Matt Stoller at Open Left reports that Seattle area Congressional candidate Darcy Burner told him that she received a phone call from an AIPAC representative warning her against accepting an endorsement from J Street, the dovish American-Jewish peace lobby:
Darcy Burner…told me that she got a call from people affiliated with the conservative Jewish political group AIPAC. They told her to distance herself from the new pro-peace group J Street, which they said is full of radical leftists who believe in capitulation to the forces of the Arab world who would overrun and destroy Israel.
I have calls in to Burner’s staff and have e-mailed Stoller to ask for further clarification about precisely who spoke to Burner. I can’t imagine that an AIPAC staff member would be foolish enough to state in such a bald-faced way what they probably believe, but would not want to make publicly known.
In fact, I have spoken to someone in a position to know a bit more about what actually happened. This person likely has his own partisan agenda and so his perspective needs to be vetted as well. But the story he tells is that a local Burner volunteer who is also an AIPAC volunteer warned her of the dangers of affiliating with J Street. This supporter was supposedly doing her a favor in telling her how dangerous it could be to her campaign to get into bed with such a group.
My take on this, before getting more explicit background information from the principles, is that an overzealous AIPAC supporter took it upon himself to get in Burner’s face on this matter. AIPAC wants to get as far away from this story as it can and doesn’t even concede explicitly that the person who warned Burner was affiliated with it.
Whatever did happen, I think this indicates that J Street is getting under the skin of precisely the people whose skin it should be getting under. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear more stories like this on the campaign trail. We need to be vigilant to head off such threatening behavior if it does rear its ugly head.
There is one misconception in Stoller’s report:
AIPAC’s people are backing Darcy’s opponent, Dave Reichert…
AIPAC doesn’t officially endorse candidates. In fact, one of the things you’ll hear them screaming about is that they are in fact non-partisan. It’s a crock really, but in combatting AIPAC I think you have to at least publicly describe the way they operate as they themselves do. So AIPAC wields its political power through independent pro-Israel PACs which dole out money to candidates. The PACs are run by AIPAC donors and so are an indirect extension of AIPACs political reach.
It’s likely that pro-Israel PACs will be funding Reichert’s campaign, though we’ll have to follow the money trail to see to what extent this is true. By the way, if pro-Israel PACs DO support Reichert, they’ll be cozying up to one of the Hagee-style evangelical extremists who, as a candidate, proudly and publicly states that America is a Christian nation.
Also, I’ll be very curious to see how much, if anything, the pro-Israel PACs give to Burner. If they shut her out, it will speak volumes about AIPAC’s real feelings about J Street. If they don’t, then they’ll be smarter and more sophisticated than I’ve hitherto given them credit. In fact, if any reader out there either keeps track of such information or knows groups that might, please let me know.