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Pressure builds on Booker, Gillibrand to get to Yes on Israel Anti-Boycott Act (for sake of 2020)

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Senators Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand have reportedly told fundraisers that they are running for president in 2020. Pro-Israel money is critical to any run for president. And now both senators are facing pressure for failing to back the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which would criminalize some forms of support for boycott of Israel.

Gillibrand has pushed back with a love-letter to the Israel lobby group AIPAC published in the Forward, saying that it’s an “important part” of her constitutional oath to defend the Constitution and to protect the alliance with Israel.

Booker has the backing of the liberal Zionist group J Street, but he gets a lot more money from rightwing Israel supporters. At, Jonathan Salant says that the Israel lobby organization NORPAC is Booker’s “biggest lifetime source of campaign contributions” and it has been disappointed by his vote in favor of the Iran deal and his refusal to sign on to the boycott bill.

Still, NORPAC holds out hope for Booker’s conversion:

“We’ll see how the final vote does down. What we ask of Senator Booker is to look at things morally and try to get the best product out,” said Dr. Ben Chouake, president of NORPAC, which brought $158,871 into Booker’s campaign coffers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Booker’s spokesperson tells that he is “reviewing” the legislation, and the chair of another Israel lobby group, NACPAC (National Action Committee PAC), says he’s confident that Booker will come to yes.

“Senator Booker is not alone in his concerns either amongst Dems or the Senate as a whole,” [Mark] Vogel said. “We’re confident with some of the changes that are under consideration that Senator Booker will co-sponsor the bill.”

The article notes that Booker will get pressure from the Democratic base to oppose the bills. But which matters more, the base or the donors?

Booker has taken the J Street line: supporting the Iran deal and opposing the Taylor Force act that would strip the Palestinian Authority of essential funding. J Street says that the Israel Anti-Boycott Act would criminalize boycotts of the settlements– a form of boycott it does not oppose.

By the way, here is the mission statement of NORPAC. Its entire purpose is supporting Israel, “the Jewish Homeland.”

NORPAC is a non-partisan Political Action Committee (PAC) whose primary purpose is to support candidates and sitting members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives who demonstrate a genuine commitment to the strength, security, and survival of Israel…

Imagine if a Russia-loving organization were backing presidential candidates. NACPAC has a similar goal:

NACPAC can help Israel by cementing the US-Israel alliance in the hearts and minds of US Congressmen!

As for Gillibrand, she published that piece in the Forward last week saying that while she took her name of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act — during a moment of weakness at a town hall, she implies — she hasn’t backed off her support for Israel one iota. The boycott campaign (BDS) is anti-Semitic.

[S]ome have suggested that I want to delegitimize Israel because I took my name off the bill. That is not true. My record makes it clear that I am one of the strongest and most consistent supporters of Israel in the Senate….

Second, some have suggested that I suddenly began supporting the BDS movement when I took my name off the bill. This accusation has popped up on the Internet in recent days – both from Israel’s supporters and from Israel’s detractors. This is just plain false. I cannot state this more clearly: I vehemently oppose the BDS movement, which too often is used as a pernicious vehicle for anti-Semitism; I would never support it, and I signed on to the Israel Anti-Boycott Act in order to push back against this effort to make Israel – and Israel alone – a pariah.

The piece is a response to the Israel lobby group AIPAC, which had accused her of fostering Israel’s delegitimization.

Gillibrand and Booker are surely fearful about the growing divide between the Democratic base and the donor class. Gillibrand laments the eruption of a “divisive debate… that is pitting defenders of the First Amendment against supporters of Israel,” and ends her piece by saying that supporting Israel is part of her oath to defend the Constitution. 

The oath I swore as a senator was to “support and defend the Constitution.” That means defending free speech, including protests I really don’t like. But it also means keeping our country safe – and an important part of that is protecting our alliance with Israel. I am proud to defend the First Amendment and support Israel, and I urge all New Yorkers to join me in fighting for both.

This is nuts. And it’s obviously donor-driven.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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12 Responses

  1. AddictionMyth on August 15, 2017, 3:29 pm

    “some have suggested that I suddenly began supporting the BDS movement” – I would like to know who is attacking her so that we can attack back. If she is supporting us then we should back her up. In my experience it’s usually a small number of people who make the majority of noise, and if you can identify them it’s usually not hard to shut them down for a while. Also – there are so many easy ways to attack AIPAC these days. There’s no excuse for being bullied by them.

    • genesto on August 16, 2017, 12:42 pm

      She is NOT supporting us! She realizes, as does the lobby at this point, that the legislation overreaches to an extent that opens her to attacks from the left. She wants to find a middle ground that allows her to pacify both the lobby and the left, so that her presidential ambitions are not derailed by either.

      As for there being no excuse for being bullied by AIPAC, all one needs to do is consider the fact that 10 of the top12 donors to the Democratic Party in the last election are wealthy American Zionists – people like Haim Saban who put loyalty to Israel above all else. Unless you choose to go the Bernie route, i.e. raise tremendous sums with small donations from the masses (an approach I’d like to see popularized, certainly), I’m afraid you DO have to bullied by them, or lose to well-funded, Koch-backed Republicans.

      • JWalters on August 16, 2017, 7:24 pm

        Gillibrand’s pledge –

        “I pledge allegiance to the flag of Israel, and to the Jewish supremacism and apartheid for which it stands, one nation of Chosen People, annointed by God, with liberty and justice for True Jews.”

        These are times that try people’s souls. Summer senators and sunshine patriots are of little use. Not one American senator is willing to stand up and say, “I only regret that I have but one Senate seat to give for my country.”

        America’s Vichy politicians and press will live in infamy.

      • Emory Riddle on August 18, 2017, 1:13 pm

        Super Pac top ten donors in 2016:

        1 Tom Steyer $66.3 million
        2 Miriam & Sheldon Adelson $52.7 million
        3 S. Donald Sussman $36.8 million
        4 Fred Eychaner $33.1 million
        5 Robert Mercer $21.2 million
        6 Michael Bloomberg $20.1 million
        7 Paul Singer $19.8 million
        8 Marilyn & James Simons $18.5 million
        9 George Soros $17.5 million
        10 Dustin Moskovitz & Cari Tuna $17.3 million

  2. just on August 15, 2017, 4:20 pm

    “Pro-Israel money is critical to any run for president.”

    That is the enduring and disreputable shame of American politics. The first candidate for any office who says ‘no thanks’ might very well be surprised at the outpouring of support from real progressives, especially if they choose to be vocal and educate voters about the reasons why they prefer not to accept the bribe.

    The money from the “donor class” its covered in blood and filthy with apartheid.

    • just on August 15, 2017, 4:59 pm


      “WASHINGTON – Another Democratic member of Congress announced over the weekend that he would withdraw his support from the controversial “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” over concerns that it could harm free speech by potentially imposing penalties on American citizens for supporting boycotts of Israel and the settlements in the West Bank.

      Speaking at a town hall meeting, Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington, said that he intends to withdraw his support because the bill is “more complicated” than how it was originally presented to him.

      “I do not support a boycott and divestment campaign against Israel,” he clarified, stating that the change in his position toward the legislation is a result of its “very complicated” language, which comes “very close” to punishing American citizens for choosing to boycott Israel. 

      Smith, who is currently listed as a co-sponsor of the bill,  also mentioned his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, arguing that if Israel does not allow the creation of a Palestinian state, it would not be able to survive as a Jewish state. He said that he has a lot of criticism toward Israeli politicians “for all the bad things that they do,” but that he doesn’t believe the “boycott approach” is helpful in advancing peace. “It’s the same as saying all the Palestinians are terrorists,” he explained.  

      The proposed legislation, which is supported by AIPAC, includes a reference to an existing law from 1977, which makes it illegal for American citizens and businesses to join the “Arab boycott of Israel” and includes heavy punishments for that. Rep. Smith said that the new bill’s supporters claim it merely expands the 1977 law to include boycotts initiated by the UN, and would not include private citizens engaging in boycotts. The problem, he said, is “how do you really tell the difference?”…”

      read more:

      Less wimpy, but wimpy nevertheless.

    • US Citizen on August 15, 2017, 9:00 pm

      ” Pro-Israel money is critical to any run for president. ” Bernie didn’t need it. The solution is simple – when an AIPAC endorsed candidate runs just spell out for the people in that district all the money we give to Israel that could be spend here at home. People understand dollars and cents. Make AIPAC and the people who run on a pro-Israel ticket defend giving 11 millions dollars a day to a ‘vibrant democracy’ when our own are going without. Spell it out for them and shame these AIPACers. It’s long overdue.

    • ritzl on August 16, 2017, 10:35 pm

      Thanks just.

      Would that be “hacking”?

      Cynthia McKinney described her initiation to that influence. Don’t ask me for a link, but there was a vid where she described a meeting with the “Garden Club of Charleston (or her base if that’s not it), asking her to sign a pledge to support Israel in exchange for their support for her election.

      It was some years ago, and I’ll try to find the link, but the explication, which I’ve come to believe, is that this “support Israel…or else” money/influence assertion is pervasive, certainly at the national level. Much more pervasive than “normal” people accept as possible or real.

      • jd65 on August 17, 2017, 2:52 pm

        Hello ritzl – It was some years ago, and I’ll try to find the link…

        Here you go (it was Garden Club of New Jersey :)

      • ritzl on August 17, 2017, 5:04 pm

        Thanks jd65.

  3. CigarGod on August 15, 2017, 10:14 pm

    On the bright side: Blatant bribery is out in the open.

  4. James Canning on August 16, 2017, 1:35 pm

    It appears that a substantial proportion of the Israel lobby in the US is quite willing to suppress free speech in this country, in order to foster further illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Not a surprise, of course.

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