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Incoming White House press secretary criticised over past Israel remarks

Former US envoy to Israel criticises Karine Jean-Pierre over 2019 op-ed calling AIPAC 'severely racist' and 'Islamophobic'
Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks at a press briefing in the White House on 5 May 2022 (AFP)

Incoming White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has been criticised by the former US ambassador to Israel due to her past remarks about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

David Friedman blasted Jean-Pierre - the first Black and openly LGBTQ person to be the White House's top spokesperson - over her 2019 op-ed in Newsweek where she called AIPAC "severely racist".

Jean-Pierre's appointment has been lauded by most Democrats with US President Joe Biden saying the 47-year-old would bring "experience, talent and integrity for this difficult job".

But in remarks posted on Twitter, Friedman said "the mainstream media forgot to mention that she hates Israel".

In her 2019 op-ed, Jean-Pierre accused AIPAC of being "severely racist" saying the pro-Israel lobbying group has "become known for trafficking in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric while lifting up Islamophobic voices and attitudes".

"You cannot call yourself a progressive while continuing to associate yourself with an organisation like AIPAC that has often been the antithesis of what it means to be progressive," she added, while also taking shots at former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Jean-Pierre wrote the op-ed while serving as a senior advisor and national spokesperson to MoveOn, a Democratic advocacy group.

AIPAC has always presented itself as a bipartisan organisation aiming to maintain support for Israel from across the US political spectrum.

Republican and Democratic presidents have praised the group, and some of the measures it has pushed have gained unanimous bipartisan support in Congress.

But in recent years, a growing number of lawmakers in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party have become critical of AIPAC.

During the 2020 presidential election cycle, the majority of Democratic candidates opted to skip AIPAC’s annual conference, with candidate Senator Bernie Sanders accusing the group of providing a platform for “bigotry”.

AIPAC has also run a number of attack advertisements against Democratic lawmakers, including Ilhan Omar and Betty McCollum, who have spoken critically of Israel.

In December, the lobbying group launched a political action committee - which allows it to donate to political campaigns in the US - and delivered $6m to 326 candidates running across the country in the upcoming midterm elections.

AIPAC also released a list of 120 congressional endorsements, with more than a quarter of them being Republicans who voted against certifying Biden as president.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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