Former Israeli prime minister urges Jewish Americans to bypass Aipac in Washington
A former Israeli prime minister has attacked the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), the largest pro-Israel lobbying group in the US, for stifling criticism of the current far-right government in Israel.
Speaking on a Zoom meeting on Wednesday with USA for Israeli Democracy, a group consisting of Jewish Americans and Israeli expats, Ehud Barak said that "Aipac made it a rule to almost broadcast a unison of support for the government. Not in these last nine months, but let’s say in the last five years."
“I’m yearning to hear mature voices from American leadership of the Jewish people in America,” Barak said in a slight against Aipac.
"It's important to talk over the heads of Aipac to talk with members of these 535 members of the legislative branch of America,” he added.
Barak's comments come a decade after the former prime minister and leader of Israel's Labor Party addressed Aipac's annual policy conference while he was minister of defence. They also come in light of the ongoing protest movement in Israel against the current government, which has been deemed the most far-right in Israel's history.
The government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, includes coalition members who are to the right of Netanyahu himself. These coalition members include Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who earlier this year called for the Palestinian town of Huwarra to be "wiped out".
The Israeli government sparked outrage in Israel when it launched plans to overhaul the country's judicial system, cutting down the independence of the Supreme Court and bringing more power into the government's executive branch.
In response, pro-democracy protests were launched in the country and have been ongoing since January.
Barak raised support for these protests, saying during the Zoom call: "You have the right to raise your voice, especially when this government becomes more anti-diaspora than any previous government."
Aipac no longer bipartisan
Aipac, which had received strong bipartisan support for decades among US politicians, has begun to take a partisan turn against the Democratic Party.
During the 2022 midterm election cycle, in which the US House of Representatives and some members of the Senate were up for reelection, Aipac and its super PACs, the United Democracy Project and Aipac PAC, spent tens of millions of dollars opposing specific Democrat candidates.
A "PAC" is a political action committee that pools member donations to disburse funds towards campaigns targeting candidates, causes, or legislation.
The money spent by Aipac's PACs helped unseat incumbent Andy Levin, as well as Marie Newman, one of the most progressive and pro-Palestinian voices in Congress.
The spending spree was condemned by Democrats and progressive Jewish advocates, who noted that the super PACs also endorsed more than 100 of the 147 Republican lawmakers who voted against certifying President Joe Biden's election victory over Donald Trump.
As a result, even moderate and pro-Israel Democrats have lambasted Aipac and the UDP for funding negative campaign ads against their fellow party members.