In the most recent election cycle alone, pro-Israel groups have given tens of millions of dollars to members of Congress, who are now overwhelmingly cheering Israel’s bloody siege of Gaza, a new report has revealed.
According to an analysis by The Guardian, the pro-Israel lobby, including groups like the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) and J Street, gave over $58 million to members of Congress in their most recent elections. The donations spanned across Congress, with only 33 members not receiving any donations from the groups.
Remarkably, the report found that $25 million of this funding, or 42 percent, went to just six Democrats who ran against and defeated progressives in their primaries. The single largest recipient was Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Maryland), the data showed, who in 2022 defeated former Rep. Donna Edwards, who the Israel lobby targeted for not being pro-Israel enough, as The Guardian noted at the time. Pro-Israel groups poured a towering $7.2 million into Ivey’s campaign.
Similarly, the pro-Israel lobby gave Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Michigan) $5.4 million to defeat former Rep. Andy Levin, a self-described Zionist who was deemed not pro-Israel enough by groups like AIPAC because he sometimes criticized Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The groups also injected $4.5 million into the campaign of Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio), who defeated prominent pro-Palestinian advocate and progressive Nina Turner.
The analysis is illustrative of the grip that the pro-Israel lobby has over U.S. politicians, both in its power to defeat candidates who have been critical of Israel’s violent repression and in its power to ensure that members of Congress and other politicians stand by Zionism. According to the report, likely due in part to the lobby’s influence, roughly 82 percent of Congress members strongly supported Israel in the first six weeks of its current siege of Gaza, with most of those members still maintaining those positions today, despite ample evidence that Israel is committing war crimes in its horrific assault.
The average donation amount that politicians received lines up with their positions on the matter. Those who were more supportive of Israel received $125,000 on average; those who expressed “mixed” positions, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), received an average of $44,000; and those who were more supportive of Palestine received $18,000 on average, with people like Palestinian Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) receiving $0.
“If there was no lobby pushing Congress in a particular direction in a really forceful way, the position of the U.S. Congress on the war in Gaza would be fundamentally different,” John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago political scientist who wrote a book on the pro-Israel lobby, told The Guardian.
The Guardian also brought up several examples of politicians who appeared to become more supportive of Israel after getting donations from pro-Israel groups. This includes people like Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pennsylvania), who recently denounced progressivism altogether after facing widespread criticism from the left for his vehement pro-Israel position, despite running as a progressive in a tight race in 2022.
It also seemingly includes Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Florida), who spent his campaign wavering on the issue before landing on the pro-Israel side, denouncing the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and otherwise turning his back on Palestinian advocates after AIPAC and DMFI entered his campaign. Amid the current assault, Frost has signed onto ceasefire legislation, but has said that he should have voted for a House bill that condemned pro-Palestinian student activist groups like Students for Justice in Palestine.
Pro-Israel groups are planning to drastically increase spending in the upcoming election cycle. A recent Slate report found that D.C. insiders expect AIPAC alone to spend at least $100 million just in the upcoming Democratic primaries; Democratic challengers to prominent pro-Palestinian members like Representatives Cori Bush (D-Missouri), Jamaal Bowman (D-New York) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) have already loudly announced their alliance with Israel in the run up to their primaries.
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