Progressive US Jewish groups slam AIPAC over ads targeting Ilhan Omar

Letter signed by dozens of organizations claims pro-Israel lobby risks ‘inciting bigotry, harassment and violence’ against Minnesota Democrat and other ‘Squad’ members

Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota at the Capitol in Washington, March 11, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota at the Capitol in Washington, March 11, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

JTA — Dozens of progressive Jewish leaders have signed a letter condemning the Israel lobby AIPAC for social media ads targeting Representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the group of progressive Democratic Congress members known as “the Squad.”

J Street, a liberal Israel lobby and rival of AIPAC, spearheaded the letter.

In its ad about Omar, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said the Minnesota Democrat sees “no difference between America and the Taliban, between Israel and Hamas, between democracies and terrorists.” The ad references a tweet by Omar in June that mentioned “unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”

Omar later clarified that she was discussing cases before the International Criminal Court and wrote that she “was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”

The ad about Ocasio-Cortez said that by opposing an arms sale to Israel, the New York Democrat was “reward[ing] Hamas,” the Islamists who govern Gaza and are defined as a terror group by the US and others. Hamas and Israel recently fought an 11-day conflict, the fourth since 2008.

“AIPAC seems to be declaring war on progressive Democrats with incendiary ads falsely accusing Congresswomen of color of supporting terror & hate,” J Street tweeted about the ads. “This isn’t ‘bipartisan.’ It doesn’t help Israel. It doesn’t speak for American Jews.”

The letter spearheaded by J Street regarding the ads said they “are dangerously misleading and risk inciting bigotry, harassment and violence against these lawmakers.” The letter, which was first reported by Haaretz, called on AIPAC to discontinue the ads.

Among its 45 signatories were progressive organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the New Israel Fund, IfNotNow, Americans for Peace Now, B’Tselem USA, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Indivisible and MoveOn. Other signatories are Rabbi Sharon Brous of the Los Angeles congregation IKAR; Peter Beinart, the Jewish writer who supports establishing one state for Israelis and Palestinians; and Rabbi Alissa Wise, a former leader of Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Zionist group.

Omar’s spokesperson, Jeremy Slevin, tweeted that the AIPAC ad about Omar contains accusations that are “virtually identical to the language used in death threats she gets” and said the ads are “putting [her] life at risk.”

Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, another member of the Squad and an outspoken opponent of Israel, tweeted in response, “I am so sick of this shit.”

AIPAC then responded by tweeting, “So are we, Congresswoman. Inciting hate by demonizing Israel and spreading vicious, dangerous lies about our democratic ally Israel doesn’t advance the prospects for peace.”

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