Was AIPAC’s apology for ad slamming anti-Israel ‘radicals in the Democratic party’ warranted?

AIPAC retracted the ad, which is no longer active, and published an apology.

By Atara Beck, World Israel News

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) issued an apology on Saturday over its Facebook ad that criticized “radicals in the Democratic Party” who have been “pushing their antisemitic policies.”

The ad also appealed to readers to sign a letter to Democrats in Congress, urging them not to abandon Israel.

AIPAC reportedly had issued three other ads with more offensive wording, which have since been removed, including one that said, “It’s critical that we protect our Israeli allies especially as they face threats from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah ISIS and — maybe more sinister — right here in the U.S. Congress.”

Following apparent backlash, AIPAC retracted the ad, which is no longer active, and published an apology, stating: “We offer our unequivocal apology to the overwhelming majority of Democrats in Congress who are rightfully offended by the inaccurate assertion that the poorly worded, inflammatory advertisement implied.

“We deeply appreciate the broad and reliable support that Democrats in Congress have consistently demonstrated for Israel,” the statement continues. “The bipartisan consensus that Democrats and Republicans have established on this issue forms the foundation of the US-Israel relationship.

“The ad, which is no longer running, alluded to a genuine concern of many pro-Israel Democrats about a small but growing group, in and out of Congress, that is deliberately working to erode the bipartisan consensus on this issue and undermine the U.S.-Israel relationship.

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“We regret that the ad’s imprecise wording distorted our message and offended many who are deeply committed to this cause. We look forward to continuing our work with friends in Congress to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and oppose any efforts to undermine its deep, bipartisan support,” the apology concludes.

The pro-Israel lobby shared its apology on Twitter, but its top post on the social media page above the apology is a video from Oct. 25, 2019, promoting AIPAC’s “advance[ment] of the U.S.-Israel relationship” with a caption on top, reading “Policy over partisanship.”

Tolerating anti-Semitism?

AIPAC based its ad on the fact that several progressives in the Democratic party, like Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, support the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. They have also made statements considered by many to be anti-Semitic.

A recent poll conducted by StopAntisemitism.org named Omar as 2019’s “Anti-Semite of the Year.” Tlaib recently retweeted an anti-Semitic blood libel, which she removed for which she never apologized.

Both congresswomen were banned from entering Israel several months ago due to their vocal support for BDS and their history of anti-Israel comments. The Israeli government, pointing to the itinerary that Tlaib and Omar had submitted called “U.S. Congressional Delegation to Palestine,” noted that it made no reference to Israel and included no meetings with Israeli officials, although it included many meetings with Palestinian Authority officials.

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Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg have called for withholding military aid to Israel.

Most recently, at a campaign event in Derry, New Hampshire, Warren committed to boycotting the next AIPAC annual conference – in response to an allegation that the pro-Israel lobby is “forming alliances” with “Islamophobes, anti-Semites and white nationalists.”

‘Capitulation to extreme political correctness’

“In my view, the ads focusing on members of Congress who have embraced anti-Semi tic tropes and policies were perfectly responsible and appropriate,” Marc Zell, chair of Republicans Overseas Israel, told World Israel News (WIN).

“Considering that these people – Omar, Tlaib, and maybe one or two others – who are identifying with the Iranians, with ISIS, with Hamas and Hezbollah – this kind of behavior on their part was unacceptable and the ads were completely appropriate.”

Zell said that if he were making the decision for AIPAC, he would not have retracted. The apology “sends a confusing message to the American Jewish public and the public-at-large,” he said, calling it “capitulation to extreme political correctness.”

“AIPAC made a serious mistake by apologizing for an accurate concern – that the radical, Jew-hating Israelophobes in the Democratic [party] are infecting and influencing the rest of the Democratic Party to become more hostile to Israel,” Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, told WIN.

“Note that 108 Democrats condemned Trump/Pompeo for saying it’s legal for Jews to live in Judea-Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. And it’s shocking to see the leading Democratic candidates for president have Israel-hating surrogates like Congresswomen Omar, Tlaib and AOC as well as Muslim Israel-basher Linda Sarsour – as well as hiring Israel bashers as staffers,” he said.

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‘A gratuitous slap’

Heather Stone, chair of Democrats Abroad-Israel, which describes itself as “home to Democrats residing in Israel and the Palestinian Territories,” told WIN, “AIPAC should not have run those ads.”

“Bipartisanship is crucial to American support for Israel,” she said. “American Jews mostly vote Democrat – we vote our values. AIPAC risks its core constituency when it attacks Democrats, especially since American Jews do not want Israel to be a divisive issue in national politics.”

Ricki Lieberman, an American-Israeli political activist who identifies as a liberal Zionist, told WIN that she “thought it was very foolish of AIPAC” to publish the ad in the first place. “They really need to strengthen their bipartisan approach to the American Jewish community.”

She called the ad a “gratuitous slap,” adding that it “didn’t achieve anything. They really need to work on their bipartisan credentials.”