Media Analysis

‘It was definitely about the Benjamins’ — former campaign staffer details AIPAC’s far-reaching financial power

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Ady Barkan, a Democratic progressive activist who is dying of ALS, just put up this thread on Twitter in response to Ilhan Omar’s powerful tweet of last night about AIPAC. He tells the story of how AIPAC reached out to a candidate he was working for, and the candidate’s compliance was “definitely about the Benjamins.” He describes the importance of Omar’s intervention in calling out AIPAC, a “pillar of the occupation,” and the refusal to discuss the lobby’s financially-driven power to do “terrible things.” 

Barkan wrote:

A thread on @IlhanMN, anti-semitism, and my personal experience with @AIPAC’s money.

In 2006, I was the first real staffer on a long-shot Democratic Congressional race in deep red Ohio. My boss was a hippie doctor with a lefty perspective on international affairs. . . .very skeptical of military force, opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, etc.

A month after winning the Dem primary, we were struggling to gain attention or money. Nobody gave us a snowball’s chance to win. But one political action org proactively reached out to us.
It wasn’t Emily’s List, although we were fiercely prochoice. Wasn’t a doctor’s lobby or an enviro or labor org. It was AIPAC.

A local Dem volunteer leader of the Cincinnati AIPAC group came over and said they would like to donate the PAC max (I believe $5000) and would also like to see Vic take a public stance on two issues that, I thought, were relatively obscure: an Iran sanctions bill and something else I can’t recall, perhaps about continuing arms sales to Israel. Suffice to say, these were not hot button issues in the race.

Vic and I both thought of ourselves as pro-peace, not pro-Israel. (Note: I am an Israeli citizen, have many family there, have lived there & visited perhaps 20 times). We both felt a bit icky about doing it, because it was too hawkish and too quid pro quo but we were desperate for cash and so we put online a statement about how Vic supported a two-state peace agreement and AIPAC’s two pet issues of the cycle.

It was definitely about the Benjamins. Never would have done it otherwise. AIPAC’s power is also about great organizing (they sent a local Dem volunteer emissary) and about diligence (they paid attention to us before anyone else and were happy to donate to both us and the pro-Likud incumbent). But money is the lubricant that makes the whole machine run.

@IlhanMN is right to point this out. AIPAC is a central pillar of the occupation. Without Congressional support, the Likud/anti-Palestine/pro-occupation project would be radically undermined. AIPAC is the anchor of that support, and its money and Sheldon Adelson’s money are indispensable to the work.

We have a growing anti-semitism problem in America. @IlhanMN is not part of it. @lindasrsour is not part of it. They are allies of mine and of Jews across this country who are fighting for peace, racial justice, immigrants’ rights, and the defeat of fascism. I am deeply disappointed in @SpeakerPelosi for her failure today.

When AIPAC and its army try to silence criticism of the immoral, illegal, inhumane occupation by screaming about anti-semitism and claiming that nobody may ever talk about how the Israel lobby uses money to build power, don’t fall for their bullshit. They are doing terrible things in the name of Jews and of Israel, and it behooves the American Jewish community to resist them, resist their agenda, stand up for Free Speech, and stand up for justice.

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ADY BARKAN- “We have a growing anti-semitism problem in America.” Any empirical data to support his oft repeated claim? And I don’t mean ADL opinion polls of Jews who claim that increased criticism of Israel represents a “…growing anti-semitism problem in America>” This fixation on anti-Semitism is a core component of the Zionist ideology. I have yet to see any hard data to suggest that the “Jewish community” is anything other than relatively privileged and… Read more »

Who are the Benjamins? I know that the Sabans are mega-donors, but I’m unfamiliar with mega-donors named Benjamin.

Hi Rusty:

The Benjamins are another branch of the Trope family.

Hope this helps.

AIPAC is not even in the Top 20, not even close. It’s not about the Benjamins, it’s about trafficking in well known antisemitic tropes and the willingness of most Israeli haters to reflexively defend it. Israel is defended in Congress not because of Jew gold, but because the US population overwhelming sides with Israel. ——1998-2018————— US Chamber of Commerce $1,506,125,680 National Assn of Realtors $543,448,083 American Medical Assn $393,194,500 American Hospital Assn $372,445,855 Pharmaceutical Research… Read more »

How unfortunate that an image used in one culture (Black) gets used by another (Jews) to try and shut down a progressive Muslim woman. Aside from the fodder used by the pro-Israel lobby, Ilham was targeted before she even took her oath of office. This country, the centrist Dems in particular, are hysterical at being exposed for their lack luster, pro-corporate money/political arrangements. It makes me frustrated that Ilham did not add the different cultural… Read more »