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Progressives Launch Campaign to Counter Pro-Israel Election Spending

Progressive groups are launching a coalition to defend lawmakers targeted by America’s top pro-Israel lobby and counter its sway in Congress.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, is a powerhouse Washington influence machine. Bankrolled in large part by Republican megadonors, the group has the resources to tip elections, spends millions on lobbying, and wields its supporters as a potent grassroots activist army in Congress.

This year, AIPAC is reportedly prepared to spend $100 million to defeat candidates who are “insufficiently supportive of Israel,” as Politico put it. That doesn’t just mean targeting progressive lawmakers who oppose Israel’s brutal war in Gaza. AIPAC recently spent $5 million unsuccessfully opposing a Democratic candidate who had criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Now, progressives are banding together and fighting back. On Monday, two dozen progressive organizations announced they are launching the “Reject AIPAC” coalition.

The coalition said it will lead “a seven-figure electoral defense campaign across paid media and field organizing efforts to defend members of Congress targeted by AIPAC.” The group said it plans to counter “AIPAC’s lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill to defend Palestinian lives and human rights, building on the mass-scale grassroots mobilizations across the country calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and ending Congress’ unconditional political and financial support for the Israeli government.”

Israel has led an unprecedented siege in Gaza since Oct. 7, when Hamas killed 1,139 Israelis and kidnapped more than 200. More than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed. The death toll includes countless civilian deaths, and Israel’s ongoing resource blockade against the territory has created a staggering humanitarian crisis within Gaza.

President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress have faced growing pressure from activists and constituents to support a cease-fire in Gaza. Ahead of Biden’s State of the Union speech last week, protesters blockaded the president’s path from the White House to the Capitol, forcing his motorcade to take an alternative route and delaying his speech. On Super Tuesday, demonstrators calling for a cease-fire shut down Rep. Adam Schiff’s victory speech after he won California’s Democratic Senate primary.

“We have watched as AIPAC has done everything it can to silence growing dissent in Congress against Netanyahu’s assault on Gaza — which has killed more than 31,000 Palestinians — even as Democratic voters overwhelmingly support a cease-fire and oppose sending more blank checks to the Israeli military,” the coalition said in a statement, adding: “Now is the time for the whole of the Democratic Party to Reject AIPAC once and for all.”

Organizations in the coalition include Justice Democrats, which helped elect the young, progressive lawmakers of color in the “Squad,” some of whom are likely AIPAC targets this election cycle; the Working Families Party, the small but growing progressive political party; and the Democratic Socialists of America, the nation’s largest socialist organization.

Other coalition members include the MPower Change Action Fund, a Muslim-led digital advocacy group, and the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights Action, a pro-Palestine advocacy group. Jewish Voice for Peace Action and the IfNotNow Movement, two Jewish activist groups that have been leading pro-Palestine protests around the country, are also in the coalition.

“The overwhelming influence of corporate super PACs on our democracy and elections has expanded the gap between voters and their elected leaders into a canyon that has been exploited by every special interest and corporate lobby,” said the coalition. “Rejecting AIPAC is a crucial step in putting voters back at the center of our democracy.”

According to the coalition, AIPAC has endorsed 213 federal Republican lawmakers and 129 Democrats this year; last cycle, the lobby endorsed 109 Republicans who backed former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

“If Democratic Party leadership agrees that abortion rights and democracy are on the ballot this cycle,” said Usamah Andrabi, communications director for Justice Democrats, “then there should be no place for AIPAC — whose super PAC takes millions from Donald Trump’s donors to attack progressives while endorsing hundreds of Republican anti-abortion extremists and election-denying insurrectionists — in the Democratic Party.”

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