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Evan Ross: AIPAC isn’t partisan. Neither is hate.

There are some misconceptions about AIPAC.

I’m a Democrat. I’ve been a Democrat since I registered to vote at the age of 18. I serve on the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee in an elected position.

I’m a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). I’m proud to be a Democrat and proud to be a member of AIPAC.

There are some misconceptions about AIPAC that I believe — in light of recent events — are important to address.

First, AIPAC has never contributed one cent to a political candidate, PAC, or political party. Not one cent. Any statement to the contrary is patently false.

Second, AIPAC is a model of what grassroots activism and organization is all about. AIPAC does not hire D.C. lobbyists. AIPAC’s lobbyists are its members — people like me that choose to contribute money to a cause we feel connected to and deem important in deciding who to support in elections.

We aren’t paid to lobby members of Congress. We are citizen activists, just like those who advocate for other worthwhile causes. 

Third, and in my opinion, most importantly, AIPAC is not a conservative or liberal organization. Nor is AIPAC an arm of the Israeli government.

AIPAC has existed for decades with a mission of maintaining and strengthening the US-Israel relationship. AIPAC doesn’t fall anywhere on the political spectrum because supporting Israel isn’t a partisan issue. 

AIPAC has existed through liberal, moderate, and conservative governments in Israel. But no matter who has held power in the Israeli government, AIPAC has been about supporting the US-Israel relationship.

AIPAC is seemingly labeled as matching the political views of the party in power in Israel at any given time. But the idea that AIPAC is conservative because the Israeli government is conservative is simply a misconception.

AIPAC’s board and membership are made up of people from both major parties as well as people of no party affiliation. It is made up of Jews and non-Jews.

If you attend the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. next month, you’ll hear warm receptions for Florida Democrats like Congressmen Ted Deutch and Alcee Hastings.

You’ll hear equally warm greetings for Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and recently retired Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. That is because like the US-Israel relationship, AIPAC isn’t partisan.

In recent days, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar made headlines for anti-Semitic statements attacking Israel and AIPAC. In her attack, Omar perpetuated an anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews buying support from members of Congress.

As a Jew, I was offended.

Democratic leadership in the House acted quickly in condemning her remarks and demanding an apology.

Unfortunately, and to me, even more troubling than the comment was a willingness from some who call themselves “progressive” to immediately rally behind Congresswoman Omar in the wake of her anti-Semitism, and subsequent forced, an in my option, insincere apology.

At a time when our country is led by a President who refers to white supremacists as “fine people” and demonizes immigrants as criminals, so-called progressives are quick to criticize the President and label him a bigot. I share their views.

I find our President’s behavior, statements, and lack of character to be repulsive. But moral courage isn’t the willingness to criticize your political adversaries. Moral courage is the willingness to criticize your own.

When Republicans refuse to condemn President Donald Trump’s incitement of bigotry, we call them out for it. If we can’t do the same when a Democratic Congresswoman actively promotes anti-Semitism, we are no better than they are.

To be clear, not only Democratic leadership, but also countless Democratic members of Congress including Deutch, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Hastings, and Donna Shalala were vocal in condemning these remarks. 

But when those who are sensitive to dog whistles of racism and are quick to call out the bigotry from Republicans are hashtagging their solidarity with an anti-Semite, they are no better than those they criticize. We must call out and condemn hate no matter who it comes from or who it targets — no exceptions.

Those who choose to selectively condemn hate don’t stand for principle, they stand for political convenience.

And that is the most hollow of things to stand for. 

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Peter Harding

    February 13, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. AIPAC certainly has a lot of influence in Washington whether they pay politicians or not, at least they do not make public payments. Mr. Ross is using those very same dog whistles of hate and bigotry when he says you are an anti-Semite because you disagree with a Jewish lobbying PAC or just because you are a Muslim. If AIPAC is so diverse are any of the non-Jew members Muslim? I highly doubt it. While Mr. Ross feels strongly about his Jewish roots every one of us also has roots but we all are not so quick to toot our horns about them.

    • Evan Ross

      February 13, 2019 at 1:33 pm

      Mr. Harding, in no way, shape, or form is criticizing AIPAC automatically antisemitic. What I wrote about AIPAC is to clarify the facts after Congresswoman Omar so blatantly misstated them. She said AIPAC contributes to campaigns. That’s not true. She also tried to paint a picture of AIPAC as some paid lobbying power. AIPAC doesn’t hire DC lobbyists. AIPAC members are the ones who lobby their elected officials.

      The broader point here is that hate isn’t acceptable no matter who it comes from or who it targets. Just a few weeks ago, I worked to expose the Islamaphobic hatred of a local elected official who suggested that Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is a terrorist. I didn’t do it because I like or support her. I don’t. I’ll probably contribute to her opponent next year. I did it because when people in power promote hatred, we all have an obligation to reject it.

      As for my Jewish heritage, I am proud of it and won’t ever be hesitant to say so.

      • Fredrick

        February 15, 2019 at 5:01 pm

        According to this article, “AIPAC spends $3.5 million a year to lobby federal lawmakers.” That’s the exact language used in the article. The article also says that AIPAC has 10 registered lobbyists.

        https://www.wsj.com/articles/pro-israel-group-lobbies-for-u-s-aid-funds-congressional-trips-11550174834

        AIPAC’s own website calls itself a lobbying group, and according to the Wall Street Journal, AIPAC brings in over $100 million per year. Apparently, quite a bit of this money is devoted towards paying for expensive trips for congressmen & women to visit Israel. These trips cost an average of $10,000 per attendee, making them the equivalent of a $10,000 bribe. Since 2000, over 1400 lawmakers and their staff have participated in these AIPAC-funded vacations, according to the Wall Street Journal.

        Now, there is nothing illegal about any of this. Lobbying is legal in the USA, for better or worse, mostly the latter. But whatever your opinion on lobbying is, you can’t deny that AIPAC clearly is a lobby, and a very powerful one. You can’t honestly say that “AIPAC doesn’t hire DC lobbyists” when they have 10 lobbyists registered, and they spend $3.5 million on lobbying per year.

  2. Ed

    February 13, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    I see that the tweet posted by FloPol is gone. So here is what I wrote:
    @PeterSchorschFL, perhaps u live in an alternate universe, r naive or, just straight up lying

    @AIPAC DOES lobby in DC, they DO spend a lot $ there. If u don’t believe me, here’s a link from their own website as to what their goals r in Congress
    https://t.co/Qyz4Y600PM

    2/If that’s not enough, here:

    https://t.co/cIimEivm6c

    https://t.co/9U6xe428ZW

    https://t.co/UfCKeTtFqP

    https://t.co/3nWBMfIpHn

    What @Ilhan did, what she pointed out was NOT antisemitic, it wasn’t an attack either. It doesn’t matter how u & others spin it. It wasn’t. https://t.co/xhvvp3gi5H

    3/Let me share something else w/u. I had a chance of serving on board a US Destroyer, yrs ago, off the coast of Israel. Our mission then was protection for EU & Israel

    Beautiful land, great food

    But let me tell u how it went for our 1 of our Sailors, a Palestinian American…

    4/This sailor couldn’t go out in town w/1-2 ppl only as directed for the whole crew.
    No, she had to go with several more b/c SHE WOULD GET HARRASED by locals, especially in restaurants

    Her facial features made her a target. This is nothing new 👇🏽

    https://t.co/7R94lOQnHz

    5/Mrs Omar told the truth. She said it to the minority leader b/c IT IS TRUE.

    Nothing antisemitic about it.

    Ou don’t have to bs anyone.

    https://t.co/VOOa4MxCkn

    Her remarks were not antisemitic as you stated. But now, b/c she poked at that bear, she got reprimanded, became a target of @GOP and God knows for how long more.

  3. Warren

    February 13, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    I’m confused. Did Peter write this?

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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