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New ‘progressive’ Israel lobby group is led by heroes of AIPAC

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Last year we reported that the leading Israel lobby group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, was panicked by the prospect of progressives abandoning Israel, and the fracturing of Democratic support for the Jewish state has only continued apace since then. Now a new lobbying group featuring a number of AIPAC pals has jumped onto the stage. The New York Times reports that the new group, the Democratic Majority for Israel, is led by Democratic Party loyalists who are trying to maintain the party’s solid backing of Israel by keeping progressives in the tent.

The Democratic Majority for Israel’s launch video seeks to package Israel yet again as a progressive cause. Its speakers reel off their political values: “women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, safeguarding the environment, worker’s rights, health care as a fundamental rights, voters’ rights,” till Ann Lewis chimes in, “And I believe in United States support for Israel.”

Pollster Mark Mellman says, “A majority of Democrats are pro-Israel,” then Peter Villegas, a corporate exec, adds, “But we need more.”

The ad repeats the word progressive many times. Amanda Breslauer of the College Democrats of America is the one young person in the ad, saying, “I support progressive values, and I support Israel.” Though the Times coverage of the new group helpfully quotes Simone Zimmerman of IfNotNow saying that “the American Jewish establishment and the Democratic establishment” have let Trump and Netanyahu off the hook.

So the function of this new group appears to be just what AIPAC’s function is: to make sure there is no daylight between the American government and Netanyahu/the Israeli government. And they have a lot of money behind them, Mellman told the Times.

“Some Jewish Democrats have suggested that Mr. Mellman’s group represents a Democratic arm of Aipac, though he said they are ‘separate and independent,’” the Times reports.

But here are some of the AIPAC connections.

–Peter Villegas is also a member of AIPAC’s “national council.”

–Jennifer Granholm, the former Michigan governor, who is on the new group’s board and pictured in the Times story, gave a speech at AIPAC last year, praising Israel as a “progressive paradise” and a “role model for other nations including America.”  She said, “Despite a wildly polarized political environment, I pledge to continue to reach across the aisle to support AIPAC’s work, to educate and engage both conservatives and progressives, and ensure that Israel remains a bipartisan issue.” She also stated that, “There is a strong pro-Israel voice within the Democratic party.”

Ann Lewis

–Ann Lewis is an AIPAC regular and has also worked, AIPAC says, with its spinoff the American Israel Education Foundation “to bring groups of progressive women leaders to Israel.” Lewis has told Democrats not to criticize Netanyahu: “The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel. It is not up to us to pick and choose from among the political parties.”

The Times says that the new group is a “counterweight” to J Street, though their agendas overlap. J Street also seeks to package Israel as a progressive cause, and while it has criticized Netanyahu fiercely, it has lamented the possibility that Israel will become a partisan football, and has not endorsed the new progressive class of Congresspeople who are critical of Israel: Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, congresswomen who support Boycott, Divestment (BDS) targeting Israel, and rising Democratic star, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

According to the Times, the Democratic Majority group’s action list includes defending Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries from a possible leftwing challenge organized by Ocasio-Cortez. Politico said the rivalry between the New York reps Ocasio-Cortez and Jeffries is “personal,” due to a caucus battle in the Democratic Party, but Israel is also a clear divider.

In 2014 in the midst of Israel’s slaughtering civilians in Gaza, including 500 children, Hakeem Jeffries went to a pro-Israel rally and said “Israel today, Israel tomorrow, Israel forever,” in an echo of George Wallace’s segregation today, tomorrow, and forever speech.

Particularly since that massacre, progressives have been walking away from the Democratic Party over Israel; and Bernie Sanders made the Gaza slaughter an issue in the 2016 New York primary, and he also took on Netanyahu. This new group may answer an anxiety, but it won’t answer the problem.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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18 Responses

  1. amigo on January 29, 2019, 1:57 pm

    Watching Israel and it,s apologists is rather like watching a once successful NFL team on the way down.

    The glory days of Superbowl appearances are over and even an appearance in a Conference final is a distant hope for it,s fans.

    The shine is gone so it,s time to find a new home and change the name of the team.Think Oakland Raiders and LA Rams.

    AIPAC is losing it,s shine and is in this position and they can do the geographics all they want but if they keep the same play book and coaches then they are destined to fail . The sooner the better , allow me to add.

    AIPAC is on it,s 4th down inside it,s own 10 yard line and the clock is running down.

    • Misterioso on January 30, 2019, 9:06 am


      “Why Saudi Arabia hates Muslim women in the US Congress’
      Al Jazeera, Jan. 26/29
      by Hamid Dabashi

      “‘Saudi Arabia Declares War on America’s Muslim Congresswomen,’ a title ran in Foreign Policy magazine recently, where we find out: ‘Gulf Arab monarchies are using racism, bigotry, and fake news to denounce Washington’s newest history-making politicians.’ This is serious business.

      “Naturally, many racist conservatives in the United States were upset with the election of two Muslim women to the US Congress, and their run-of-the-mill xenophobia was expected. But the vitriol Saudi-affiliated media outlets and commentators spewed was indeed something new.

      “So, why would the Saudis, or any other tyranny in the Arab and Muslim world whose very existence is dependent on the benevolent generosity of the US military, pick up a fight with these two newly elected members of the US Congress?

      “Aren’t the Saudis ‘the Custodians of the Two Noble Sanctuaries,’ as they call and thus congratulate themselves? Aren’t they supposed to be protectors and supporters of all Muslims around the world?

      “According to the FP, ‘academics, media outlets, and commentators close to Persian Gulf governments have repeatedly accused Omar, Rashida Tlaib … and Abdul El-Sayed (who made a failed bid to become governor of Michigan) of being secret members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are hostile to the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.’

      “So, there you have it, the catchword: the Muslim Brotherhood.”

      “Saudi Arabia and its allies, the UAE and Egypt in particular, have launched a vicious and indeed deadly campaign against the organisation. But this is not why they have come after the two US Congresswomen.

      “Another article published on the MinnPost explains: ‘Saudi loyalists aren’t wrong that Omar is a persistent critic of the Saudi regime. Recently, she’s condemned the kingdom over two crises that are drawing international scrutiny to the secretive regime: the war in Yemen, and the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.’

      “Thus for their outspokenness and open criticism, Omar and Tlaib are perceived as what Professor Mahmoud Mamdani of Columbia University calls ‘bad Muslims’ in his remarkable study and subsequent book. By contrast, good Muslims – the ones Saudi Arabia et al like – are those silently watching it massacre Yemenis and cut Khashoggi to pieces while rushing to make ticket reservations for their Hajj pilgrimage.

      “Noting these vicious attacks against these young Muslim lawmakers in the new US Congress, Professor Mohammad H Fadel of the University of Toronto pointed out a crucial issue: ‘The shocking willingness to attack Muslim-Americans and Arab-Americans and embrace American Islamophobia reveal a deeper and more depressing state of affairs between the Arab world and its expatriates.’

      “But why should Saudis and their allies be afraid of Muslim Americans? Well, they fear the Khashoggi effect – too many Muslims exposing and criticising tyranny.”

      “The Saudi-Zionist alliance”

      “It is not accidental that the selfsame Muslim women that the Saudis and their allies hate are targeted by the propaganda machinery of major Zionist outlets, which defame and demonise them because they take principled positions on Israel, criticising its policies and supporting the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement.

      “The Saudi-Zionist alliance now runs deeply into the heart of the Arab and Muslim world. Ruling regimes from Saudi Arabia to Chad are putting all their eggs in the Zionist basket, hoping this would ensure their survival. Bad move. The power of the Zionists over the US politics is seriously challenged, and Muslims are part of a rising democratic will that will include the democratic aspirations of Muslim nations in their agendas.”

      • Misterioso on January 30, 2019, 10:13 am

        Also related:

        Middle East Eye, Jan. 28/19 By Ali Harb
        “Activists reject US resolution accusing Muslim congresswomen of anti-Semitism”

        “Less than a month into their terms, symbolic US House resolution targets Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib over their criticism of Israel”

        WASHINGTON – “Leading Palestinian- and Muslim-American rights campaigners have decried a proposed US House of Representatives resolution accusing Muslim congresswomen of anti-Semitism due to their criticism of Israeli policies, saying the measure amounts to anti-Muslim bigotry.

        “Robert McCaw, director of the government affairs department at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), denounced the ‘Islamophobic’ resolution for specifically targeting two Muslim members of Congress for their views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.

        “Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants from Michigan, and Omar, a former Somali-American state legislator in Minnesota who came to the United States as a refugee, were sworn in as the first Muslim women in Congress earlier this month.

        “They are part of a wave of progressive women of colour who won Democratic seats in November’s mid-term elections.

        “Both women have voiced support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, breaking with a longstanding bi-partisan support for Israel among lawmakers while limiting debate in Washington around Israeli violations against Palestinians.

        “Last week, three Republicans introduced a symbolic resolution to condemn the ‘anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate infiltrating American politics and the halls of Congress,’ calling out Omar and Tlaib by name.

        “However, CAIR’s McCaw said the congresswomen’s diverse backgrounds allows them to bring fresh viewpoints to enrich the debate on foreign policy in Congress.

        “‘They’re going to bring a new perspective in which we can now have legitimate conversations about human rights abuses in Israeli-controlled Palestinian territories and the stifling of democracies by autocratic regimes, like the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,’ McCaw said of Tlaib and Omar.

        “The resolution”
        “The Muslim lawmakers’ outspoken stance against the Israeli occupation and violence against Palestinians appears to have prompted the resolution against them – less than a month into their first term in Congress.

        “The measure refers to Omar and Tlaib’s support for BDS, a non-violent boycott movement that seeks to pressure Israel politically and economically to stop its abuses against Palestinians.

        “It then references a photo that Tlaib took with a Palestinian-American activist whom the resolution also accuses of anti-Semitism.

        “The measure also quotes a Twitter post by Tlaib in which she said US senators trying to impose penalties on companies that boycott Israel ‘forgot what country they represent.’

        “The congresswoman later clarified that her statement intended to criticize American lawmakers for ignoring US laws that protect free speech, including boycotts.

        “The measure also cites a 2012 tweet by Omar during an Israeli military operation in Gaza, in which she said she hoped the world opens its eyes to the ‘evil doings of Israel.’

        “Asked about the proposed resolution, Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, said accusing Omar and Tlaib of anti-Semitism amounts to anti-Muslim bigotry.

        “‘This resolution is an Islamophobic attack against two outspoken women of colour who are shaking things up by boldly standing for crucial issues,’ Munayyer told MEE in an email.
        He said advocacy for Palestinian rights is part of ‘progressive politics of justice for all,’ dismissing the effort to conflate criticism of Israeli policies with anti-Semitism.

        “‘It is no coincidence that both of these targeted lawmakers are Muslim women of colour,’ Munayyer said. ‘It is the people who exist at the intersections of multiple vulnerable identities in our society that are usually seen as easy targets by adversaries looking to piggy-back on the prevalence of bigotry in society to achieve their political ends.’

        “Munayyer likened the attacks against the congresswomen to Israeli politicians’ efforts to suppress the voices of Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

        “That includes Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who has faced suspension, investigations and attempts to disqualify her from running for re-election because of her criticism of the Israeli government.

        “References to Pittsburgh, Charlottesville”
        “In an attempt to highlight the rise of anti-Semitism in the US, the proposed resolution also cites violent incidents and deadly hate crimes – alongside the section on Omar and Tlaib.

        “It refers to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting carried out by a white supremacist, which killed 11 Jewish congregates late last year and the 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that ended in the killing of an anti-racist, counter-protester.

        “US President Donald Trump drew criticism after the Charlottesville incident for saying there were ‘very fine people on both sides’ and suggesting that both the neo-Nazi demonstrators and the people protesting against their hateful rally shared the blame for the violence.

        “Congressman Lee Zeldin, the lead sponsor of the resolution targeting Tlaib and Omar, defended Trump at the time.

        “‘It is not right to suggest that President Trump is wrong for acknowledging the fact that criminals on both sides showed up for the purpose of being violent,”‘Zeldin said in a statement in August 2017. ‘That particular observation is completely true.’

        “Omar and Tlaib have both repeatedly condemned anti-Semitism and other forms of racial hatred.

        “‘With the rise of Anti-Semitic and Neo-Nazi ideology, it’s more important than ever we learn from the atrocities of the past & commit to fighting intolerance,’ Omar wrote on Twitter on Monday, in observance of Holocaust Memorial Day.”

      • amigo on January 30, 2019, 4:39 pm

        Misterioso. Thanks for the articles.

        And all the many you provide us with.

    • pgtl10 on January 30, 2019, 10:17 am

      Hopefully this Israel will trade their Khalil Mack and wonder why they have no pass rush.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius on January 30, 2019, 11:25 am

      Remember back in the 1970s when there was a big ‘birthday party’ in musical form for Israel on TV?

      Barbara Streisand, Paul Newman, Anne Bancroft, Gene Kelly and other huge stars of the day were there. The Los Angeles philharmonic even pitched in. But that was 40 years ago. Now, Israel can barely persuade a sorry bunch of (never) has beens like Ashton Kutcher and Gerard Butler to attend its ‘benefits’. Even the Dersh’s buddy Natalie Portman is careful to distance herself from them.

      Brand Israel is toxic.

  2. John Douglas on January 29, 2019, 3:13 pm

    The Senate – including Democrats – are about to vote upon the anti-BDS legislation. The principle? I care more about the favor of pro-Israel groups than about the integrity of the 1st Amendment.

    In the case of the Democratic Majority for Israel, the principle is: I care more about the favor of the pro-Israel groups than about a cohesive Democratic Party, which I am willing to destroy to protect Israel’s ability to oppress Palestinians..

    Whenever any member of these groups employs the slander of anti-Semitism against a pro-Palestinian voice, that person should be immediately charged with anti-Americanism.

  3. JWalters on January 29, 2019, 5:34 pm

    Sorry to see Jennifer Granholm reduced to doing commercials.

    But even with the snazziest commercials, the world cannot escape seriously considering the quite real possibility that Israel is NOT after all a glorious re-creation of a glorious past, sanctioned by God.

    Perhaps, as some other Jews say, the Zionist project is an arrogant attempt to force God’s hand. Also, it has been financed quite plausibly not for its holiness but for its profits. e.g. “War Profiteers and the Roots of the War on Terror”. Perhaps the investment strategy was not to create a safe haven, but to create a continuously percolating hot spot in an irrational religious war.

    Then Israel’s history would be just another campaign of terrorism and plunder, this time against the indigenous people of Palestine.

  4. Citizen on January 30, 2019, 5:18 am

    Re: “The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel. It is not up to us to pick and choose from among the political parties.”

    Didn’t trump just pick one in Venezuela?

  5. Citizen on January 30, 2019, 5:30 am

    Trump’s recognition came minutes after Juan Guaido swore himself in as Venezuela’s interim president, and as massive protests against Nicolas Maduro swept Caracas. via @HuffPostPol

    On the other hand, Trump refrained from picking in Saudi Arabia….

    • pgtl10 on January 30, 2019, 10:20 am

      If you are saying he favors Saudi Arabia. The US accepted the military coup that brought Sisi to power. If you are a US ally then the US will do whatever it takes to maintain your grip. If you are not liked by the US then all of the sudden you’re a dictator.

      Not that I support US intervention. I just found Ann Lewis claims laughable.

      • Citizen on January 30, 2019, 11:30 am


  6. Citizen on January 30, 2019, 6:45 am

    Cynthia McKinney PhD

    3h3 hours ago
    Well, well, well: Pro-Israel Democrats Form New Group.

  7. genesto on January 30, 2019, 1:55 pm

    The genie is already out of the bottle, you foolish ‘new progressive’ Dems! And all the AIPAC money in the world can’t change that!

  8. lyn117 on January 30, 2019, 5:30 pm

    ‘“The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel. It is not up to us to pick and choose from among the political parties.”’ – Lewis

    We (the US) is supposed to give Netanyahoo unconditional support, meanwhile, Israel (and Netanyahoo) can pick and choose from among US political parties all they want

  9. Dan From Away on February 1, 2019, 3:09 pm

    Stalwart Zionists David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir often said that Zionism had only one immutable goal relative to Israel’s relations with the US: To never allow support for Israel to become a partisan-divisive or electoral issue. In this they were mimicking the political philosophy of, among others, labor giant George Meany who said: “Democratic or Republican…I don’t care which candidate wins so long as I did all the nominating”. Ben-Gurion and Meir understood the subtle, fragile, complex nature of American support for Israel and they understood that while a majority of Americans may well be “pro-Israel” that did not mean they were “pro-Zionist”. They believed that Zionism is best served so long as Israel remains an invisible and ideally, taboo, political topic. A Zionist wag once famously said: “Zionism is like a mushroom, it grows best in the dark”. His horticultural wisdom is being ignored by today’s professional Zionists.

    David, Golda and George must all be besides themselves as they watch the clowns behind the “Democratic Majority for Israel” gear up to not only make Israel a very public, very partisan and very electoral issue but to actually lay the groundwork for it to become a permanent element of all US elections going forward. Do they think that the Republicans will not respond with a similar, and similarly counterproductive-to-Zionism-but-good-for-their-re-election, group? Do they not understand that the resulting party-versus-party competition to prove which is more obsequious in the quest for Zionist benediction will lead inexorably to Israel becoming a standard campaign issue? Do they know nothing (still) about how mushrooms grow?

    They have opened the door to the possibility, more likely inevitability, that voters, town hall attendees, students and even candidates will publicly and vocally challenge candidates on their positions on Israel? What might some of those challenging questions sound like?

    “How do you explain your support for the US government’s annual tribute of 3+ billion dollars to Israel which it uses to maintain its Occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people?


    “Why did you support the Anti-Israel Boycott Act which stripped from us our cherished right to boycott-as-we-wish which had always been part of our Constitutional persona?”

    And so on. Once the “Democratic Majority for Israel” opens the door to this kind of normalization of political Zionism’s agenda and history on the campaign trail they will not be able to shut it again. It will have been memed into the discourse. Forever. Candidates are not prepared for any of this and none of them, not even schooled Zionists such as Speaker Nancy PEP-losi are going to welcome this new dynamic. Watch the videos of Tom Cotton being raked over the coals – by his own constituents – for his votes against Obamacare and his opposition to establishing the Special Prosecutor to get a sense of the minefield I think might be in store:

    Moreover, a major focus of the “Democratic Majority for Israel” is to combat the spread/popularity of BDS. Good luck with that. That genie is out of the bottle and a grand irony to watch unfold is how domestic political Zionism has become the major media vehicle for raising the visibility, and I would say legitimacy, of BDS in the US. IOW it would be much better for political Zionism to not mention/attack/lampoon/legislate against/smear/intimidate and otherwise raise the profile of the BDS movement. Zionists simply do not comprehend that the MSM, tutored as it is to be ever-mindful of how delicate and precious Zionist sensibilities are, repeats, reports and replicates all of organized Zionism’s denunciations of BDS and in the process mainlines it into the American cultural bloodstream which otherwise might never even heard of BDS. Ironically, however it has the opposite effect they desire. Instead of learning about BDS via MSNBC and opposing it…the public embraces it and sees it for the opportunity to weaken political Zionism that it is. This reactive, combative response is a direct parallel to how the Southern states responded to the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852: Southern post offices were empowered to intercept and destroy all copies of UTC carried by the Federal post; newspapers across the South published screed after screed denouncing the book (and later the play) as anti-Southern, abolitionist incitement. Sound familiar? We have trod this path before. The upshot was that the South created an immediate, nationwide demand for the book. This response was recently referenced by Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland – “Nothing– nothing– will motivate Americans to exercise their rights more than efforts to suppress them. Trying to suppress free speech, even unpopular speech, even conduct that we don’t support here… that will only add momentum”. Zionism is actually feeding/spreading/popularizing/promoting/legitimating the very movement it says it wants to abolish.

    Palestine solidarity should welcome the emergence, and broad success of the “Democratic Majority for Israel” and any countering Republican project. I will send them a contribution: its called a tactical donation. I learned it from political Zionism.

    Final point: There seem to be two aspects about BDS that most Zionists seem incapable of grasping:

    1) BDS has atomized solidarity with Palestine and resistance to political Zionism.

    By this I mean that the actual point-of-purchase act of solidarity – to not buy Sabra hummus, Soda Stream or any of the myriad other Israeli-produced goods targeted by BDS – is a private, intimate, personal act that cannot be recorded, reversed or penalized. Zionism is helpless to counter the consumer decision to not buy Israeli goods. This creates a safe zone within which people can support Palestine, oppose Zionism, keep their good names intact and out of the news and not become a target of hasbara or Zionist bullying.

    2) Support for BDS is historically cumulative.

    By this I mean that it is popular not only among woke millennials but it is also valued and practiced by the entire population of people who have opposed Zionism for decades but who had no safe-from-the-smear way to express their opposition. For example, activists who where involved in opposing Israeli nefariousness in serving the CIA Central America in the 1980’s or its support for the Vietnam War, as well as those who resent Israel’s dumping of firearms in the US gun market as well as the entire history of Israeli insults to American culture (including those wanting to send an untracable-but-unmistakable message to their Congressperson for applauding Netanyahu in Congress) IOW all the people whom Zionism has insulted/hurt/marginalized since back in the day are being introduced to BDS and the emergence of the “Democratic Majority for Israel” will only accelerate that process.


  10. johneill on February 8, 2019, 2:37 pm

    some people are really obsessed with being in the majority

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