DSA-JSC in Solidarity with Ilhan Omar
As Jews on the left, we are in solidarity with Representative Ilhan Omar and her statements regarding the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) influence over US lawmakers and foreign policy.
Israel is often referred to as the United States’s primary ally in the Middle East, as it plays a central role in maintaining US military and economic hegemony over the region. While AIPAC is not the main reason for the US’s “special relationship” with Israel, it provides lawmakers with political cover, model legislation, talking points, and donations from its supporters to ensure this relationship continues. AIPAC is not an exclusively Jewish lobby, hosting a growing Evangelical Christian membership as American Jewish support for its policies wanes. There is nothing antisemitic about pointing out AIPAC’s influence. Indeed, Rep. Omar’s comments are arguably an understatement, considering the scale of AIPAC’s role in promoting Israeli apartheid and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
In 2018 alone, AIPAC spent$3.5 million onlobbying the federal government for pro-Israel policies, more than any other pro-Israel group. Yet even this number doesn’t account for the AIPAC-affiliated money being donated to politicians’ campaigns. Pro-Israel individuals and interests contributed almost $15 million to political campaigns in 2018 and over $143 million since 1990. Much of this spending was coordinated by AIPAC members. Although AIPAC does not contribute directly to campaigns, it frequently boasts about the influence its massive informal donor network has over Congress. Former AIPAC Executive Director Thomas Dine estimated that in the 1980s and ‘90s, “contributions from AIPAC members often constituted roughly 10 to 15% of a typical congressional campaign budget.” There is no reason to believe that those already huge percentages haven’t remained steady, or grown even higher today.
AIPAC is also actively mainstreaming anti-Muslim hate: The AIPAC Policy Conference has invited deeply Islamophobic speakers such as Steven Emerson, head of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, and supporters of indigenous genocide, torture, and militaristic foreign policy, including Elliot Abrams, Tom Cotton, and John Bolton.
To be clear, AIPAC’s influence is not the only reason the United States supports these policies. AIPAC is only one piece of a larger imperialist puzzle, in which Israel joins the ranks of other Western powers in exchange for supposed safety and inclusion. While distinct from antisemitism, imprecision surrounding this issue allows room for antisemitic co-option and leaves capital and empire off the hook. Ultimately, AIPAC exists to complement the US’s long-term project for imperialist domination over the Global South, not the other way around.
But all this is not the fault of a single congresswoman’s failure to fully contextualize her tweet within a critique of Western imperialism. If we want a truly robust analysis of Zionism, it’s up to us on the left to build a truly anti-imperialist movement — with or without participation from members of Congress. Simultaneously, we must oppose the racist, Islamophobic, and misogynistic silencing of Black and Muslim women who dare point out truths about Israel, because doing so is a crucial component of building that movement. Not only are Rep. Omar’s critics racist, they distract from the rising tide of global fascism.
As American Jewish socialists, we are disgusted that the United States employs Israel to further its imperial goals, in the form of billions of dollars per year in guaranteed military contracts and diplomatic support for maintaining the occupation of Palestinian land. This is felt not only abroad but domestically, as tactics deployed by both the Israeli military and the US military abroad are in turn used against against Black and Brown Jews and non-Jews in the US.
It is because of its relationship to Western imperialism that AIPAC is alienating Jewish Americans like us. Most American Jews oppose its policy prescriptions, including Israel’s settlement expansion and belligerence against its neighbors. This is particularly true among young people. Polls show that among American Jewish college students, just 42% believe Israel wants peace while only 31% believe Israel is a democracy. AIPAC's policy prescriptions are not in line with Jewish American opinion, and to assume that they are is, itself, antisemitic.
Though antisemitism can sometimes express itself through criticism of Israel, principled critiques and anti-Zionism itself are in no way inherently antisemitic. Though AIPAC and other players work hard to claim total representation of the Jewish people, they do not speak for American Jews and are certainly not representative of the Jewish working class.
As Jews and as socialists, we must condemn the conflation of Jews and Israel as part of our broader struggle against antisemitism and all forms of oppression, including the oppression of Palestinians. It stands in the way of building working class solidarity and the mass socialist movement we need to defeat the forces of capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy, which oppress and exploit us all. #IStandWithIlhan against AIPAC and with working class Muslim and Jewish people around the world.
Jewish Solidarity Caucus
Michael Robin, Jewish Solidarity Caucus / DSA
Isaac Kirk-Davidoff, JSC-NYC, NBK DSA
Aaron Marks, Metro DC DSA
Greg Afinogeno, Metro DC DSA
Naftali Ehrenkranz, JSC/Chicago DSA
Michelle Farber, International Socialist Organization
Ethan Ackelsberg, International Socialist Organization
Geneviève Nevin, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Daniel Derozier, Houston DSA
Craig Spivack, North New Jersey Democratic Socialists of America
Allie Howard, JSC
Robert S. Paul
Richard Frankel, Eugene DSA
Cameron M, I.W.W
Nathan Tabak l
Michael E, International Socialist Organization
Sivan Silver-Swartz, DSA-LA, Jewish Solidarity Caucus
Melisa Crosby, Portland DSA
Sam Forman, DSA-LA
Eric Fink, NC Piedmont DSA & Jewish Solidarity Caucus
Elissa Laitin, Metro DC DSA
Jesse Einhorn, IfNotNow
Paige Kreisman, Portland DSA
Jay Schaffner, Moderator, Portside (for identification only)
Jared Margulies, University of Sheffield
David L. Mandel , DSA, Jewish Voice for Peace, elected member of the California Democratic Party Central Committee
Laura Tanenbaum, DSA NYC/JVP NYC
Caleb De Jong, Queens DSA
Dan Boscov-Ellen, DSA
Ben H, Democratic Socialists of America
Amy Cooper, DSA
Eric Thompson, Rochester DSA
David Makofsky, DSA/JVP
Kathryn Silverstein, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
Kelsey Goldberg, DSA-LA
Daniel Sieradski, Jewish Solidarity Caucus
Katherine Herman, NYC DSA
Melissa F Weiner, College of the Holy Cross
Benjamin Balthaser, DSA-Chicago
Jessica Levine, Jewish Solidarity Caucus & chaverut shabbat collective
Liza, DSA Silicion Valley
Bradford A Barker
Ben Goldsmith, Chicago DSA
Hadas Their, ISO
Alon Stotter, Chicago DSA
Eli Barrows, Chicago DSA
Jacob Kramer, Boston DSA
Martabel Wasserman, DSA Santa Cruz
Ben Udashen, Seattle DSA
Ali Soleimani, UC Davis
Adam Schragin, Austin DSA
Arielle Cohen, Socialist Majority Caucus DSA & Pittsburgh IfNotNow
Senator Julia Salazar, NYC-DSA
Will Luckman, NYC-DSA
William Spieler, Metro DC DSA
Aaron Warner, DSA-LA, Jewish Solidarity Caucus
Justin Cancilla Herschel, DSA Los Angeles
Marissa Brostoff, Central Brooklyn DSA
Max Gelula, Chicago DSA
Matthew G. Wells
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