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      Shock Poll Shows Independent Nebraska Union Leader Beating Republican Senator / TheIntercept · Monday, 4 December - 22:28 · 4 minutes

    A Nebraska labor leader running for the U.S. Senate as an independent could best the Republican incumbent, according to a recent poll of voters in the Cornhusker State.

    Dan Osborn, a 48-year-old military veteran who helped lead the 2021 strikes against food giant Kellogg’s, launched a challenge against 72-year-old Nebraska Republican Sen. Deb Fischer in October. A poll commissioned by Change Research, a liberal research firm, shows Osborn leading Fischer by a margin of 2 points. Nebraska has voted for a Republican president every year since 1964, and the survey, conducted in November, shows that respondents favor former President Donald Trump over President Joe Biden by a margin of 16.

    Osborn’s slight edge in the poll — 40 percent to Fischer’s 38 percent — comes despite 59 percent of respondents saying they had never heard of him before. Fischer, meanwhile, has represented Nebraska in the Senate for a decade and sits on the influential Armed Services and Agricultural committees. In response to a question that described both Osborn’s and Fischer’s backgrounds, 50 percent of respondents said they’d vote for Osborn, while only 32 percent said they’d vote for Fischer.

    “Nebraskans have had it with Washington. We’ve been starving for honest government that isn’t bought and paid for,” Osborn told The Intercept. “This poll shows that Nebraska’s independent streak is alive and well.”

    Democrats have so far not fielded a candidate in the Senate race. In October, shortly after Osborn’s announcement, Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb said state Democrats were considering supporting his bid. Kleeb told The Intercept that the state party would make an endorsement decision in February and that Osborn could win if “the money is there.”

    He could appeal to populists and progressives, Kleeb said, with many Nebraska voters tired of one-party control in the state. “Makes politicians lazy when you have only one party in control and more beholden to corporate interests since they don’t have to answer to voters,” she wrote.

    Osborn’s candidacy comes as Democrats face a challenging battle next year to retain their razor-thin Senate majority. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has announced that he will not run for reelection, all but guaranteeing a Republican pickup in West Virginia, while Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, are vying to defend seats in states Trump won in 2020.

    Democrats are also defending seats in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Arizona (where Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego seeks to beat Kyrsten Sinema, who recently changed her party affiliation from Democrat to independent, and Republican Kari Lake in a three-way race), while Republicans are playing in defense in Florida and Texas, where they have had strong showings in recent statewide elections.

    Osborn has focused his campaign on labor and economic issues and the cross-partisan coalition he aims to build. “I will bring together workers, farmers, ranchers, and small business owners across Nebraska around bread-and-butter issues that appeal across party lines,” he pledged when he announced his candidacy.

    His platform spans from raising pay for servicemembers and taking on agricultural consolidation to legalizing medical marijuana and pledging to “never supporting handing huge pharmaceuticals a blank check.” The independent also calls to reform railroad safety, with measures like requiring two-person crews and increasing fines for violating rail safety laws — mirroring some of the reforms that were floated after the disastrous Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this year.

    Osborn’s platform appears to be popular among would-be voters in Nebraska. Pollsters asked a series of questions regarding his policy platform, after which 53 percent of respondents said they’d vote for him, compared to 30 percent for Fisher. Thirty-three percent of poll respondents were Democrats, 14 percent independent, and 53 percent Republican; 53 percent said they voted for Trump in 2020, while 35 percent said they voted for Biden.

    “This poll shows that Nebraska’s independent streak is alive and well.”

    Osborn has served as the president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 50G and garnered national attention two years ago when he helped lead workers in a strike against Kellogg’s that lasted more than two months and also included factories in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.

    “It’s exciting to be a part of something bigger than yourself, knowing that we’re not alone,” the 18-year Kellogg’s veteran said at the time.

    In his campaign launch video, Osborn spoke about the strike. “Two years ago, I successfully led the strike to preserve 500 middle-class jobs here in Nebraska,” he said. “It didn’t matter what party you belonged to. We came together to find solutions and move forward.”

    During the strike, the company had threatened to replace all 1,400 workers. At its conclusion, workers won an agreement that included a $1.10 per hour raise, a new cost-of-living pay increase, and a pathway for lower-tier workers to “graduate” into a higher tier of pay.

    As an independent, Osborn has no party structure to tap into for campaigning or fundraising. As of September 30, Fischer had $2.6 million on hand; Osborn announced raising $100,000 in two months as of November 16.

    The post Shock Poll Shows Independent Nebraska Union Leader Beating Republican Senator appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Correcting the Record on My Book / TheIntercept · Monday, 4 December - 19:09 · 4 minutes

    This article was originally published as a newsletter from Ryan Grim. Sign up to get the next one in your inbox.

    Pushing a book into the world is a disorienting experience. It’s at once exhilarating — years of reporting, writing, and revising finally turned into something real — and terrifying. Will it get shredded by haughty reviewers? Or worse, ignored?

    The place of a book in our ecosystem of knowledge production and distribution remains unique. No other medium can have so much intellectual and cultural influence with so few people actually consuming it. Nobody buys books, and ever fewer people read them, yet they still can shape the way we understand the world. Most people who have their views of the world shaped by a book do so by a form of media osmosis, listening to podcasts, reading reviews, excerpts, or news reports about the book. As an author, you hope that your themes and your message are clear enough that they land with some semblance of their original meaning by the time they’re refracted through so many mediated channels.

    And then, the Murdoch empire steps in.

    This weekend, the Daily Mail published a story based on an early copy of my book — called “ The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution ” — which they somehow acquired. Reading it is a surreal experience, as it misquotes the book, attributes things to me that are said by people I interviewed, and shears it of all context in the pursuit of a wildly sensational and flat-out wrong read. Next, the also-Murdoch-owned New York Post and Fox News followed suit, relying heavily on the faulty Daily Mail article, and then so did the conservative Washington Examiner. Last night, a salacious story on the book was even leading the Post’s website.

    Initially, I decided that ignoring it would be smarter than drawing more attention to it. There’s an argument that all press is good press, but I don’t buy that because A) those folks aren’t going to bother to buy or read the book anyway, so the publicity isn’t worth anything and B) the more fake noise injected into the public consciousness there is about the book, the less chance there is that the public will take away a reasonably accurate message. But ignoring it isn’t really an option once a lie starts to pick up major steam, and this one now has. So I figured it was worth sending an email not just to correct the record — those outlets don’t care — but to talk about the way the right-wing media ecosystem is so good at blotting out reality.

    In one example, the Daily Mail writes, and the other outlets generally repeat, “Grim claims that AOC’s signature achievement, the Green New Deal, was a ‘total s***show disaster.’” Except I do not at all claim that. In fact, in the book, Sunrise Movement’s political director, Evan Weber, describes one part of the Green New Deal rollout — an FAQ that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s office put together — using those words. I also describe the Green New Deal, despite the flaws of the rollout, as an achievement that reshaped the climate debate on a global scale, but that doesn’t get mentioned.

    The articles, and even some headlines, say I call AOC “arrogant,” which I simply don’t. “Grim explains that her arrogance led her to become ‘closed off’ to meeting donors,” the Daily Mail tells its readers. In fact, I celebrate the fact that she was closed off to major donors because she was able to rely on small donors, not because of some arrogance, but because she had confidence that her politics resonated with a broad grassroots base that would continue to power her and the other members of the Squad. Shutting out major donors is a good thing, if that needs to be explained.

    The book is not without criticism of AOC and other members of the Squad, but man did they miss the mark. And yes, I know that “miss the mark” implies they actually tried to get it right and simply made a mistake, which we all know isn’t the case.

    What the Murdoch world might not be able to understand is that the book’s criticism isn’t aimed at cynically tearing down a movement that represents one of the few rays of hope we have left in this dark world, but is instead aimed at assessing what lessons can be learned in hindsight from the people who were directly involved in the decision making.

    I write in the book about the 24/7 right-wing media operation that was aimed at making AOC and the Squad toxic, one that gave her higher name recognition among Republicans her first year in office than Democrats, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see my book used as grist for that mill. But it’s still jarring. So I guess all I can say is that you should ignore the right-wing coverage of the book, and if you do actually read it, one way to counter the disinformation is to review it online somewhere. And if you see anybody in your circle getting fooled by it, tell them to read the book itself, or listen to a conversation about it on my podcast, or read an excerpt , or send them this newsletter, or really, do anything but get your news from the ghost of Rupert Murdoch. The book officially launches tomorrow, but you can preorder it now .

    The post Correcting the Record on My Book appeared first on The Intercept .

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      On Top of Everything Else, Henry Kissinger Prevented Peace in the Mideast / TheIntercept · Thursday, 30 November - 19:52 · 5 minutes

    JERUSALEM - SEPTEMBER 1:  (NO U.S. TABLOID SALES)  U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the King David Hotel September 1, 1975 in Jerusalem, Israel.  (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images) U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Sept. 1, 1975.
    Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

    The encomiums have flowed voluminously for Henry Kissinger, and there have been some condemnations too. But even in the latter, little attention has been paid to his efforts to prevent peace from breaking out in the Mideast — efforts which helped cause the 1973 Arab–Israeli War and set in stone the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This underappreciated aspect of Kissinger’s career adds tens of thousands of lives to his body count, which is in the millions.

    Kissinger, who died at 100 on Wednesday, served in the U.S. government from 1969 to 1977, during the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations. He began as Nixon’s national security adviser. Then, in Nixon’s second term, he was appointed secretary of state, a position he held on to after Ford became president following Nixon’s resignation.

    In June 1967, two years before the start of Nixon’s presidency, Israel had achieved a gigantic military victory in the Six-Day War. Israel attacked Egypt and occupied Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula, and, following modest responses from Jordan and Syria, also took over the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

    In the following years, the ultimate fallout from the war — in particular, what, if any, of the new territory Israel would be able to keep — was still fluid. In 1968, the Soviets made what appeared to be quite sincere efforts to collaborate with the U.S. on a peace plan for the region.

    The Soviets proposed a solution based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 . Israel would withdraw from the territory it had conquered. However, there would not be a Palestinian state. Moreover, Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Arab–Israeli War would not return to Israel; rather, they would be resettled with compensation in Arab countries. Most importantly, the Soviets would pressure their Arab client states to accept this.

    This was significant because at this point, many Arab countries, Egypt in particular, were allies of the Soviets and relied on them for arms supplies. Hosni Mubarak, who later became Egypt’s president and/or dictator for 30 years, started out as a pilot in the Egyptian air force and received training in Moscow and Kyrgyzstan, which was a Soviet republic at the time.

    When Nixon took office in 1969, William Rogers, his first secretary of state, took the Soviet stance seriously. Rogers negotiated with Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the U.S., for most of the year. This produced what American diplomat David A. Korn, then assigned to Tel Aviv, Israel, described as “a comprehensive and detailed U.S. proposal for a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

    One person prevented this from going forward: Henry Kissinger. Backstage in the Nixon administration, he worked assiduously to prevent peace.

    This was not due to any great personal affection felt by Kissinger for Israel and its expansionist goals. Kissinger, while Jewish, was happy to work for Nixon, perhaps the most volubly antisemitic president in U.S. history, which is saying something. (“What the Christ is the matter with the Jews?” Nixon once wondered in an Oval Office soliloquy . He then answered his own question, explaining, “I suppose it’s because most of them are psychiatrists.”)

    Rather, Kissinger perceived all the world through the prism of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Any settlement at the time would require the involvement of the Soviets, and hence was unacceptable to him. At a period when it appeared in public that an agreement with the Soviets might be imminent, Kissinger told an underling — as he himself recorded in his memoir “White House Years” — that was not going to happen because “we did not want a quick success [emphasis in the original].” In the same book, Kissinger explained that the Soviet Union later agreed to principles even more favorable to Israel, so favorable that Kissinger himself didn’t understand why the Soviets acceded to them. Nevertheless, Kissinger wrote, “the principles quickly found their way into the overcrowded limbo of aborted Middle East schemes — as I had intended.”

    The results were catastrophic for all involved. Anwar el-Sadat, then Egypt’s president, announced in 1971 that the country would make peace with Israel based on conditions in line with Rogers’s efforts. However, he also explicitly said that a refusal of Israel to return Sinai would mean war.

    On October 6, 1973, it did. Egypt and Syria attacked occupied Sinai and the Golan Heights, respectively. Their initial success stunned Israeli officials. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan was convinced Israel might be conquered. Moreover, Israel was running out of war matériel and desperately needed to be resupplied by the U.S.

    Kissinger made sure America dragged its feet, both because he wanted Israel to understand who was ultimately in charge and because he did not want to anger the oil-rich Arab states. His strategy, as another top diplomat put it , was to “let Israel come out ahead, but bleed.”

    You can read this in Kissinger’s own words in the records of internal deliberations now available on the State Department website. On October 9, Kissinger told his fellow high-level officials , “My assessment is a costly victory [for Israel] without a disaster is the best.”

    The U.S. then did send huge amounts of weaponry to Israel, which it used to beat back Egypt and Syria. Kissinger looked upon the outcome with satisfaction. In another high-level meeting, on October 19, he celebrated that “everyone knows in the Middle East that if they want a peace they have to go through us. Three times they tried through the Soviet Union, and three times they failed.”

    The cost to humans was quite high. Over 2,500 members of the Israeli military died. 10,000-20,000 were killed on the Arab side. This is in line with Kissinger’s belief — recorded in “The Final Days” by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein — that soldiers are “dumb, stupid animals to be used” as pawns in foreign policy.

    After the war, Kissinger returned to his strategy of obstructing any peaceful settlement. In another of his memoirs, he recorded that in 1974, just before Nixon resigned, Nixon told him to “cut off all military deliveries to Israel until it agreed to a comprehensive peace.” Kissinger quietly stalled for time, Nixon left office, and it didn’t come up with Ford as president.

    There’s much more to this ugly story, all available at your local library. It can’t be said to be the worst thing that Kissinger ever did — but as you remember the extraordinary bill of indictment for him, make sure to leave a little room for it.

    The post On Top of Everything Else, Henry Kissinger Prevented Peace in the Mideast appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Some Politicians Calling for a “Ceasefire” Are Not Actually Calling for a Ceasefire / TheIntercept · Wednesday, 29 November - 20:19 · 8 minutes

    The list of members of Congress calling for a ceasefire in Gaza has grown to about four dozen, with several members joining the chorus over the last week, amid a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas and sustained protests across the United States. Yet as the word “ceasefire” gains currency, a closer look at some lawmakers’ statements raises questions about whether they are truly pushing for an end to the violence.

    Some members of Congress are coupling their calls for a ceasefire with conditions like the removal of Hamas, which is ostensibly Israel’s justification for its brutal campaign against Gaza, while others are using the word in vague statements that leave room for interpretation.

    “Calls from members of Congress that demand regime change before there is an end to Israel’s bombardment are calls to extend and prolong a situation in which Israel is killing Palestinian children every single hour,” said Beth Miller of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that has co-led massive pro-peace demonstrations across the country.

    The push for a ceasefire began about a week into Israel’s assault on Gaza, when Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., led a 13-member resolution for an “immediate deescalation and cease-fire in Israel and occupied Palestine.” (The resolution now has 18 co-sponsors.) As people across the country have inundated their representatives with demands for a ceasefire — Yasmine Taeb, political director for Muslim-led justice group MPower Change Action Fund, said an effort by her organization and the Adalah Justice Project has generated more than 429,000 letters to the House — the number has slowly climbed to 49 across both chambers of Congress.

    A poll from left-leaning outfit Data for Progress in October found 66 percent of voters in favor of a ceasefire. A Reuters poll conducted nearly a month later found 68 percent of respondents in favor of one, while a YouGov poll released days later found only 20 percent of respondents opposed to a ceasefire.

    On Monday, four days into the ongoing humanitarian pause, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told Israel Defense Force soldiers that when Israel re-ups the fighting, its “strength will be greater, and it will take place throughout the entire Strip. … We will use the same amount of power and more.”

    The pledge comes while the World Health Organization warns that more Palestinians may die from disease than the 15,000 who have already been killed by Israel’s bombardment campaign since October 7 — and that’s if conditions remain as they are, not if they worsen.

    There’s no way the conflict ends other than a permanent ceasefire, said Yousef Munayyer, a political analyst and senior fellow at the Arab Center Washington DC. “How much do you actually need to see before you decide to see enough?”

    As most of Congress remains mum on stopping the violence — with no Republican calling for a definitive end to the hostilities and beginning of a peace process — some members are invoking the word “ceasefire” but are hedging.

    On November 19, as the Gaza death toll eclipsed 11,000, California Democratic Reps. Judy Chu and Jared Huffman both called for a ceasefire. Like other members of Congress, they conditioned their demand on Hamas’s release of every hostage, but they placed a new demand as well: that Hamas be removed from power.

    Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., who has faced ongoing protests from Jewish peace groups and their allies, took to Twitter on Monday to thank Joe Biden for securing a pause in the fighting. He went on to invoke a “mutual and unconditional ceasefire” dating back to May 2021 (the last war between Israel and Hamas) that he said Hamas violated on October 7. Unless a call for a ceasefire includes the removal of Hamas, Goldman wrote, the U.S. “must continue to support Israel’s just and legitimate defense of its borders and its people.”

    “What it amounts to is a way for members to kind of hide in a safe spot or safer spot to not really take a position.”

    This requirement mirrors Israel’s justification for the violence: to weed out Hamas. Even for those who do see that as a necessary pathway to peace, Munayyer argued, it couldn’t be accomplished without a permanent ceasefire. “How does that happen? You know, it doesn’t happen unless you have a ceasefire,” he said. “What it amounts to is a way for members to kind of hide in a safe spot or safer spot to not really take a position.”

    For Munayyer, the reluctance and ambivalence around the word “ceasefire” in Congress is about politics, not policy. “We’re talking about thousands of people dying and you’re wordsmithing ‘ceasefire,’” he said. “The interests that are shaping those decisions are wildly different than the stakes that actually matter here. And it’s quite stunning.”

    KHAN YUNIS, GAZA -  NOVEMBER 29:  Children collect any available wood for their needs due to the absence of gas as Palestinians continue to live under difficult conditions amid humanitarian pause in Khan Yunis, Gaza on November 29, 2023. (Photo by Abed Zagout/Anadolu via Getty Images) Children collect any available wood to burn in the absence of gas as Palestinians continue to live under difficult conditions amid humanitarian pause in Khan Yunis, Gaza on November 29, 2023.
    Photo: Abed Zagout/Anadolu via Getty Images

    Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-N.M., for her part, expressed support for the Biden administration’s work toward the temporary ceasefire and added that she supports “such a ceasefire and additional actions to release all the hostages, address the humanitarian crisis, and protect all civilians from violence — Palestinian and Israeli,” but did not call for a total end to the war.

    Other members of Congress, meanwhile, have used the word “ceasefire” in ambiguous statements that don’t make it readily clear where they fall.

    Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, tweeted that he urges “a more comprehensive ceasefire to stop the killing of innocent Palestinians and free all hostages.” He added that “we need Hamas accountability without the continued devastation and siege of Gaza, with clear red lines for Netanyahu.” His office did not respond to The Intercept’s request for clarification.

    Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-Ill., reportedly called for a ceasefire on November 12 during a radio talk show. “There needs to be a pause, if not a cessation, to let aid and medical supplies, food, get to these individuals who are maimed, shot up, bombed up,” Davis said. “There needs to be at least enough stoppage to let these kinds of items get through. I join with anybody who says let’s do that. Let’s make it happen.” He has not released any subsequent statements about the issue, and his office did not respond to a request for more information on his position.

    Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., urged a “pause in hostilities” but refused to say what exactly that means. “I am not interested in playing semantics, call it what you want: a ceasefire or a humanitarian pause,” he said in a statement. “The fact of the matter is the violence must stop.” His office did not respond to a request for clarification on the length of time he wants the violence to stop.

    Some members, meanwhile, like Reps. Troy Carter , D-La., and Sylvia Garcia , D-Texas, “pray” for a permanent ceasefire. Carter’s office did not respond to an inquiry about whether his prayers amount to a firm policy position, while Garcia’s office said that she has nothing else to add.

    “One of the reasons folks are now using the word more is because they’ve been seeing all the polls from the majority of the American people, the majority of Democrats,” said a staffer for a progressive member of Congress, who requested anonymity to speak freely about the subject of ongoing congressional deliberations. Some members of Congress are only using the word “ceasefire” at all because they can equivocate the temporary pause with a full ceasefire while giving credit to Biden, the staffer said. “They have clearance to say, ‘I agree that we should extend this ceasefire,’ but it’s really like not taking any courageous stance at all.”

    While using the word “ceasefire” itself is not necessarily indicative of a lawmaker’s position, the same is true of a politician’s failure to use the word too. For instance, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., issued a statement on November 17, before the temporary pause was announced, declaring that both Hamas and Israel must stop the violence. “The US government must use all of its influence and leverage to bring a lasting peace to a bleeding, traumatized Middle East,” he said. He did not use the word “ceasefire” but seemed to call for such an outcome. His office did not respond to repeated requests for clarification.

    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 13: U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) speaks at a news conference calling for a ceasefire in Gaza outside the U.S. Capitol building on November 13, 2023 in Washington, DC. House Democrats held the news conference alongside rabbis with the activist group Jewish Voices for Peace. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., speaks at a news conference calling for a ceasefire in Gaza outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 13, 2023.
    Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

    In the Senate , Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said last week that she urges “all parties to extend this agreement and work to achieve an enduring end to this fighting.” She added that things should not “return to the status quo” and that the “Israeli government should not resume bombing in Gaza, which would be a grave strategic and moral mistake.”

    Her statement was followed by Vermont Democratic Sen. Peter Welch, who said Tuesday that the ceasefire expiring “would be a grave mistake” and called for it to continue “indefinitely.”

    Welch’s counterpart from Vermont, meanwhile, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, has called for an end to Israel’s indiscriminate bombing, unconditional aid, and settler violence in the West Bank and on Tuesday told The Intercept he may push a vote on placing conditions on U.S. military aid to Israel, but he has stopped short of calling for a total cessation of hostilities.

    “You can look at this war that Israel has waged on the Palestinians in Gaza, which has set all kinds of records for brutality … and come to the conclusion that this is somehow contributing to a better outcome for Israelis and Palestinians,” said Munayyer of the Arab Center. “Or you could look at this and come to the far more reasonable conclusion that it’s not.”

    “It seems like Welsh and Warren are indeed much more in line with that latter conclusion and that Sanders is not quite there yet,” Munayyer continued. “He still seems to be trying to, you know, split the difference here. And I’m not sure how that can be helpful.”

    As the Israeli government plans to resume its bombing of Gaza after the temporary pause in fighting, Congress is preparing to send another $14.3 billion in military aid to Israel, per Biden’s request. “Biden and Congress need to do everything possible to pressure the Israeli government to permanently stop this genocide,” said Miller of Jewish Voice for Peace, “and that should include refusing to send Israel more military funds and weapons.”

    The post Some Politicians Calling for a “Ceasefire” Are Not Actually Calling for a Ceasefire appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Bipartisan Plan to Trade Immigrant Rights for Ukraine Money Is Sinking Fast / TheIntercept · Wednesday, 29 November - 18:30 · 5 minutes

    A bipartisan effort to gain votes for a bill that would trade immigrant rights for military assistance to Ukraine appears to be falling apart, getting traction with neither Democrats nor Republicans. The plan, reported yesterday, would attach a border enforcement component to President Joe Biden’s $106 billion supplemental funding request.

    “I think this is a ridiculous position to put us in,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut. “Holding Israel aid and Ukraine aid hostage to solving a complicated domestic issue is really unfortunate.”

    The current negotiation has been the latest in a series of efforts by Democrats to placate Republican criticisms of Biden’s handling of the southern border, as well as an effort by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to win Ukraine funding and placate Republicans skeptical of the war.

    The so-called Gang of Four negotiators includes Murphy, who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that funds immigration operations at the Department of Homeland Security; Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., who have made themselves fixtures in migration policy negotiations during the current Congress; and Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., an avowed immigration hawk with close ties to Donald Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller.

    Hispanic Caucus senators, historically included in bipartisan migrant policy talks, were not happy to be excluded from the negotiating room. “There are four Democratic members of the United States Senate who are Latino and it’s important that their ideas, their inclusion, their expertise to be included in this,” said Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., when asked if Murphy should be negotiating migrant policy with GOP nativists on behalf of Senate Democrats.

    Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto has been a nonfactor in the negotiations, despite having little to fear electorally having just won her reelection last year in Nevada. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., usually a vocal advocate for migrant rights, has been sidelined by criminal charges .

    Murphy rejected the characterization of nativists versus migrant rights. “We’ve been engaged in serious talks and I’m not really sure they want to get ‘Yes,’” he said of Lankford and Tillis, implying that his GOP counterparts may be negotiating in bad faith.

    “I know Padilla would like to legalize 14 million people,” said Tillis.

    “No hay acuerdo,” Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, countered on Tuesday when I asked if asylum rights were on the chopping block, a Tillis priority. There’s still no deal. “If we’re going to continue to entertain these negotiations there has to be consideration for legalization,” he continued.

    On Wednesday, Padilla and Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin issued a joint statement signed by nine other Senate Democrats demanding that any permanent changes to asylum rights include “a clear path to legalization for long-standing undocumented immigrants.”

    Right-wing groups like Heritage Action on Tuesday came out against Ukrainian military funding, an ominous foreshadow for the House prospects of any Senate bill. “A group of senators is undermining Republican unity and effective policy solutions by negotiating with Democrats who support open border policy,” Heritage Action President Kevin Roberts wrote in a statement . “Worse, the proposal coming out of these ‘negotiations’ will likely be used as leverage to advance President Biden’s request for $106 billion in fiscally irresponsible spending, including an additional $60 billion for Ukraine that fails to meet conservative standards and $13.6 billion for fake ‘border security’ that would accelerate Biden’s open border operations.”

    The right in Congress is deeply unhappy about being asked to trade a watered-down version of the party’s aspirational immigration crackdown bill for Ukraine funding. “It’s not about the border, it’s about a fig leaf for funding Ukraine,” as one Senate GOP aide told Emily Jashinsky of “Counter Points.”

    A senior Democratic aide granted anonymity to discuss the bill conceded it “is going to make nobody happy.”

    At issue is whether Republicans will agree to fund the Ukrainian military in a war with Russia if Democrats agree to further gut migrant rights during Biden’s presidency while militarizing the border at taxpayers’ expense. The proposed change would sacrifice credible fear standards in asylum screening, severely narrowing the definition of who is eligible for safe haven in the U.S. Current standards require that migrants applying for asylum demonstrate to an immigration judge a “significant fear” of death, persecution, or torture if they’re returned to their country of origin. The president’s supplemental request also includes funding for 1,600 asylum officers and 1,300 Border Patrol agents to catch and expedite the processing of asylum-seekers.

    GOP senators have also floated the idea of restricting the use of advance parole to limit migrant detention at the border, although Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican with influence over his party’s immigration outlook in the Senate, tells The Intercept that ending Biden’s special designation of parole for migrants from Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti, and Nicaraguans is a priority for GOP negotiators.

    This is especially true for migrant communities with no negotiator at the table as Tillis pushes to limit asylum rights and Lankford wants to limit the use of migrant parole. “It’s really about what to do with that 7,000 people that are currently released in the country,” said Tillis.

    Schumer’s office has taken the lead on writing a bill text with the tacit support of ailing Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who has made funding Ukrainian military operations a top priority. Whether House Speaker Mike Johnson has the votes or the political will to pass a border-plus-Ukraine bill remain open questions.

    House Republicans have famously failed to pass even the most basic funding measures in the current Congress. A motion to vacate rule leftover from Kevin McCarthy’s doomed speakership remains in place that allows any member of Johnson’s majority party to demand a vote to remove him within 48 hours.

    Nevertheless, allies close to Schumer insist a bill text is imminent. Migrant rights advocates for and the American Immigration Council tell The Intercept that despite being cut out of negotiations by the Gang of Four, the senator’s office has been adamant about making themselves available for updates on the legislation which is expected to be introduced as early as this week.

    The post Bipartisan Plan to Trade Immigrant Rights for Ukraine Money Is Sinking Fast appeared first on The Intercept .

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      With Ceasefire Calls Growing, Israeli Military Launches Closed-Door “PR Blitz” on Capitol Hill / TheIntercept · Tuesday, 28 November - 21:53 · 4 minutes

    High-level Israeli military officers are conducting private briefings for members of the U.S. Congress on Israel’s war on Gaza, according to documents reviewed by The Intercept. The briefings ramped up as questions emerged on Capitol Hill about Israel’s conduct in the war and ceasefire calls gained steam.

    “There’s an Israel PR blitz happening this week facilitated by a handful of senators,” said a source familiar with the meetings in the upper chamber. “Practically all of the briefings on this issue these last few weeks have been members-only,” meaning congressional staff and the public are not welcome.

    One briefing exclusive to members of the Senate scheduled on Monday and organized by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., involved three senior Israel Defense Forces officers stationed at the Israeli Embassy.

    “Sen. Duckworth would like to invite your boss to a last-minute meeting with Israeli Defense officials to discuss Israel’s strategy, how they are waging the war and what to expect in the day after the scenarios,” according to a memo obtained by The Intercept. (Duckworth did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

    The briefings are coming as Israel faces an international backlash over its assault on the Gaza Strip. Israel says it is seeking to eliminate Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that killed hundreds of Israeli civilians in its October 7 surprise attack.

    The Intercept has learned of around half a dozen events coordinated with Israeli officials during recent weeks. The Intercept reviewed materials relating to four of the briefings. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, who said he had not spoken with the Israel Defense Forces in recent days, told The Intercept, “I know there are going to be some folks from the IDF here tomorrow or the day after to brief members of Congress.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told The Intercept, “I have had private conversations with IDF officials but I didn’t attend any briefings.” (She declined to comment on her meetings.)

    In response to the Hamas attack, Israel launched airstrikes against Gaza and undertook a ground invasion. Israel’s offensive has faced criticisms for its death toll, with more than 14,000 Palestinians dying, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and enormous damage to Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on Earth. Over the weekend, Hamas and Israel agreed to a “pause” in fighting to allow for the release of Israeli hostages in Gaza in exchange for humanitarian aid for Palestinians. The temporary truce is set to expire, but talks for an extension are ongoing.

    “The IDF didn’t anticipate that there would be this much backlash to Israel.”

    Calls for a ceasefire on Capitol Hill started slowly but have gained steam in recent weeks. As of Tuesday morning, a total of 43 members from both chambers of Congress had called for a ceasefire . Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a progressive who had publicly sided with Israel after the October 7 attack, said on Tuesday he may put forward a bill conditioning aid to Israel, The Intercept reported .

    The shifts spurred the increased pace of congressional briefings with IDF officials, some of which were hastily arranged.

    “The IDF didn’t anticipate that there would be this much backlash to Israel,” said the source, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak. “And, with the prospect of an even longer-term ceasefire, are putting together an all-hands-on-deck PR blitz to keep Senators at bay.”

    Frequent and Secret Briefings

    While members of Congress and their staff frequently hold meetings with foreign officials, including military officials, the invitations for briefings with current and former Israeli officials have come in rapid succession over recent weeks.

    “It isn’t entirely unusual for senators to have member-only meetings or briefings on sensitive or classified issues,” said the source. “What is unusual is the frequency with which they’ve happened recently — especially this week — the secrecy involved, and the single-issue focus.”

    Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., appeared to suggest some of the briefings were secret. “My friend, I would not speak about those classified meetings,” Booker told The Intercept when asked about the IDF briefings. (None of the materials reviewed by The Intercept indicated the briefings were classified.)

    Briefers in the closed-door meetings were to include several senior Israeli military officials stationed at the embassy, including Maj. Gen. Tal Kelman, former head of the strategic directorate and Iran Division; Col. Itai Shapira, a former senior Israeli Defense Intelligence officer; and Lt. Col. Yotam Shefer of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Israeli military unit responsible for mediating between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. (The Israeli Embassy referred questions to the IDF, which did not immediately respond.)

    One briefing was scheduled to take place in-person on Capitol Hill for an hour on Monday evening.

    Another briefing, scheduled for Tuesday, is slated to have the former chief of Israeli military intelligence, retired Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, brief Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. Yadlin has issued fiery statements following the Hamas attack, saying that Hamas “will pay like the Nazis paid in Europe.” (Heinrich and Yadlin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.)

    Another briefing, scheduled for Tuesday morning and organized by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is a closed screening of 47 minutes of footage of Hamas atrocities committed on October 7.

    “It isn’t a coincidence that these briefings are now happening as public opinion is shifting.”

    “It’s important to bear witness in real time,” Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., who helped arrange the viewing, told reporters. “Sometime in the future, we’ll go — there’ll be a museum, there’ll be a memorial, there’ll be another Yad Vashem or Holocaust museum.”

    “It isn’t a coincidence that these briefings are now happening as public opinion is shifting and the pressure to corral lawmakers,” the source said, “and the recipients of their campaign contributions.”

    The post With Ceasefire Calls Growing, Israeli Military Launches Closed-Door “PR Blitz” on Capitol Hill appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Georgia Supreme Court Blocks GOP Attack on Trump Prosecutor — For Now / TheIntercept · Tuesday, 28 November - 20:02 · 3 minutes

    On Wednesday , Georgia’s highest court effectively blocked legislators from using a new law to remove the prosecutor who indicted former President Donald Trump.

    The law is one of more than 30 introduced in recent years — at least six have been enacted — to make it easier to remove or restrict elected prosecutors who lawmakers disagree with, particularly targeting those district attorneys implementing criminal justice reforms and prosecuting police misconduct.

    The order said that the court would not review proposed rules governing a new commission with the power to discipline and remove elected prosecutors, including Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who indicted Trump. Without such a review, the agency can’t operate.

    “While we celebrate this as a victory, we remain steadfast in our commitment to fight any future attempts to undermine the will of Georgia voters and the independence of the prosecutors who they choose to represent them,” DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston said in a statement on the order.

    One member of the Georgia state House who helped push the bill through, Rep. Houston Gaines, told the Associated Press that he and fellow Republicans planned to keep pushing the bill until the commission’s rules were approved and prosecutors could be removed. “As soon as the legislature can address this final issue from the court, rogue prosecutors will be held accountable,” Gaines said.

    Bills to restrict the authority of prosecutors have proliferated in recent years since reform prosecutors started winning office in greater numbers. The bills tended not to pass in previous years, but in the era of Trump, the George Floyd protest movement, and perceptions about increased crime, polarized legislatures have passed the measures more swiftly.

    The Georgia law passed with support in both chambers. While many of the laws passed in recent years targeted prosecutors who took steps like implementing bail reform or declining to charge for drug possession, Willis became a target under the Georgia law after she indicted Trump in August.

    Immediately after the indictment, Georgia Republicans said they would use the law to remove Willis from office. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law in May, making Georgia one of at least five states to sign into law a bill to restrict or undermine prosecutors since 2017. Kemp’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

    More than a third of states have tried to pass such bills, a total of 30 pieces of legislation over the same period.

    Boston, the DeKalb County district attorney, is one of four elected prosecutors in Georgia who sued in August to stop the law from going into effect. The plaintiffs emphasized the law could be used to restrict the authority of prosecutors across the political spectrum, not just reformers.

    Conservative Towaliga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jonathan Adams also supported the complaint because of his concerns over how it could be used to restrict prosecutors who exercise various forms of discretion afforded to the office of the prosecutor, regardless of their ideological position. Adams said he had already rescinded guidelines not to prosecute certain adultery crimes still on the books in Georgia over fear that it might make him vulnerable to removal under the new law.

    “I have already received threats that members of the public plan to file superfluous, unsubstantial complaints against me under SB92,” he wrote . “This comes after I have received death threats and had my home address disseminated online.”

    While the court has authority to regulate the practice of law by district attorneys, it had “grave doubts” that it had constitutional power to take action on the draft standards and rules of the prosecutorial commission. “Because we are under no legal directive to take action, the most prudent course for us is to decline to take action without conclusively deciding any constitutional question,” the court order read.

    The commission can’t start its work without review from the court.

    “The Georgia Supreme Court recognized what we have said throughout this litigation: SB 92 is a flawed law,” said Josh Rosenthal, legal director at the Public Rights Project, which led the suit against the law.

    “We are grateful that as a result of this decision, district attorneys throughout Georgia are not subject to removal for deciding how to best promote safety and justice,” he said. “The Georgia Supreme Court’s decision leaves the PAQC” — Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission — “without authority to act on any complaint. Without approved rules, the Commission cannot lawfully investigate or discipline prosecutors across the state. This is an important victory for communities’ ability to choose their vision for safety and justice and a district attorney that will reflect those views.”

    The post Georgia Supreme Court Blocks GOP Attack on Trump Prosecutor — For Now appeared first on The Intercept .

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      Bernie Sanders May Push Vote on Conditioning Aid to Israel in Coming Weeks / TheIntercept · Tuesday, 28 November - 18:56 · 2 minutes

    Sen. Bernie Sanders , I-Vt., may bring a vote on conditioning aid to Israel in the coming weeks, he told The Intercept.

    Sanders spoke to The Intercept minutes before a Senate Democratic caucus luncheon, where the question of placing conditions on $14 billion in aid to Israel is on the agenda. “Yes,” he replied gruffly when asked if there was a chance he would push for a floor vote.

    Sanders’s comment comes as the death toll in Gaza is around 15,000 — with some estimating it to have exceeded 20,000 — and amid a temporary pause in the fighting between Israel and Hamas. The Vermont senator has thus far refrained from calling for a permanent ceasefire, a key demand of activist groups that has broad support among the American public and has gained traction among members of Congress. He has instead only gone as far as calling for humanitarian pauses in fighting.

    The Department of Defense has already sent a variety of heavy weapons and ammunition to Israel to support its continuing war in Gaza, according to a leaked list obtained by Bloomberg . Congress is now seeking to approve another $14 billion, requested by President Joe Biden, to provide advanced weapons systems, support for artillery and ammunition production, and more projectiles for Israel’s Iron Dome system.

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has also called for restrictions on weapons transfers to Israel.

    “We regularly condition our aid to allies based upon compliance with US law and international law,” Murphy said on Sunday . “I think it’s very consistent with the ways in which we have dispensed aid, especially during wartime, to allies, for us to talk about making sure that the aid we give Ukraine or the aid we give Israel is used in accordance with human rights laws.”

    One way the U.S. could place conditions on the aid is through what is known as the Leahy law, named after Sanders’s longtime colleague and former senator from Vermont Patrick Leahy. The Leahy law prohibits U.S. aid to foreign military units that commit human rights violations.

    While the idea faces opposition within the Democratic caucus, and the U.S. has never before placed conditions on its billions of dollars in military aid to Israel, Biden seems to be considering the proposition. He told reporters the day after Thanksgiving — at the start of the temporary truce — that conditioning aid is a “worthwhile thought,” adding that “I don’t think, if I started off with that, we’d [have] ever gotten to where we are today”

    When pressed on whether he might use his position on the Senate Budget Committee to push for reigning in the Israeli military’s onslaught, Sanders said, “there are ways we can approach it and that is what we are exploring right now.”

    The post Bernie Sanders May Push Vote on Conditioning Aid to Israel in Coming Weeks appeared first on The Intercept .

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      A Big-Money Operation Purged Critics of Israel From the Democratic Party / TheIntercept · Monday, 27 November - 19:54 · 36 minutes

    The following article is adapted from the new book, “The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution,” out December 5, 2023.

    In May 2021, the Israeli government began pushing ahead with evictions of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. It was one more creeping step forward in an occupation and annexation process that had been under way for decades, but what was new this time was the reaction of Hamas, the government in Gaza. If Israel didn’t back off its plan to evict the families and the Palestinian Authority wouldn’t stand up for the homeowners in Sheikh Jarrah, Hamas announced, they would do it themselves.

    The Israeli government did not back off, as was to be expected, and Hamas responded by launching rocket attacks into Israel, attacks that were intercepted by the U.S.-built Iron Dome air-defense system or that otherwise crashed to the earth. Israel launched an assault on Gaza, and what became known as the Gaza War of 2021 broke out.

    In Gaza wars past, the Washington ritual had always been repeated. Israel had “a right to defend itself,” each statement began, even if the support for that right was occasionally caveated with a hope that Israel might decide to respect human rights and, perhaps, if it saw fit, limit civilian casualties.

    This war was different. In the United States, the tenor of the coverage was far less sympathetic than it had been, with images of Israeli police attacking protesters in East Jerusalem and reports of widespread casualties from the Israeli strikes . Mark Pocan, the Madison, Wisconsin, congressman who’d previously co-chaired the Congressional Progressive Caucus, reserved an hour of time on the House floor on May 13, and Democrats paraded through to denounce the assault.

    It was like nothing the U.S. Congress had ever seen . Ilhan Omar, standing in the well of the House, bluntly but not inaccurately called Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu an “ethno-nationalist.” Rashida Tlaib added, “I am a reminder to colleagues that Palestinians do indeed exist.”

    Omar recalled her own experience as an 8-year-old huddled under a bed in Somalia, hoping the incoming bombs wouldn’t hit her home next. “It is trauma I will live with for the rest of my life, so I understand on a deeply human level the pain and the anguish families are feeling in Palestine and Israel at the moment,” she said.

    Ayanna Pressley, the elder of the Squad and the least inclined to challenge the status quo on Israel-Palestine, spoke directly to the political guardrails put up around members of the House of Representatives—and then ran right through those guardrails. “Many say that ‘conditioning aid’ is not a phrase I should utter here,” she said, “but let me be clear. No matter the context, American government dollars always come with conditions. The question at hand is should our taxpayer dollars create conditions for justice, healing, and repair, or should those dollars create conditions for oppression and apartheid?”

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hit hard, too. “Do Palestinians have a right to survive? Do we believe that?” she asked, reminding the House that Israel had barred Omar and Tlaib from traveling to the country. “We have to have the courage to name our contributions,” she said, referring to the U.S. role in perpetuating and funding the fighting.

    The clerk of the House addressed Cori Bush: “For what purpose does the gentlelady from Missouri rise?”

    “St. Louis and I today rise in solidarity with the Palestinian people,” Bush responded.

    What made the moment dramatically different, however, was that the Squad wasn’t isolated, but instead was part of a sizable group pushing back. Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota rose to slam the assault on Gaza, as did Reps. Andre Carson of Indiana, Chuy Garcia of Illinois, and Joaquin Castro of Texas.

    As chair of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, McCollum had influence over U.S. foreign military aid . “The unrestricted, unconditioned $3.8 billion in annual U.S. military aid . . . gives a green light to Israel’s occupation of Palestine because there is no accountability and there is no oversight by Congress,” McCollum said. “This must change. Not one dollar of U.S. aid to Israel should go toward a military detention of Palestinian children, the annexation of Palestinian lands, or the destruction of Palestinian homes.”

    Castro thanked Tlaib for her presence, agreeing with her statement, “My mere existence has disrupted the status quo.” He seemed to address Israeli leaders directly when he said that “creeping de facto annexation is unjust.” “The forced eviction of families in Jerusalem is wrong,” Castro said from the floor, offering what would have been an uncontroversial assertion most anywhere else, but that was a foreign one to the House floor.

    Marie Newman, who had been beaten by the combined force of No Labels and AIPAC donors in 2018, had come back and won in 2020, and she joined her colleagues on the floor. In January 2021, she spoke out publicly against Israel’s unequal distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine, demanding that the country vaccinate people in the Palestinian territories it was occupying and allow the vaccine to get to Gaza through the blockade. She organized a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanding that he act. “They ended up negotiating that the vaccine would go through. And so, as a freshman, that was kind of a big coup,” she said. “Never before on any matter that engaged on Palestine, on any letter, resolution, legislation, did you get 23 or 25 members of Congress to sign up something, it just didn’t happen. So, we felt like, Oh, gosh, this is so good. Then that’s when the DMFI [Democratic Majority for Israel] first was like, ‘Oh, shit, she’s a pain. She’s a problem.’”

    “That’s when I started getting donors that had given to me in 2018, and even some of them in 2020, saying, ‘This is going to really hurt you, Marie, just so you understand.’”

    Newman was warned that being outspoken on the issue would come with a cost. “A couple of folks in my delegation, and then a couple of folks in Congress that were Democrats—more conservative than I am, said, you know, you need to be careful, because it’s really going to ruffle some feathers,” she told me. Speaking against the Gaza War on the floor brought out more opposition. “That’s when I started getting donors that had given to me in 2018, and even some of them in 2020, saying, ‘This is going to really hurt you, Marie, just so you understand.’ And it did; they were correct .”

    The hour of speeches critical of Israel’s bombing of Gaza was a sloshing together of watery metaphors—a high-water mark and also a watershed moment, one that unleashed a flood of money that would erode the foundation on which the Squad had built its power to date.

    After the success of the first Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, Democratic politicians began to recognize that voters were in a progressive mood. This early recognition had saved Ed Markey’s Senate seat and produced the environment in which progressive Democrats—and groups like the Sunrise Movement—had so much influence over legislation. If Sanders had led a self-described political revolution, the Gaza speeches galvanized the counterrevolution and brought tens of millions of dollars off the sidelines and into Democratic primaries, with the express purpose of blunting the progressive wave. “We’re seeing much more vocal detractors of the U.S.-Israel relationship, who are having an impact on the discussion,” Howard Kohr, head of AIPAC, told the Washington Post in a rare interview. “And we need to respond.”

    Throughout the 2020 cycle, AIPAC had been content to let DMFI run the big-money operation in Democratic primaries. To encourage support for it, AIPAC donors were even allowed to count money given to DMFI as credit toward their AIPAC contributions, which then won them higher-tier perks at conferences and other events. But the unprecedented display of progressive Democratic support for Palestinians amid the Gaza War, as seen on the House floor, was triggering. AIPAC would go on to spend well over $30 million against progressive candidates in the coming cycle, potentially upping that to $100 million in the 2024 race. Their first target was Nina Turner.

    The problem, Kohr said, was “the rise of a very vocal minority on the far left of the Democratic Party that is anti-Israel and seeks to weaken and diminish the relationship. Our view is that support for the U.S.-Israel relationship is both good policy and good politics. We wanted to defend our friends and to send a message to detractors that there’s a group of individuals that will oppose them.”

    A Controversial Vote

    In September 2021, Congress prepared to cut Israel a fresh check. It was considering its latest bill to both avoid a government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling—a legislative maneuver needed to avert both default on the debt and a global financial crisis—and Pelosi decided at the last minute to add a billion dollars in new money to the bill to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome, which had been depleted by the Gaza War. The round number had a symbolic, slapped-together feel and was well out of whack with what the United States had previously provided, representing 60 percent of the total funding given to the Iron Dome over the entire last decade. Sen. Pat Leahy, who chaired the Appropriations Committee, which doles out the money, told reporters the request wasn’t remotely an urgent one. “The Israelis haven’t even taken the money that we’ve already appropriated,” he said. Democrats, though, were making a billion dollar point, whether the money was needed or not.

    But so was the Squad. Jayapal, backed up by the now six members of the Squad and by Minnesota’s Betty McCollum and Illinois’s Marie Newman, threatened to take the bill down if the money were included. Pelosi relented and pulled the bill from the floor on a Tuesday. The Washington insider outlet Axios described the stunning development for its readers: “Why it matters: There has never been a situation where military aid for Israel was held up because of objections from members of Congress.”

    Mark Mellman’s client Yair Lapid, not yet prime minister, was serving at the time as Israel’s foreign minister. According to a readout later provided by the Israeli government, Lapid called Steny Hoyer to demand to know what had happened. Hoyer assured him that it was a “technical” glitch and that the House would get Israel its money quickly.

    Making good on his promise, Hoyer moved to schedule a new vote, suspending the House rules so the bill could hit the floor on Thursday of that week. Omar spoke with him the night before and pleaded for a delay, arguing that a spending increase that large needed to at least be discussed and that there were other ways to move the legislation. Why use this moment, Omar asked him, to force a fiery debate on the House floor? Doing it this way would put a target on the backs of the opponents, she said—with part of her aware that this was the precise purpose of hurrying with the vote. “Israel wants a stand-alone vote to show the overwhelming support for Iron Dome,” Hoyer told Omar.

    Bowman and Ocasio-Cortez both lobbied Hoyer for a delay or for a different legislative vehicle, but both were told the same thing. The vote was going ahead. In a floor speech, Rep. Ted Deutch charged Tlaib with anti-semitism for accurately referring to Israel’s government as engaged in apartheid. Pelosi made an unexpected appearance to claim that the proposed money was part of a deal President Obama had cut with Israel to fund Iron Dome. Voting against the funding, speaker after speaker said, would be tantamount to killing innocent Israeli civilians. “All of this framing starts to cross a new line—that we are now removing and defunding existing defense, when the bill is actually just shoveling on more,” Ocasio-Cortez texted from the Capitol, trying to lay out her frame of mind. “Meanwhile the vitriol started to really heat up—AIPAC has escalated to very explicit, racist targeting of us that very much translates to safety issues. This is creating a tinderbox of incitement, with the cherry on top being that Haaretz ’s caricature of me holding and shooting a Hamas rocket into Jerusalem with Rashida and Ilhan cheering on.” Back at home in New York, she said, rabbis from City Island who were typically progressive and on her side were sending out mass emails warning that her vote would put people’s lives at risk. She had even been banned from attending High Holidays in her district.

    Ocasio-Cortez walked onto the House floor and voted against the Iron Dome funding. She and Bowman, in the neighboring district, had gotten a barrage of calls and emails to their offices urging them to support the funding, but almost nothing at all from constituents telling them to vote it down. “Those on the ‘yes’ side were very clear, and very loud, and very consistent with why they believed the vote needed to be ‘yes,’” Bowman told me. “And that’s why I’m saying there needs to be much organizing on the left around this issue and others.” But back in the cloakroom, Ocasio-Cortez was shaken. For the first time in her life, she had been trailed that week by her own private security detail, the Capitol Police having refused to offer protection, even as the FBI was investigating four credible threats on her life, one of them a still-active kidnapping plot.

    The other three members of the original Squad—Pressley, Omar, and Tlaib—had all cast “no” votes. The two newest additions, though, were split, with Cori Bush voting “no,” but Bowman voting to approve the funding. In the cloakroom, AOC began to tear up while telling Omar and Tlaib that she felt she had to go out there and change her vote.

    “Alex, it’s fine,” Omar said, embracing her. “Just don’t go out there and cry.” Omar was a big believer in the mantra that you couldn’t let them see they’d hurt you.

    Tlaib cut in. “Ilhan, stop telling people not to cry!” They all laughed, knowing Rashida’s penchant for letting her emotions flow freely down her cheeks.

    It may have been good advice from Omar, but Ocasio-Cortez didn’t put it into practice. On the floor, she saw Pelosi, who knew AOC was angry at being forced to vote on the funding. Pelosi approached her, telling her she hadn’t wanted this stand-alone vote, that it was Hoyer, who controlled the floor schedule, who had forced it. “Vote your heart,” she told Ocasio-Cortez.

    AOC broke down, this time on the floor, with tears flowing in full view of the press and her colleagues, some of whom gave a shoulder of compassion, others giving awkward back pats as they slid past. She switched her vote to “present.”

    Speculation about the tactical designs behind the vote quickly shot through the press. Did this nod toward the pro-Israel camp mean AOC was angling for a New York State Senate bid? Was she worried that redistricting would bring heavily Jewish New York suburbs into her territory? Or was all of it just becoming too much?

    Her “present” vote was the epitome of Ocasio-Cortez’s effort to be the consensus builder and the radical all at once. Voting her heart, she felt, would have permanently undermined her ability to serve as a peacemaker on the issue. “While I wanted to vote NO[,] the dynamics back home were devolving so fast that I felt voting P[resent] was the only way I could maintain some degree of peace at home—enough to bring folks together to the table[,] because all this whipped things up to an all out war,” she said.

    Omar and Tlaib held firm, though, and the threats of violence ratcheted up. “For Muslim members of Congress, it’s a level no one understands,” Omar messaged me when speaking about the death threats the next day. “The anti-American rhetoric is a violent beast and our vote yesterday makes it 10x worse.”

    Marie Newman also faced serious pressure after she had announced her opposition. Ahead of the vote, she said she got a call from a member of party leadership, and from other from rank-and-file members, urging her to reconsider. Pressure had been applied in the run-up to the vote, too. “I was like, well, it is what it is. It’s done. And I feel good about it,” she said. The resistance was fiercest on the floor during the vote. “I got bullied on the House floor. Two of AIPAC’s members—congressional members—came over and literally yelled at me,” she said, demanding to know why she had voted the funding down. “First of all, my husband is an engineer, and from an engineering standpoint, there’s no way that battery system costs a billion dollars,” she told them. But also, she said, her district was opposed to it and would rather the billion dollars be spent here, in the United States.

    The next day, Ocasio-Cortez sent a long note of apology to her constituents. “The reckless decision by House leadership to rush this controversial vote within a matter of hours and without true consideration created a tinderbox of vitriol, disingenuous framing, [and] deeply racist accusations and depictions,” she wrote. “To those I have disappointed—I am deeply sorry. To those who believe this reasoning is insufficient or cowardice—I understand.”

    Then Came the Money

    Amid the 2021 war in Gaza, Nina Turner was setting on a 30-point lead in a special election when DMFI and an allied organization, called Mainstream Democrats, decided to make an example of her.

    Mainstream Democrats PAC, backed by LinkedIn billionaire Reid Hoffman, and DMFI were effectively the same organization, operating out of the same office and employing the same consultants, though Mainstream Democrats claimed a broader mission. Strategic and targeting decisions for both were made by pollster Mark Mellman, according to Dmitri Mehlhorn, a Silicon Valley executive who serves as the political adviser to LinkedIn’s Hoffman. DMFI also funneled at least $500,000 to Mainstream Democrats PAC. Together, Mehlhorn and Mellman controlled the kind of money that could reshape any race they targeted.

    “Our money is going to the Mainstream Democrats coalition, which we trust to identify the candidates who are most likely to convey to Americans broadly an image of Democrats that is then electable,” Mehlhorn told me, saying he relied on the consultants linked to DMFI to make those choices. “I trust them. I think Brian Goldsmith, Mark Mellman—they tend to know that stuff.”

    The super PACs came in with a deluge of money and swamped Turner, electing Shontel Brown instead. On election night, she thanked supporters of Israel for her victory.

    Mehlhorn, Hoffman’s right-hand man, was explicit about his purpose. “Nina Turner’s district is a classic case study, where the vast majority of voters in that district are Marcia Fudge voters. They’re pretty happy with the Democratic Party. And Nina Turner’s record on the Democratic Party is [that] she’s a strong critic,” he told me. “And so, this group put in money to make sure that voters knew what she felt about the Democratic Party. And from my perspective, that just makes it easier for me to try to do things like give Tim Ryan a chance of winning [a U.S. Senate seat] in a state like Ohio—not a big chance, but at least a chance. And he’s not having to deal with the latest bomb thrown by Nina. So anyway, that’s the theory behind our support for Mainstream Democrats.”

    Mellman, in an interview with HuffPost, acknowledged that his goals extended beyond the politics of Israel and Palestine. “The anti-Biden folks and the anti-Israel folks look to [Turner] as a leader,” Mellman said. “So she really is a threat to both of our goals.” His remark was itself a case study in the strength of Washington narratives to withstand reality. The party’s right flank, led by Manchin, Gottheimer, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, was actively undermining Biden’s agenda, while Turner’s allies in Congress were the ones fighting for it.

    In response to DMFI’s spending in 2020, the group J Street, a rival of AIPAC that takes a more progressive line on Palestinian rights, launched its own super PAC to compete. Its leaders guessed DMFI would spend somewhere between five and ten million dollars. If the advocacy group could cobble together $2 million, said J Street’s Logan Bayroff, that would at least be something of a fight, given that AIPAC and DMFI had to overcome the fact that what they were advocating for—unchecked, limitless support for the Israeli government, regardless of its abuses—was unpopular in Democratic primaries.

    But then AIPAC itself finally stepped into the super PAC game in April 2022, funding what it called the United Democracy Project. It would go on to spend $30 million, with its first broadside being launched against Turner in her rematch against Brown.

    The constellation of super PACs and dark-money groups around No Labels, the political vehicle for Josh Gottheimer and Joe Manchin, kicked into gear, targeting progressives in primaries around the country. And then came the crypto. Hoffman’s super PAC spent heavily, while crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, his Ponzi scheme having yet to collapse, chipped in a million dollars against Turner . SBF, as he became known, seeded his Protect Our Future PAC with nearly $30 million and began spending huge sums.

    “We’re always gonna expect the right to have more money, given that they’re operating off of the basis of big donors. But that’s a little bit more of a fair fight,” he said of the disparity between J Street and DMFI. “But now you add to what DMFI is doing, 30 million [dollars] from AIPAC—that’s just in a whole other realm,” he said. “It’s been a radical transformation in the politics of Israel-Palestine and the politics of Democratic primaries.”

    Going into 2022, Turner was joined by the biggest number of boldly progressive candidates running viable campaigns in open seats since the Sanders wing had become a national force. There was Gregorio Casar in Austin, Delia Ramirez in Chicago, Maxwell Alejandro Frost in Orlando, Becca Balint in Vermont, Summer Lee in Pittsburgh, Nida Allam and Erica Smith in North Carolina, Donna Edwards in Maryland, Andrea Salinas in Oregon, and John Fetterman and Mandela Barnes running for Senate in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — both, coincidentally, their respective state’s lieutenant governor. Also in Oregon, Jamie McLeod-Skinner was challenging incumbent Kurt Schrader , one of the most conservative Democrats left in Congress, who had made it his personal mission to block the Build Back Better Act and to stop Medicare from negotiating drug prices.

    Redistricting had also produced two progressive-on-centrist primaries between sitting Democratic members of Congress, as Marie Newman and Andy Levin were both crammed in against centrist incumbents. On January 31, kick-starting the primary season, Jewish Insider published a list of fifteen DMFI House endorsements, nearly all of them squaring off against progressive challengers.

    “In Michigan and Illinois, Reps. Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Sean Casten (D-IL) are, with support from DMFI, waging respective battles against progressive Reps. Andy Levin (D-MI) and Marie Newman (D-IL), who have frequently clashed with the pro-Israel establishment over their criticism of the Jewish state,” the Jewish Insider piece read.

    In January, DMFI released its first list of fifteen endorsements, the start of the year’s battle to shape what the next Democratic class would look like. The constellation of progressive groups that played in Democratic primaries scrambled to respond. Their loose coalition consisted of J Street, Justice Democrats, Sunrise Movement, Indivisible, the Working Families Party, the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, and Way to Win.

    Because Justice Democrats had been unable to form a collaborative relationship with the Squad, it hadn’t been able to raise the kind of small dollars that AOC or the Sanders campaign could. This meant it was increasingly relying on the small number of left-wing wealthy people who wanted to be involved in electoral politics and were okay angering the Democratic establishment. This left the organization without many donors, but with enough to stay relevant.

    Collectively, the groups would be lucky to cobble together $10 million, up against well more than $50 million in outside spending, and that’s before counting the money that corporate-friendly candidates could raise themselves. Remarkably, the Squad and Bernie Sanders were conspicuously absent from this organized effort to expand their progressive numbers.

    In the summer of 2020, facing down their most intense opposition from within their party, the four members had created a PAC called the Squad Victory Fund. But in the 2022 cycle, it raised just $1.9 million, and a close look at the finances show that it spent nearly a million dollars to raise that money—renting email lists to hit with fund-raising requests, advertising on Facebook, and so on. The remaining million was doled out mostly to the members of the Squad.

    Had the Squad worked collaboratively with the coalition of organizations—lending their name, attending fund-raising events, and the like—several million dollars could have been raised. If Sanders had turned on his fire hose, the resources available to the left would have been considerable. As it was, the left had to find a way to even the playing field, and, to a handful of progressive operatives, Sam Bankman-Fried seemed like the only path left.

    After SBF was arrested, he texted with a reporter at Vox , saying his effective altruism evangelism and woke politics was all a cover. “It’s what reputations are made of, to some extent. I feel bad for those who got fucked by it,” he said in a series of direct messages the reporter published, “by this dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shib[b]oleths and so everyone likes us.”

    John Fetterman was locked in what threatened to be a tight primary race with Rep. Conor Lamb for a Senate nomination, and Lamb’s campaign was openly pleading for super PAC support to put him over the top. Early in the year, Jewish Insider reported, Mellman had reached out to Fetterman with questions about his position on Israel. “He’s never come out and said that he’s not a supporter of Israel, but the perception is that he aligns with the Squad more than anything else,” Democratic activist Brett Goldman told the news outlet.

    Mellman said the Fetterman campaign responded to his inquiry and “came with an interest in learning about the issues.” Following the meeting, the campaign reached out again. “Then they sent us a position paper, which we thought was very strong,” Mellman said. But it wasn’t quite strong enough. Jewish Insider reported that DMFI emailed back some comments on the paper, which “Fetterman was receptive to addressing in a second draft.”

    In April, Fetterman agreed to do an interview with Jewish Insider. “I want to go out of my way to make sure that it’s absolutely clear that the views that I hold in no way go along the lines of some of the more fringe or extreme wings of our party,” he said. “I would also respectfully say that I’m not really a progressive in that sense.” Fetterman, unprompted, stressed that there should be zero conditions on military aid to Israel, that BDS was wrong, and so on. “Let me just say this, even if I’m asked or not, I was dismayed by the Iron Dome vote,” he added. DMFI and AIPAC stayed out of his race.

    During the Gaza War in 2021, Summer Lee had once posted support for the Palestinian plight. “It was really one tweet that kind of caught the attention of folks,” she said. “Here, this is it, we got you. And it was really a tweet talking about Black Lives Matter and talking about how, as an oppressed person, I view and perceive the topic. Because the reality is—and that’s with a lot of Black and brown progressives—we view even topics that don’t seem connected, we still view them through the injustice that we face as Black folks here and the politics that we see and experience here, and are able to make connections to that.”

    Lee had written on Twitter: “When I hear American pols use the refrain ‘Israel has the right to defend itself’ in response to undeniable atrocities on a marginalized population, I can’t help but think of how the West has always justified indiscriminate and disproportionate force and power on weakened and marginalized people. The US has never shown leadership in safeguarding human rights of folks it’s othered. But as we fight against injustice here in the movement for Black lives, we must stand against injustice everywhere. Inhumanities against the Palestinian people cannot be tolerated or justified.” That was the extent of her public commentary on the question.

    But the comment was shocking to some in Pittsburgh. Charles Saul, a member of the board of trustees of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle , was later quoted by the paper saying he was concerned about Lee because “she’s endorsed by some people I believe are antisemites [ sic ], like Rashida Tlaib.” He went on: “Another thing that worried me was her equating the suffering of the Gazans and Palestinians to the suffering of African Americans. That’s one of these intersectional things. If that’s her take on the Middle East, that’s very dangerous.”

    In January 2022, AIPAC transferred $8.5 million of dark money to the new super PAC it had set up the previous April, United Democracy Project. Private equity mogul and Republican donor Paul Singer kicked in a million dollars, as did Republican Bernard Marcus, the former CEO of Home Depot. Dozens of other big donors, many of them also Republicans, along with more than a dozen uber-wealthy Democrats, kicked in big checks to give UDP its $30 million war chest.

    On May 11, Israel Defense Forces sparked global outrage, first, by killing Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and then, again, days later at her funeral procession, by attacking her mourners and pallbearers and nearly toppling her casket.

    Primary Elections

    That Tuesday in May was a day that DMFI, AIPAC, and Mainstream Democrats had been hoping would be a death blow to the nascent insurgency that had been gaining traction in the primaries. In April, AIPAC had begun its furious barrage of spending, tag-teaming with DMFI, Mainstream Democrats, and Sam Bankman-Fried to make sure Nina Turner’s second run against Shontel Brown never got off the ground. Turner was smothered . Reid Hoffman’s PAC had spent millions to prop up conservative Democratic representative Kurt Schrader, who was facing a credible challenge from Jamie McLeod-Skinner in Oregon.

    Nida Allam, a Durham County commissioner and the first Muslim woman elected in the state, ran for office after three of her Muslim friends were murdered in a gruesome Chapel Hill hate crime that drew national attention. AIPAC would spend millions to stop her rise. Elsewhere in the state, it spent $2 million against progressive Erica Smith in another open primary. United Democracy Project, for its part, began hammering away at Summer Lee, whose Pennsylvania primary was held the same day as North Carolina’s.

    Justice Democrats, the Working Families Party, Indivisible, the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, and the Sunrise Movement worked in coalition with J Street on a number of races in which DMFI and AIPAC played. Where the progressive organizations could muster enough money, the candidates had a shot. “If you look at the races we lost, we were outspent by the bad guys six, eight, ten to one. If you look at Summer’s race, it was more like two to one,” said Joe Dinkin, campaign director for the Working Families Party.

    AIPAC and DMFI did manage to win their rematch against Marie Newman , who had beaten the incumbent Democrat Dan Lipinski in 2020. That win had been critical, as Lipinski would certainly have been a “no” vote on Biden’s Build Back Better and the Inflation Reduction Act. In 2022, Newman was redistricted out of her seat, with much of her former area being sent to a new district, the one Ramirez claimed. Illinois Democrats carved up the Palestinian-American stronghold and split it into five separate districts, diluting its strength. This forced Newman into an incumbent-on-incumbent contest with a centrist. AIPAC and DMFI also knocked off the synagogue president Andy Levin .

    Nida Allam lost a close race, and Erica Smith, who also faced more than $2 million in AIPAC money, was beaten soundly. And in Texas the following week, Jessica Cisneros was facing Rep. Henry Cuellar in a runoff she would lose by just a few hundred votes. But McLeod-Skinner knocked off Schrader, and progressive Andrea Salinas overcame an ungodly $11 million in Bankman-Fried money through Protect Our Future PAC to win another Oregon primary.

    The marquee race, however, was in Pittsburgh, where AIPAC and DMFI combined to put in more than $3 million for an ad blitz against Summer Lee in the race’s closing weeks. In late March, Lee held a 25-point lead before the opposition money came in—and that amount of money can go a long way in the Pittsburgh TV market. As AIPAC’s ads attacked Lee relentlessly as not a “real Democrat,” she watched her polling numbers plummet.

    But then she saw the race stabilize, as outside progressive groups pumped more than a million dollars in and her own campaign responded quickly to the charge that she wasn’t loyal enough to the Democratic Party. Her backers made an issue of the fact that AIPAC had backed more than one hundred Republicans who had voted to overturn the 2020 election while pretending to care how good a Democrat Lee was.

    “When we were able to counteract those narratives that [voters] were getting incessantly—the saturation point was unlike anything you’ve ever seen—when we knocked on doors, no one was ever saying, ‘Oh, hey, does Summer have this particular view on Middle Eastern policy?’ Like, that was never a conversation. It was, ‘Is Summer a Trump supporter?’” she said. “We were able to get our counter ad up, a counter ad that did nothing but show a video of me stumping for Biden, for the party. When we were able to get that out, it started to really help folks question and really cut through [the opposition messaging].”

    On Election Day, Lee bested Irwin by fewer than 1,000 votes, winning 41.9 percent to 41 percent, taunting her opponents for setting money on fire. Had she not enjoyed such high popularity and name recognition in the district, AIPAC’s wipeout of her 25-point lead in six weeks would have been enough to beat her.

    John Fetterman, meanwhile, was able to face his centrist opponent in an open seat for the U.S. Senate without taking on a super PAC, too, and won easily. In Austin, Casar and the progressive coalition behind him had known he was within striking distance of clearing 50 percent in the first-round election, which would avoid a May runoff—and avoid the opposition money that would come with it. They spent heavily in the final weeks, and Casar won a first-round victory, another socialist headed to Congress. Once sworn in to the House, one of his first major acts as a legislator was to support Betty McCollum’s bill to restrict funding of the Israeli military . He quickly became one of the leading progressive voices critical of U.S. adventurism abroad, likely producing regret among DMFI and AIPAC that they had allowed him to slip through.

    The big-money coalition had not gotten the knockout win in the spring it had hoped for. But AIPAC itself posted impressive numbers. It spent big against nine progressive Democrats and beat seven of them, losing only to Summer Lee and an eccentric, self-funding multimillionaire in Michigan. Without their intervention, Turner, Donna Edwards (who saw AIPAC spend more than $6 million against her ), Nida Allam, and, potentially, Erica Smith would have joined the progressive bloc in Congress, in districts that are now instead represented by corporate-friendly Democrats. And many of the ones who did make it through had been forced to moderate their stances on the way in. Still, the Squad of AOC, Omar, Tlaib, Pressley, Bowman, and Bush was being joined by Summer Lee, Delia Ramirez, Greg Casar, Maxwell Frost, and Becca Balint. On a good day, that was ten. But what kind of ten?

    “I see people who are running for office or thinking of running for office in the future, and they feel deterred because this is a topic that they know will bury them.”

    Summer Lee, reflecting on her near-death experience, was pessimistic. I asked if the amount of spending had gotten into her head and influenced the way she approached the Israel-Palestine issue. “Yes, absolutely, and not just with me. I see it with other people. I see people who are running for office or thinking of running for office in the future, and they feel deterred because this is a topic that they know will bury them,” she said. “There’s absolutely a chilling effect . . . I’ve heard it from other folks who will say, you know, we agree with this, but I’ll never support it, and I’ll never say it out loud.”

    More broadly, though, it makes building a movement that much more difficult, Lee added. “It’s very hard to survive as a progressive, Black, working-class-background candidate when you are facing millions and millions of dollars, but what it also does is then, it deters other people from ever wanting to get into it,” she said. “So then it has the effect of ensuring that the Black community broadly, the other marginalized communities, are just no longer centered in our politics.”

    Her narrow win, coupled with some of the losses, began to crystalize into a conventional Washington narrative that the Squad was in retreat and that voters wanted a more cautious brand of politics. “It’s a way of maintaining that status quo,” Lee told me. “But also it’s just disingenuous when we say that we’re not winning because we’re not winning on the issues. No, we’re not winning because we’re not winning on the resources.”

    Israel’s Rightward March Continues

    Whatever the fears of hard-line Israel hawks, the rise of the Squad did not materially slow the expansion of Israeli settlements into occupied Palestinian territory. In 2019, the Squad’s first year in office, Israel added more than 11,000 new settlement units. In 2020, the figure doubled to more than 22,000, many of them in East Jerusalem and deep into the West Bank. “As stated in numerous EU Foreign Affairs Council conclusions, settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible,” said an EU representative to the United Nations in a report chronicling the increase. The settlement expansion included multiple “outposts”—seizure of farmland and pasture—which puts any semblance of Palestinian independence or sustainability farther out of reach. In 2021—despite Israeli prime minister Lapid’s campaign promise not “to build anything that will prevent the possibility of a future two-state solution”—settlement expansion in East Jerusalem doubled in 2021 compared with the year before, threatening to fully slice the remaining contiguous parts of Palestinian territory into small, prisonlike enclaves .

    On August 5, 2022, without the support of his cabinet, Lapid launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip, agreeing to a truce on August 7. Palestinian militants fired more than a thousand rockets, though no Israelis were killed or seriously wounded. The three-day conflict left forty-nine Palestinians dead, including seventeen children.

    Israel’s initial denial of any role in the killing of reporter Abu Akleh gradually morphed under the weight of incontrovertible evidence into admission of possible complicity . Partnering with the London-based group Forensic Architecture, the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq launched the most comprehensive investigation into her death. On the morning of August 18, at least nine armored Israeli vehicles approached the group’s headquarters in Ramallah and broke their way in, ransacking it and later welding shut its doors. An attempt by the Israeli government, headed by Mellman ally Yair Lapid, to have the European Union label Al-Haq a terrorist organization was rejected by the EU, which reviewed the evidence Israel provided and found it not remotely convincing.

    With the primaries over, Bankman-Fried’s PAC, AIPAC, and DMFI had mostly stopped spending to help Democrats. In September 2022, the Democratic National Committee refused to allow a vote on a resolution, pushed by DNC member Nina Turner and other progressives, to ban big outside money in Democratic primaries. Leah Greenberg, cofounder of Indivisible, said it was absurd that Democrats continued to allow outside groups to manipulate Democratic primaries even though they clearly had little interest in seeing the party itself succeed. Their goal is to shape what the party looks like; whether it’s in the minority or majority is beside the point. “For a group called Democratic Majority for Israel, they don’t seem to be putting much effort into winning a Democratic majority,” Greenberg said.

    Rep. Elaine Luria, a Democrat from Virginia whose race was listed as “key” by AIPAC, had been one of the organization’s most outspoken and loyal allies since her 2018 election and had regularly teamed with Gottheimer as he made his various power plays. Her first significant act as a member of Congress had been to join him in confronting Rashida Tlaib with their white binder of damning quotes. Still, AIPAC’s United Democracy Project had declined to help her, and Luria was among the few incumbent Democrats to lose reelection in 2022.

    Instead, AIPAC’s first foray into the general election had been to spend its money in a Democrat-on-Democrat race in the state of California. According to Jewish Insider, “a board member of DMFI expressed reservations over [David] Canepa’s Middle East foreign policy approach, pointing to at least one social media post viewed by local pro-Israel advocates as dismissive of Israeli security concerns.” The allegedly dismissive message, which Canepa posted on May 13, 2021, as the Gaza War raged, had read, “Peace for Palestine.”

    But AIPAC saved the rest of its energy for Summer Lee. Because the Republican in the race had the same name, “Mike Doyle,” as the popular retiring incumbent Democrat—deliberately, no doubt—voters thought that a vote for Doyle was a vote for the guy they’d known for decades. After spending millions of dollars attacking Lee for not being a good enough Democrat, AIPAC spent millions in the general elections urging voters to elect the Republican. Lee won anyway.

    At the end of 2022, Bibi Netanyahu, at the head of a right-wing coalition so extreme that mainstream news outlets had dubbed it fascist, was once again sworn in as prime minister, ousting Yair Lapid, the prime minister backed by DMFI’s Mark Mellman.

    Disclosure: In September 2022, The Intercept received $500,000 from Building a Stronger Future, Sam Bankman-Fried’s foundation, as part of a $4 million grant to fund our pandemic prevention and biosafety coverage. That grant has been suspended. In keeping with our general practice, The Intercept disclosed the funding in subsequent reporting on Bankman-Fried’s political activities. A nonprofit affiliated with Way to Win, called Way to Rise, has donated to The Intercept, facilitated by Amalgamated Foundation.

    The post A Big-Money Operation Purged Critics of Israel From the Democratic Party appeared first on The Intercept .

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