hello, everybody, and welcome to this APN webinar. As you all know, it takes a moment for everybody to log in. So this is the really fun part where I say hello. And I sort of talk a little bit without really saying a whole lot in Washington, we refer to it as a filibuster. Luckily for you, you know, it's not the old days where you have to read the phone book and stand there. So I'll just say again, hello, for those of you just signing in, and welcome to today's APN webinar. I'm Hadar Susskind. I'm the president and CEO of Americans for peace now, and I am thrilled to be here and to have two such wonderful guests with us, and to have so many of you logging in for this conversation. So again, for for the last time, I will say hello, welcome. I'm Hadar. Susskind, the President and CEO of Americans for peace. Now I'm really excited for this conversation today. There is as you as you all know, a lot going on as it relates to our issues. In the political world. Particularly we're seeing how the conversations and discussions around Israel, Palestine and relevant things are playing out in Democratic primaries. You know, it's always been an important political issue. But the way things have changed the way things have developed over the past few years has been significant. But specifically, in this last cycle, the news that's different and big, is, of course, the creation of the AIPAC super PAC, and the impact that that has having on our elections. I am thrilled today to welcome our two guests. I'm going to introduce them both and then hand it over to you. So first and foremost, I will start with Ruth Messinger. I'm sure all of you know Ruth, she is been a leading voice and a leading figure in progressive Jewish circles and social justice circles for many years now a wonderful friend and mentor. Thank you, Ruth, for being with us today. And of course, our second guest, the esteemed Mik Moore. Mik, of course, as you know, is the President and CEO of Moore and Associates. But my favorite thing about Mik is that he is of course, an APN board member. And Mik and Ruth have co authored a really important article, and we've just put it into the chat. So if you haven't had the chance to see it yet, you can see it there talking about talking about AIPAC, and democracy and talking about what's going on in our elections. What does this mean in the Jewish communal space? What does it mean in the political space? And you know, what does it mean for us as people who care about this, so I, as you all know, can go on and on on this topic, but I'm not going to do that, because we've got our two great guests here. So I'm going to hand it over to you, too. And, Mik, are you starting? Is that right?

 

Mik Moore  02:49

Yeah, I'll start us off. Thank you so much Hadar and APN, for the opportunity. We're excited to talk about this article. I'm just going to briefly summarize it. And then I'm going to turn it over to Ruth to dig in on a couple of points. And then I'll do the same and then Hadar, I think we'll come back to you and for some audience questions as well. So if you haven't read it yet, it's not that long. So be great if everyone could read it. But Ruth and I were feeling like it was important to call out something that we were seeing throughout this election cycle regarding several things that AIPAC and sort of AIPAC allies were doing, that we felt were damaging to democracy. And so the basic thesis of our article is that this was damaging democracy in three ways. The first is engaging in unlimited spending, in an effort to overwhelm what they consider to be unaligned candidates on the line about Israel. The second is supporting candidates who are opposed to democratic laws and norms. So this is widely reported that AIPAC has endorsed 109 of the sort of insurrectionists Republicans. And the third is seeking to what we describe as limiting free speech when that speech is critical of Israel. And this manifests itself in a couple of ways, which we'll get into. But that's the that's the thesis of the article. And we try to sort of explore each of those three. But Ruth, I want to start with you and maybe dig into one or two of those points, and then I'll circle back on the rest.

 

Ruth Messinger  04:28

Okay, for sure. So first of all, hello, everybody. And Hadar, thanks to you and APN. I want to start by saying that, you know, I spent 20 years in elected office and I spend a lot of additional time doing politics and dabbling in elections and I value democracy. I've worked overseas in a lot of different countries doing international human rights, that makes me value democracy more. And I think that our democracy is in general under threat. And I would add that democracy is if we're going to be tribal for a minute, I'm particularly important to Jews. If you look at a long history, we haven't had lots of trouble with authoritarian regimes. And we've done well in democracies. And we need democracies to protect our human rights along with that of other groups defined by faith or ethnicity or nationality or whatever. So having said that, I find the role that AIPAC has been playing particularly in these elections to be hugely troubling. I want to I want to take one other minute out and say, you know, let's be clear, they have a right to do what they want. They have a right to urge their members to support certain candidates, they have a right to endorse candidates, they have a right to put money into campaigns, but when they do it secretly, and when they do it on a particular issue, and most importantly, the issue I want to pick up on when they do it in ways that step all over democratic norms. It's deeply troubling. So the first thing that I think caught Mik's and my attention, he mentioned very briefly, but looking at the Republican incumbents whose one presumes whose position they like on Israel, AIPAC sends reelection money to 109 Republican senators who thought January 6 was a walk in the park, who saw no threat to our democracy from the assault on the capital, who were, you know, basically supporting insurrection. And that's deeply troubling, because if you can, as you know, and we see this going on, still, there's a core of people now in this country encouraged by the former president, who are trying to get elected and seek office in order to limit democracy if the if things don't go their way. So to support a large number of members of Congress, who seem to me to be not interested in democracy was was really deeply troubling. And then I'll just say one other thing, and then Mik will turn to you. And we'll keep going. The second thing that Mik and I saw that was troubling was in race after race. Around the country, AIPAC would pick a candidate. Basically, it appear that they would pick a candidate they wanted to defeat, and then they would put a large amount of money into the opponent of that candidate. And some of that was done secretly. And some of that was done without mentioning issues of a latest example of this. Just to mention, it was in one of the crazily contested Democratic primary elections that were held this week in New York, because somebody thought August 23 was a good day for a Democratic primary. But in one of those AIPAC announced after the race was over, that they were proud to have put several $100,000 in to defeat one of the progressive candidates who she did not win. But if that kind of ex after the fact and look what we did, and we're manipulating elections, in in terms of one issue that I find deeply troubling and has thrown some candidates that I thought that I'm quite sure would have won their races without  AIPACs interference, particularly Donna Edwards, out of Athens, and it just I find it troubling that last point I'll make, and then we'll go to Eric is where large sums of money, in this case, it's Jewish money, are put in through PACs, sometimes not public, to defeat a candidate. It is quite likely that the people who lost the race end up thinking less well of Jews, they end up thinking that Jews only care about the Middle East, and end up thinking that Jews are willing to put secret money into campaigns in order to defeat candidates. That's very definitely the not the reputation I want us to have across the United States or around the world.

 

Hadar Susskind  09:06

Mik, before we go back to you, let me jump in with with something real quickly. Apologies. First of all, I haven't done this in a while. And I forgot the key part of my introduction, which is reminding everybody to please use the q&a function. A few of you have done so already. But if you have questions that you want us to discuss, you can type them in there, and we will get to as many of them as possible as we get to that part. I also just want to note and maybe Mik I'll actually throw this in as the first question to maybe you can clarify for people. The difference between the super PACs what we're seeing now, versus the more traditional PACs where somebody is giving directly publicly to a candidate and what that distinction is about.

 

Mik Moore  09:47

Sure. So So I'll start with a question, because it's a good one. And I've I didn't talk a lot about my background, but I've done work on on political campaigns for a lot of years, and when I first started raising and spending money was back in 2004. And the rules were extremely different back then, there were a lot more restrictions on how you could raise money and how you could spend money. And for the most part, if you were raising money, you were raising money within limitations that were set by law. And a case in 2010, called Citizens United, basically changed the law in a significant way, and created sort of a new category of pack called the super PAC. And basically, super PACs are allowed to raise unlimited money and spend unlimited money in almost unlimited ways. So what typically happens is, you'll get usually a handful of very wealthy donors who will put significant sums of money into a super PAC, that super PAC has a particular mission. And they can advocate for and against candidates that was is behavior that used to be limited to, to a much smaller number of folks. And they can spend as much money as they want, as long as they're technically not talking to the campaign that they're supporting. So what we tend to see is you'll have the campaign spending money that was raised within limitations directly from individuals. And then side by side, you'll have a super PAC, which will come in with $5 million. And put that largely into advertising mailers, other forms of, you know, communication. So. So that's the universe AIPAC. Despite the name, as most people know, it's not actually a PAC political action committee. But it was a lobby, it still is a lobby, and they decided only this past cycle that they were going to create both what's called a hard money PAC, a hard money PAC can give money directly to candidates. And those are under limitations. And those amounts tend to be fairly small. And to create a Super PAC, which they, I guess, tongue in cheek, I don't know, semi seriously called United democracy, project. And, and that can take literally million dollar checks from anyone at once, and then spend that money, actually, however it wants. So a lot of the money coming into AIPAC's SuperPAC comes from actually Republican donors. And this cycle, they have spent about $25 million, just out of their super PAC. And it has gone exclusively into Democratic primaries. So basically, what's happening is right, Republican, millionaires and billionaires are putting huge sums of money into a PAC created by AIPAC, that claims to be pro democracy in order to exclusively meddle in Democratic primary. So it's a way for Republicans to influence which Democrats end up in office, which we could spend time on why that's problematic. But that's, that's as a posit that that's problematic. It is problematic. And as Ruth said, at the top, which I do think is worth underscoring. All of this is legal. There are a lot of things that are legal and bad. Right, I would say this falls under that category. We've had a bunch of lawsuits from our not awesome Supreme Court that have made spending in politics, you know, sort of a free for all. And that decision was bad for democracy and the way in which that decision, and the super PACs that have come out of it have played in the political space has been bad for democracy. So I think that's our, one of our central contentions. The the last one, which I mentioned at the top, but we'll just come back to is specifically about how. And this one's a little trickier, I would say, but the ways in which both AIPAC and I would say other players in the Jewish world have essentially sought to limit the range of acceptable speech around Israel. And we've seen this both outside of the electoral process. So there's a series of attempts to legislate against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, which maybe it's worth going into what that is, or maybe it isn't, but in any case, hopefully folks know what BDS is. It's gotten a lot of attention. But outside the electoral process has been an effort to legislate against it, basically. So that if you're a government contractor, you can be forced to state that you do not support BDS in order to get a government contract. And this has been happening in state after state. You also see it though in more sort of informal ways in the political space. And I'd say the first way that this has happened is our organizations and I would say the Jewish press has decided that any commentary on BDS or anyone's position on BDS is going to get a ton of attention. And so you see in race after race, if you have a candidate that makes any comment that could be seen as even sympathetic to BDS or partial BDS, where it's critical of Israel or that outright doesn't state exactly what the sort of acceptable communal position is. There's going to be a ton of negative press attention and attacks by Jewish communal leaders on on that candidate. And we've seen that and AIPAC is driving that, but it's not AIPAC alone.

 

Ruth Messinger  15:53

I would just I would just to underscore that, when Mik and I were picking one thing we picked up on particularly was a forum forums are always hard to get candidate views, especially when there are a lot of candidates, you have, you have six or eight candidates, and they're being questioned as their position on a range of issues. And if you watch the forum, you would learn something about the candidates never enough. But if you read about the forum in the Jewish press, you would only learn about their position on BDS. Now, it's not like that's an unimportant position for some voters. But this these this was a congressional forum. And where do people stand on legalizing same sex marriage? Where do people stand on the fight against the Supreme Court decision on Roe? And I would point out where do people stand on available funds for social service systems, we have a plethora and they're magnificent, have Jewish organizations around the country that serve Jews and non Jews that meet the needs of the elderly, that meet the needs of children in distress that provide foster care that provide meals on wheels, I could go on and on. And you could watch a whole congressional a forum in which neither the Jewish hosts of the forum nor particularly the Jewish press, covering the forum tells you where any of those candidates stand on any of those issues that we know are important in the Jewish community.

 

Mik Moore  17:16

Yeah, and the impact of this is to is to really shape the political conversation in in really harmful ways. So that's the first thing and the second thing that we've seen is the is the use of the label anti Semite, or anti semitism to refer to either individuals that are not even supportive of BDS, but even sympathetic to people who support BDS. And we've seen occasions where, you know, Jews are called self hating Jews, if this is a position they take, or if they express sympathy. And candidates for sure, are very quickly labeled as anti Semites. And this has a an effect of narrowing, right, the kind of acceptable speech that we see, and our community and again, AIPAC in the political space, but our community has a real hand in this as well. So I want to pause there, because I'm sure there are a lot of questions. But I think those are some of the key key issues that we tried to raise in the piece and key concerns that we have coming out of this election cycle.

 

Hadar Susskind  18:29

Great. Thank you both. So two quick things to note, one, you know, the two of you were just talking about how views around BDS get people called anti Semites. But again, looking at one of the key examples you guys wrote about in the article, the Andy LevinHaley Stevens race, Andy Levin, who is Jewish and a synagogue president, etc, and actually does not support BDS. But he does support, you know, reasonable policies, visa vie Israel and Palestine was widely called not only anti Israel, but an anti Semite. So I think that use of the, the frame of being anti Israel and anti semitic and having those two things be synonymous, extends broadly, unfortunately, in this space. And then one just quick detail that I want to note from the questions before we dig in. I think there was some misunderstanding about the 109 Republican representatives. So just to clarify, its representatives, non senators, all 109 of those are among the AIPAC endorses. So somebody had here asked if they were endorsed or just given money. The way this process works is AIPAC, like other organizations has the traditional PAC as Mik described it, and those candidates were endorsed and given money to them to their campaigns. The Super PAC work where we're talking about the unlimited funding coming in, again is mixed that has so far only come to play in the Democratic primaries. So those Republicans are endorsed those Republicans are getting money. There are there are others Beyond the 109, I don't remember exactly what the total number was 160 something maybe? Yeah. So we've got a lot of questions coming in. And I think one of the ones that is important, and you guys were just talking about this is both in terms of people in the community and the candidates themselves. You know, they're watching this happen, candidates are seeing, not only people like Donna Edwards, but also Andy Levin and others, you know, losing their races, and whether they're losing the race because of this or not, and how big an impact. You know, the the AIPAC money coming in has, I think, is another piece. But I guess the first question I want to start with is, you know, and Ruth, you alluded to this, there's the likelihood that people are going to look at this unhappily, both in terms of what they think about the Jewish community, but as candidates and as people in the political space, you know, do we have the fear that this is going to shut people down, that this is going to make people hesitant to speak out on Israel issues to stand up? And if so, what's our role on the progressive side of community and addressing that?

 

Ruth Messinger  21:14

I'll say something, and then maybe Mik will jump in, I will say something from the point of view of a candidate, you know, you spend your life good candidates and I want to say, spend their lives, trying to be clear where they stand on the issues, and trying to get elected. And there's a whole process which money PACs demonstrations in front of your house, things like that can can threaten the clarity of a candidate's position and sometimes can take away or sap energy from the GOP candidates moral courage and commitment to standing for what she or he believes in. So yeah, it's not fun to be out there. And I do think that, again, part of what the donors to this these two PACs, one is for candidates to tow a particular line on the Middle East that does not in many of our, in many of our judgments allow for a full look at the issues of the Middle East does not allow for people to say, you know, there's some other issue, there's some questions I have, or whatever. And yeah, I think candidates, I'm big on pushing candidates to do risk taking and moral courage, but I'm showing them moral courage, but I think this makes it harder.

 

Mik Moore  22:32

Yeah, and I'm that's obviously the intention, right? Like the the folks who are putting this money in and spending it they want, not only do they want to defeat the people that they're up against, but they want to make it much more difficult for people like that, to make the decision to run in the first place, or to get the kind of support they would need in the first place. And if you know that, if you run candidate X, they're going to attract a $5 million spend against them. Right, and then you have candidate Y is very similar, but it's not going to attract a $5 million spend against them. Well, that's a pretty, you know, significant political calculation. And that goes on all the time. The other thing that I think is important, we've only talked about congressional races, you know, what we seen, increasingly, is that, that these funds are moving into state races. And so you have a series of sort of state based PACs that are basically aligned, that are putting lots of money into races where the candidates have absolutely no influence whatsoever on, you know, on the Middle East, or Israel Palestine or any of these issues. And yet, you know, they are having to deal with hundreds of 1000s of dollars millions of dollars in spending against them. And, you know, it's, it's, it's made, like city council races become like about Israel, right, or a state assembly race become about Israel, when that's not why this person is running for office, it's not what they've done with their life. And the money has, you know, really perverted, you know, what that process is supposed to be about. And I think, to an earlier point, like people see this, right, voters see this. And it does, you know, I think have an impact on people and how they perceive the community.

 

Ruth Messinger  24:29

I just want to make one point. And, you know, again, I want to say I'm trying to make it really clear to people that, that we don't have enough laws about limiting campaign contributions, but nobody's breaking the law here. But you know, when take two examples when NRA or Planned Parenthood come out with a list of their candidates, well, this is who we've endorsed. I think I and I think the entire general public says well, okay, those are one issue organizations. They want to defend the right to bear arms. So on the one hand, and they want to defend a woman's right to choose on the other. And so if they endorse I know where the candidate stands on that one issue, and that's fine. And I want to suggest, although I think AIPAC would reject this, that AIPAC is quite different. It has, it has a Middle East position. But it also has come, And maybe this isn't fair. But it's simply a fact to represent a piece of what or who the Jewish community is. And so again, if you're in a black district, in Pittsburgh, and you're eager to get your state representative to win the Democratic primary, and you discover that, quote, unquote, the Jews are raising $3 million to defeat her when you come to see the Jews. If you're not Jewish as a kind of single issue. Organization. Again, not entirely, AIPACS fault, but is affecting the way people think and feel about the Jewish community. And that means we have more to do some of which APN is doing, some of which many people on this call are doing to make it clear that we are for sure a complicated set of communities. But we have we have key issues, a key positions on many, many issues. And then one I want to just keep enforcing is I want us to have strong positions on democracy and on fairness and on inclusion and these positions in these races. Keep going against that and on transparency, and that none of those are being respected.

 

Hadar Susskind  26:29

Yeah. And like you said, the transparency issue is not about AIPAC. That's a structural problem we have. I think, you know, one of the things and again, this is right, in the headline of the article, YouTube wrote, The issue here is not disagreement about Israel Palestine policy that's existed, and it's existed in our political standing before. The issue is the question of democracy. And what is making this different is, again, AIPAC, endorsing and supporting those 109 insurrectionists members who did not support the peaceful transfer of power that is at the very, very core of our democracy. And, you know, that issue of is one issue, whether the NRA or Planned Parenthood or AIPAC over everything else, including the literal existence of our democracy. And I think that's one of the core questions. You know, Ruth, I don't know, if you picked Pittsburgh as your example, just sort of off the top of your head. Of course, there, there was the Summer Lee race,

 

Ruth Messinger  27:24

she won, but she won my only 600 votes against $3 million of money that was put up to defeat her.

 

Hadar Susskind  27:31

Exactly. And so in this case, you know, she's one of the examples where she did come out and win. And there was, you know, I'm happy to say there was a lot of Jewish individual, but also organizational, you know, active support on on her behalf there. And so, you know, I know from being in touch with with her campaign, her people that, at least in their case, they understand the breadth of the community and our different views. So there's a question here from one of our participants that's come that's along these lines. So as to what extent do you think the broad Jewish social justice sector should really take on the Israel Palestine issue through that progressive lens and confront AIPAC stands? You know, as we take on other issues, and says here, gender, LGBTQ, etc? It doesn't. To what extent do you think the Jewish social justice sector should argue that we shouldn't let Israel dominate us electoral politics or something else? So are we doubling down and saying, Yes, this is the core fight we as Jews are having in our politics? Are we trying to frame a different argument? What do you got?

 

Mik Moore  28:33

Yeah, all right. That is a good question.

 

Ruth Messinger  28:35

It's asked by a former staff colleague of mine, so

 

Hadar Susskind  28:39

really, thank you, Alana.

 

Mik Moore  28:42

So look, I mean, I've been, you know, attempting to answer this question, in many of my roles that I've played in the Jewish community for many years, working on that question for a while, we have, I will say, here's where I'm at right now. So I think, like, what I've seen, and I mentioned this earlier, is that you have, like, if you're a Jewish social justice organization, or a Jew cares about social justice, on a wide range of issues, and you want to support candidates are aligned with you on health care, you know, climate and, you know, all these other issues. And then you back a candidate, and then that candidate ends up spending like 50% of their time responding to attacks over, you know, over the issue of Israel is not the issue that they are, you know, an expert in not the reason they're running and frankly not the reason you're necessarily backing right. This creates a dynamic where the most progressive, the boldest, you know, candidates on all these other issues become very difficult to elect because of this broader dynamic. So I think it's, it's impossible to avoid it entirely, and I think requires taking it on. I do also think it would be a mistake for us to create an ecosystem where if you're a Jew who's not particularly interested in Israel Palestine work or in the issue of Israel or just wants to be in a space where you can focus on the domestic issues or the international issues, whatever it is that you care about, that you also have those spaces to go to. So I think it's a it's a tricky dynamic. And I know organizations sort of are handling this, you know, in each in their own way, but I do think it is, we've gotten to a point in our politics where it's impossible to not recognize that this is a such an important force in, in undermining progressive candidates ability to get elected if they're facing this kind of, you know, spending. So I think it's something we have to deal with.

 

Hadar Susskind  30:51

Yeah, I mean, one of the things that, again, is different in this cycle, and the AIPAC AC and super PAC are part of the reason, but not well, probably the largest part is, is that, you know, again, Israel and spending around Israel has been there, there were the all of the local packs that you mentioned before their local races, but they also all work on congressional races. And obviously, you know, J Street and others. But the difference that I see now is that for almost every race, this is now an issue. So like you were saying, you know, there are the majority of candidates out there. Certainly the majority of voters not always, that's not their top issue, it's not on their top 10 issues, right. It's not why they're running for Congress, it's not what they've done before. It's not frankly, what they're really interested in when they get to Congress. And yet, it has become a hot button issue that is unavoidable for any candidate, it doesn't matter, you know, where you live, who your constituency is, you may literally not have a Jew in your district, and there are some districts like that in America. And yet, you know, you are still likely to be forced to choose between, you know, an AIPAC endorsement or a J Street endorsement, or whether that's literally or, you know, sort of figuratively and forced to, it's not just that you'd have to have an opinion on this, because, of course, if you're going to be in Congress, you should have an opinion on this, but forced to deal with it and forced to address this issue with a much larger percentage of your time and energy, then, you know, then probably, frankly, makes sense for a lot of candidates out there.

 

Mik Moore  32:23

 Can I say one more quick thing, which is the reason why AIPAC made this decision, which was a big decision for them to become to start to do direct candidate spending, is because they're losing, right? Like, this is really a coming from, I mean, it feels like, you know, those of us who work in these races, like we're being overwhelmed, like they have a lot of power, all of which is true. But it's coming from a position of real weakness and real fear, that they no longer have the kind of sway within the Democratic Party that they did traditionally, that there is increasingly a large constituency that thinks differently about this issue than they do. And, and so I think, you know, this was done, you know, in a sense, out of desperation to sort of maintain, right, the sort of level of, of influence that, you know, they've traditionally held, and I think those of us who organized around progressive issues should see that as a good sign, you know, for what we're doing, even if it means that we're now struggling with a new dynamic. 

 

Hadar Susskind  33:36

I think there are a lot of commentators that have discussed that as well, that, you know, we can argue about exactly how much impact is the AIPAC Pac and super PAC having there are those who, you know, have written things saying, Well, we're sort of giving them too much credit, right, that any of these races, whether it's Andy Levin's or Donna Edward's or Summer Lee or others, that, you know, there are much deeper dynamics that determined what happened and that this was, you know, one, one impact, but not the, but I think there are a lot of people that are looking at this strategy as ultimately, a mistake for AIPAC. Another question, yeah.

 

Ruth Messinger  34:16

Again, they're free to do a single issue. And I in response to that question, you asked about a couple of other questions that I see. Yes, it means that that there should be more support for people who care about progressive options. There should be more support for J Street. There should be more education about the range of social justice concerns that Jews have always taken on and that taking on and in a particularly dramatic way, in the last decade, or in the last couple of years, we had the burden is always on us to do a better job of educating. But this is an issue, the super PAC issue. The lack of transparency is a problem for the future of democracy. And it's going to show up on these issues. It's going to move Well, as each of you said a few minutes ago, these issues are moving into state races, and city council races, by the way, where, you know, we used to joke when I was in the New York City Council and only in New York, does the city council have a foreign policy, because occasionally people would ask us to pass resolutions on Zimbabwe or Palestinian human rights or whatever, but it can get, you know, your candidates who are really concerned or I'd say about the problem in their state assembly district, and yet they discover that some money is dependent on what they what they say about BDS, what they say about the future of the Middle East, what they say about two state solution. I mean, without naming names, I will tell you that someone I know to be a hugely responsible person engaged in Jewish and democratic politics, told me that Andy was not supported. Andy Levin was not supported. I just want to be really clear I'm about to state a non-fact told me that Andy Levin was not supported. Because he supported BDS, and he does not support BDS. So the and this is somebody who was in the know, this is not somebody who like ended, and I had to go on the website and say, look, there are a lot of reasons why he lost a lot of people. I have arguments about that, and a lot of reasons why some Jews didn't support him. But that's not one of that's not a legitimate one.

 

Hadar Susskind  36:19

Right. And maybe one of the reasons it's not true, but yeah, yeah. Yeah, just little anecdote where that may have been once true that it was only in New York. But you know, I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, and our county council is dealing with what is purportedly an anti semitism resolution, but it's really all about Israel. And we're, you know, APN is working on this, and others here and in Maryland, are working on this. So it's not only in New York anymore, that's for sure. One question I want to put out to the two of you, because I think it's, you know, it's sort of a more 30,000 foot, but it's important, it says, How do we approach speaking to liberal Democratic members of Congress who accept money from AIPAC but are not willing to denounce them? Which makes sense if they're accepting the money? And then it does ask and I'll just answer this part. So So these candidates have to agree to advocate against a two state solution. So just a little note for everybody here, at least the first round of AIPAC endorsements that came out of Democrats. And AIPAC did not say this, but they have since admitted it is true. They endorsed a whole range of people without asking them without any process. And you know, Ruth, and Mik, and I have all been involved in this work before and know that that is, you know, that's not how it works. If you're going to you're an organization and you're going to endorse a candidate, you talk to their staff, you talk to their campaign, you sit down with the candidate, you have a questionnaire you go over, you know, are you aligned, you ask the questions, are there any specific things that they have to commit to in order to earn your endorsement? There's usually a deep, long process to that. And AIPAC came out and endorsed a range of candidates, including, you know, speaker, Nancy Pelosi, for example, who found out she had been endorsed by AIPAC on Twitter. And it is not alone. And there were a lot of Democratic members who found out, you know, in the press release that they had been endorsed by AIPAC. So again, that goes to offend a lot of discussions as to why they did that, whether they didn't think, you know, the normal process applied to them. To be perfectly honest. I think it shows tremendous hubris that they just figured everybody would be happy and excited to get an AIPAC endorsement. And I will say this, none of them denounced them. And there were members of Congress who were not happy about it, because they are those, you know, Liberal Democratic members, as described in the question. But they were not willing to publicly come out and say, no, no, I don't want your endorsement. So if it was hubris, they weren't necessarily wrong. So anyway, either you want to speak to the question

 

Mik Moore  38:46

there. Yeah, the question was, what sort of what do you say to liberal Democratic members of Congress that are still taking AIPAC endorsement? I mean, you know, it's, uh, I mean, I'm sure somebody's tracking this, I think the, you know, there ever since J Street was founded back in 2008. You know, there has been a sort of push and pull in terms of, you know, who whose endorsement would you take and whose endorsement, you know, like, those have been sort of the two poles, you know, in terms of federal, you know, races, congressional races, and you've seen a steady shift of increasing numbers of Democratic candidates that are taking J Street's endorsement, and then ones that are not being endorsed or not taking an AIPAC endorsement. So I think there are, you know, trends that are moving in the right direction. I think there are some things that have happened. I would point to I think the two maybe most important ones are the fight over the, the the Iran deal. And the way in which that was politicized. And the break that sort of happened there. And you saw I think some Democrats sort of move away from AIPAC because of that. And then I think the decision to endorse the 109 insurrectionists is the second one, which, you know, is helping Democrats see more clearly, exactly what a pack stands for. And, you know, it's it's visceral, right? Like, the way democratic, you know, Liberal Democratic members of Congress feel about the insurrection is really visceral. And I, my sense is and Hadar you would know, this better, since you're in record communication on the hill, but that felt like, you know, a real betrayal. And I know, folks that identify as AIPAC supporters that have been openly critical of that move, because they really do fear for our democracy. And it's like, you know, like, if we, if we lose our democracy, like this stuff doesn't matter. Right, like, you know, that sort of gradations of one's position on this thing like, that has to be the most important issue. And if an organization is willing to say, basically, like, it's not that important, or where we're willing to overlook it, then it's, I think, makes people reconsider what the priorities are of that organization, whether they want to be aligned with it,

 

Ruth Messinger  41:20

I'm going to add, I would only add to that just to pour, pour more fuel on that argument. These insurrection is not one person, not any one person I could name but keeping in power, people who decided to ignore what I think legitimately history books will see as an unbelievable threat to the future of our democracy. Any one of those people is more likely than not to support the news, people are being run for secretaries of state around the country, who are saying that they're prepared to put in their own set of electors in 2024. If they don't like where their state goes. And so like 109 is a big number I'm sorry, I didn't say congress people, before, but but AIPAC is helping to leave in power. Not just people who took a position on January 6, that some of us find appalling. But people who by having taken that position seemed to me to be more inclined to substitute their own will for the will of the people.

 

Hadar Susskind  42:21

Yeah, if you go down that list, you see, to be fair, not all but some of the very worst members of Congress. And I say very worst in the frame of democracy in the frame of their, you know, some of their their act of support, and of what happened on January 6, and denial about it. Some of them, you know, all of them obviously, not supporting the certification of the election and continuing with, you know, with those state and local races. Yeah, you know, if there's an interesting, I mean, we're talking a little bit about about the state and local, you know, again, the AIPAC PACs, at least for the time being are, are focused on federal races, but we are seeing, you know, we're seeing this become, again, like a an issue that plays in every race, it plays in every congressional race, no matter what your district is, and it does play in gubernatorial races and State House races and, and all of these others, in a way, where it is, because of what we're seeing with the the support of the insurrectionists. It is superseding other issues, and they're, they're putting it out there. And, you know, Mik to what you were saying before about, folks, you know, who are AIPAC supporters? I think this has been even more than the Iran deal, a breaking point for a lot of people because people who I know who were AIPAC supporters up to last year, for many of them, some of them are just, you know, very far right. And that's their views. But for many of them, they still held on to what I think are frankly, very antiquated views of, you know, AIPAC is the center. It's the true bipartisan voice that works with Democrats and Republicans and we need we need somebody to hold that center. That's not, you know, they, I think, and I think that view is long not been true, but there are people who still held it. And this, I think, shattered that for many, many people. So, I mean, the next question I think I want to throw out there is again, what do you think? We and it's a big picture we included including APN. But but all of us, you know, what do you think we should be doing in the community? I'm not talking about different political spending now, although, get into that, to address this issue. I mean, what do we do now?

 

Ruth Messinger  44:40

Well, so you know, I was gonna quote a few minutes ago, to pursue my argument on democracy. I was gonna say that God bless the Washington Post, which about the time that that former President got elected, adopted a new masthead slogan, democracy dies in darkness. And I think that that's part of What we're saying here And it's an answer to your question, Hadar, with respect to APN, and J Street and many other organizations, we have a constant ongoing educational job to do. Let's forget state and local races for a minute, but including them, of candidates who variety of reasons. Don't know, don't know, the Jewish community don't know where the Jewish community stands. And, again, with respect to AIPAC, they heard from AIPAC for a long time as like we're bipartisan. This is the position we want you to hold. And they don't have I mean, to many of your questions of questioners, I'm saying that there are significant number of members of Congress, despite the efforts of some of you whom I love, who have not had much exposure to the complexity with how, how many Jews see the Mideast situation? See it, it's quite questions of human rights on both sides theater question and questions, settlement expansion see it as, I mean, these are the things that probably everybody on this call, knows and lives with and has some range of opinions on and the Jewish community has a broader range of opinions on but I will tell you from the many years of lobbying and advocacy I did with American Jewish World Service, that there are lots and lots of members of Congress, who, because of the demography of their districts don't have that many Jews in their districts know that they have some Jews, and don't know the range of things that Jews care about broadly, and don't know that there's a serious range of views on the Middle East. That's when you ask, What should we do? That's a pretty big challenge.

 

Mik Moore  46:42

I would encourage folks, I've been doing a lot, a lot of my recent political work has been in New York, locally, through the Jewish vote and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, which are both locally focused organizations. And, you know, one of the things that we've been doing is organizing, right and talking, you know, to Jews who don't have millions of dollars to spend on PACs, but are in districts, you know, where these elections are taking place. And, you know, while the sort of headline story coming out of out of New York on this was was the congressional district 10 where, you know, AIPAC secretly spent about $400,000 against the leading progressive candidate who seems to have narrowly lost by 1000 votes, 1300 votes. The fact is that the there were many other races where there was an effort to demonize candidate progressive candidates around their views on Israel, Palestine, were those candidates won, including in Riverdale, which, you know, we've sort of go go back a couple of cycles and Jamaal Bowman, you know, took that seat from Eliot Engel, there's a lot of conversation and there was a lot of money, including from Democratic majority for Israel, which is sort of another organization that plays in this space as well. Opposing Jamaal, he won, he just won reelection by a huge amount. You know, despite a lot of concern that, you know, he might be in trouble. You had a state Senate candidate in the Riverdale district who won his seat against formidable opposition, including doing quite well in Jewish areas. So I think organizing at the local level is still really key in demonstrating to these candidates that like, it's not fatal, right, to take progressive positions on these issues. If you're being forced to speak to them, you can still win, and we can still elect, you know, really good candidates, despite, you know, the money coming in. So it's, you know, I advocate against, you know, for a new system of campaign finance, like, it'd be great to get a constitutional amendment and, you know, overturn Citizens United and, you know, some of the other problematic laws that we have. But in the meantime, I think there's still a lot of work at the grassroots level that Jewish groups can do to make a real difference.

 

Hadar Susskind  49:17

Yeah, I mean, there's no question and we stated, you know, at the beginning, there's a much larger, systematic American political problem that has nothing to do with AIPAC. Nothing to do with Israel, and, you know, desperately needs to be addressed. But within that context, we also have have a lot of work to do. You know, one piece that we sort of touched on a little bit, you know, that the issue of anti semitism. So for a long time, folks in the right, you know, on the right in our community, have used accusations of anti semitism. And over the past few years, we all know there have been these very concerted efforts to conflate criticism of Israeli actions and policies and certainly anti Zionism with anti Semitism, and AIPAC, frankly, has been at the forefront of that they're they're not alone, but they certainly have done so. And so, you know, we see, on the one hand questions of well, gee, is this action going to sort of as Ruth was saying, perhaps spur anti semitism by people who see, you know, Jews influencing races to, you know, as they have been doing consistently opposed women of color, for example. On the other hand, you get things like, yesterday, yesterday, two days ago, AIPAC tweeting out something about, you know, J Street's PAC and J Street has a super PAC also, which is new, this cycle just got their largest donation ever, which was a million dollars from George Soros. And AIPAC immediately tweeted out, you know, George Soros is well known for his support of anti Israel organizations. And, you know, it is widely widely viewed right now that, you know, just literally the use of George Soros. His name, right is basically an anti semitic dog whistle at this point. And so you've got AIPAC, on the one hand accusing people of being anti semitic anti Semites for maybe supporting BDS or supporting conditioning aid, for example, as a peon does. On the other hand, you've got them using George Soros as a boogeyman out there. How do how do you think this elevation of the super PACs in Israel as a political issue is going to impact the question of anti semitism in this country? Just a small question.

 

Mik Moore  51:29

I mean, it's, look, I mean, I think there's a few questions that are embedded within this, right. I mean, we didn't name any names earlier, but like one of the people that think we list this in the article that AIPAC endorses Scott Perry, right, and Scott Perry, I would say is like, said openly anti semitic things and bought into right, a sort of broader right wing and conspiracies that implicate Jews and globalists, and you know, all the code words for Jews, and, you know, and the the, you know, the Republican Party has, has a significant narrative that draws on anti semitic scuffs, like it's become central to, say, sort of Republican narratives. And, you know, the more aligned AIPAC becomes with the Republican Party, the more it embraces those tropes. So it feels like the decision to, you know, talk about George Soros in this way, in an environment where this has become for conservatives, and that sense in the Republican Party, a way to signal, right, that sort of Jews are controlling, you know, our politics. It feels like a just a more another example of an explicit embrace of this sort of right wing tropes. And, you know, and maybe that will help people see more clearly, like, what's going on that, like you said earlier that AIPAC's perception as a bipartisan organization that sort of sits in the middle is, if it were once true, it's definitely no longer the case. And, you know, I, I, maybe there's a silver lining to that, right, like, you know, it's not AIPAC doesn't have to be one thing, right? Like, it can be this new thing that it wants to be, but I think if it, if it is going to be that and folks need to see it clearly, and should align themselves, you know, which means that I think increasingly Democrats shouldn't take their endorsement. And, you know, and they and the community should stop pretending that this is, you know, an organization that's broadly representative of the community.

 

Ruth Messinger  54:01

No, I'm I mean, I looked again, I would agree that but I'm in the morphing of AIPAC is which Mik described right up top is worth repeating, because they did a brave thing many years ago, they said, here we are, we're concerned about Israel status in America. And we're gonna lobby Republicans and Democrats and we're interested in educating them in one position, and then it usually it was taking a position that supported us in exchange for our endorsement. So now, they've gone sloppy about that. They don't ask you permission that your positions, that's pretty weird. But also they went about becoming as Mik described earlier, all of a sudden a PAC and then a Super PAC. I'm going to have a different not much of a different substantive agenda except to sort of dig down, but a fierce difference in style and approach. We're simply trying to educate people about that, and as you said before, Hadar educate members of Congress about that. And because, you know, it was not. Anyway, I think it's I want to iterate that has couple people asked about this, it does not allow members of Congress or state legislatures or city councils to understand the complex dynamics of the Middle East. And I just want to say that Jews, you know, there's some Jews who would admit that they don't understand or like the dynamics of the Middle East, but by and large Jews have some notion of what's going on there. That is very often way advanced of what members of Congress think. I mean, I know this from having talked to members of Congress, when I was not there to lobby on Jewish issues, per se, when I was there. I mean, well, just when I was there for American Jewish World Service, and I would say, bringing a bunch of rabbis into the Congress person's office to talk about the farm bill, and they would say, Oh, yes, the foreign aid bill, come out and say, no, no, the Farm Bill, we're working overseas, we're interested in the breadbasket of Ukraine or whatever. And they couldn't even make us couldn't fathom, that an organization with Jewish in the name and rabbis in their office had an interest in anything other than the Mideast. Narrowly defined by AIPAC and I wanted to say, as I've said a few times, you know, in some ways, that's AIPAC's early credit, but what they're doing now, which again, they have a legal right to do, but but it's very sad to me that they're doing it in ways that are dramatically non transparent and dramatically anti democratic.

 

Hadar Susskind  56:28

Mik you want to add to that, or?

 

Mik Moore  56:31

No, no That was good. I know, we're close to at a time. So do you have a last question for us. Close this out?

 

Hadar Susskind  56:39

Well, you know, there's, I mean, we've talked about so many different elements of this. I think, ultimately, you know, the last, the last question for all of us, again, is what are we going to do about it? And what are we going to do about it organizationally, and individually in educating our constituencies, and working within the community to perhaps try to shift those those balances of power? I guess, I'm going to ask the two of you and Mik it a little bit of a trick question for you, since you're on the board. But for so I'm gonna I'm gonna start with with Ruth. But, you know, Ruth, you have been someone who's just who's demonstrated tremendous impact throughout your your career on different levels. So I'll take the opportunity and ask you, if there's one thing you think APN should be doing in this space, you know, relevant to this? What is it? What can we do?

 

Ruth Messinger  57:28

I'm not sure, but I think it's I think it's sort of more of what you're doing. And you know, if somebody gets to somebody who isn't the CEO or board member gets to say, obviously, you need more money to do this. But I think I think that the narrative story of the Middle East, and some of the current issues is, is much less known than we tend to think it is not well enough known or clear, and on the border of everyone in the Jewish community, even less well known on the part of legislators if you are a candidate for it doesn't matter. I'm gonna say non Jewish, but it's not even but if you're a non Jewish candidate, as Mik was saying, for state senator state assembly in Riverdale, it's like all of a sudden, a little odd that you're expected to have a nuanced understanding of what people mean, when they say are you for BDS? Are you against BDS? Are you for a two state solution? You know, and we all know, our I'll say, I know candidates, and sometimes it's just an inclination to get a half sentence phrase on it, you know, oh, here's my answer on that question, without going even without being encouraged to go deep. And so, you know, we have we have ongoing educational jobs. And oh, by the way, we've seen this, if I just switch for a minute, we've seen this on the choice question, right? I don't know, 10 years ago was like you were either pro choice or anti choice. And now we've spent six years arguing from various perspectives as when does When does life begin? And how strict the law should be? And if you're a legislator here, I'm not saying they're doing this, I'm disappointed that they're not. But theoretically, if you're a legislator, you need to dig down into this issue. Who's saying what, what are the issues? If not, it's no longer can be cast as a simple issue. Because if you're not going to be able to get a majority to support a woman's right to choose, which is clearly what I support, then you need to understand the nuances of the bills in the end and proposals that are kind of come across your desk, that are increasingly complicated. You know, there's all this legislation now around the country that is like, you don't have to do anything about pro choice, because adoption is the answer. And the people who are doing it are telling, like these little loving stories about adoption, and it's such a much more complicated issue in every regard. And so the burden is on legislators, but here on you asked at APN the burden is sort of narratives that helps people understand some of what's going on, you know, some of the Mik refer to JFREJ before some of the stuff that JFREJ put out in the last couple of years, explaining anti semitism and its connection to white nationalism. And, and its therefore its connection to racism. I think moved some people in our community to say, oh is a complicated issue, not a simple one. And that's really important. And we need to keep doing that on every issue. And since we're near the end, I just want to say again, not that there is a Jewish position on any of these issues. But there's a vast universe of human we're pro human rights, pro social justice, Jews who care tremendously about Israel, and about the future of Israel and the future of Middle East politics, but they care about other things as well. And I want to know what how hard they're going to push to support Biden on forgiving student loans and how hard they're going to push on getting the child tax credit back. And when we have forums that don't ask those questions, we're doing our community and the candidates both a disservice.

 

Hadar Susskind  1:01:00

Thank you both Mik closing words?

 

Mik Moore  1:01:03

Yeah, just something we wrote in the piece that I think is appropriate here. Towards the end of the article, we said, even more important than winning every fight is maintaining a fair system where people who disagree can contest for power, again, and again, on a reasonably level playing field. And I think, like, like we said, like, we people are gonna have different opinions, like, you know, there's always going to be a range of politics in the Jewish community, that's totally fine. I would like to think that an area of agreement is that like, you know, thriving democracy is good for our community, and that we can broadly see the value in that, again, this sort of reasonable, loving, level playing field, so we can contest for power. And, you know, that's for APN, I'd say, that's true here in the United States. It's true in Israel, too, right. And there's a common thread, you know, this is not just a, you know, a problem in the US, this has been a global problem. And you look at, you know, folks who monitor democracy around the world, you know, we'll tell you, like, over the last, you know, five to 10 years, we've seen, you know, very poor trend lines, in lots and lots of countries, you know, for how democratic they are. And there was a piece, I think, in the time, it's just yesterday, about another one of these figures where the US is just it has dropped from like 17th to 29th, or something like that, and, you know, sort of how robust our democracy is. So, I feel like that's a, an issue that we can, we should be able to agree on is definitely something to organize around, and a principle that can be applied, you know, broadly to, to, you know, Jews here in the US and around the world.

 

Hadar Susskind  1:02:43

Excellent. Well, Mick, Thank you, Ruth. Thank you. I greatly appreciate both of you in joining us and writing that article and doing this work. reminder for everyone. this has been recorded. We will share the recording, we will share the transcript. I greatly appreciate everybody for joining us and look forward to seeing you also. Thanks.

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Together with seven fellow progressive American Jewish organizations, Americans for Peace Now (APN) today sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging the Department of State to take a clear, proactive position regarding Israel's designation of six Palestinian human rights groups as "terrorists organizations."

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August 23, 2022

Honorable Antony Blinken

Secretary of State

US Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20230

 

Dear Secretary Blinken,

We are writing to express our deep concern with the latest escalation of the Israeli government’s campaign of suppression against Al Haq; Addameer; Defense For Children International-Palestine; Bisan; the Union of Agricultural Work Committees; and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees –six Palestinian nongovernmental organizations engaged in human rights and civil society work that the Defense Ministry designated as “terrorist organizations” in October of last year.

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Legislative Round-Up- August 19, 2022

 Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace in cooperation with Americans for Peace Now, where the Legislative Round-Up was conceived.

1. Bills, Resolutions, Letters
2. Hearings
3. On the Record

NOTE: During August, the Round-Up will shift to a flexible schedule – as in, if there is something to report, there will be a Round-Up, but it may not always be on Fridays. And if there is little to report, the Round-Up may take a break. Thanks for your patience! [And yep, so far this has meant that the Round-Up continues to be produced on its regular schedule during August – sigh].

Events:

Also of note: With respect to Israel’s escalation this week of its assault on Palestinian civil society & human rights defenders, FMEP’s Lara Friedman has published several commentaries/analyses in the form of Twitter threads – here, here, and here. You can also see FMEP’s resource page: On Israel’s Declaration of Palestinian Human Rights Groups as “Terrorist Organizations” (Oct 2021 to the present).

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Yossi Alpher is an independent security analyst. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a former senior official with the Mossad, and a former IDF intelligence officer. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.

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