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AIPAC vs J Street & Darcy Burner

More in our ongoing coverage of J Street‘s efforts to build a better American Zionist movement. Earlier this month, J Street endorsed a Washington Democrat running for Congress named Darcy Burner. Burner is the driving force behind something called the Responsible Plan, a manifesto and strategy for withdrawing from Iraq that this year’s crop of progressive Democratic candidates are supporting. Natural fit, right? Well, according to OpenLeft’s Matt Stoller, AIPAC — the powerful, right-wing Israel lobby group in Washington — is none too pleased:

On Friday, I was on the phone with Darcy Burner, who 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. Like most conservative arguments, it is utter nonsense backed up by a political threat designed to suppress alternative legitimate political views.

J Street is engaging in such controversial anti-Israel stances as praising the Israeli government for negotiating a Gaza ceasefire and using diplomacy to achieve security. AIPAC is silent on the negotiations, focusing on supporting the use of force and sanctions against Iran. Rather than a pro-Israel group designed to back the policies of the Israeli government, they are, to be blunt, acting as warmongers and using the shield of a Jewish ethnicity to push their own far right views. This has provoked a reaction in the form of J Street, which thousands of Jews support, including me (I am an advisor).

AIPAC’s people are backing Darcy’s opponent, Dave Reichert, so if they are calling her up and arguing with her, it shows just how confident they are politically at intimidating the opposition. A J Street endorsement is clearly a very risky and scary thing to take, because you’ll bring down the wrath of a powerful and well-organized group. I know of several candidates who have refused J Street’s endorsements because they don’t want to become targets for AIPAC. Darcy Burner, Steve Cohen, Dennis Schulman, Debbie Halvorson, and Mary Jo Kilroy are all showing incredible bravery in doing so; they are not just running as Democrats, they are running as leaders.

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