Steven Emerson
Steven EmersonCourtesy

You are not going to believe this. During the mid-term elections, advocacy groups gave money – a lot of money – supporting candidates they thought would be good on the issues they care about.

It's shocking, right?

The anti-Israel group Americans for Justice in Palestine Action (AJP Action) seems to think so. It touted a "groundbreaking report" last week that showed pro-Israel groups gave money to pro-Israel candidates.

You will be equally shocked to learn that the report blames Jewish money, a reference lightly sanitized as "rightwing Zionist" donations, for election outcomes it doesn't like. It also casts money donated by Americans and American organizations as some form of alien, inappropriate interference.

"Races across the United States also saw the injection of millions of dollars from rightwing Zionist organizations into our electoral politics," the report said. "Millions were spent to crush candidates deemed as 'insufficiently pro-Israel' and millions more were spent to punish candidates that intended to stand up for Palestinian rights."

It is not very subtle.

"Our electoral process" has been sullied by sinister elements seeking "to crush" and "to punish" others. What kind of country is this when people we don't like get to participate legally in the political process??

It lumps the group Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) among the awful, no good "rightwing Zionist" donors. That's a lazy and misleading label, as DMFI President Mark Mellman is a veteran pollster and consultant for Democrats, including former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts.

And DFI co-chair Ann Lewis has spent more than 45 years in politics, working for both Bill and Hillary Clinton. You know, right wingers.

Ironically, AJP Action exists to influence elected officials and policymakers. It is an arm of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), which routinely sponsors events in which speakers call for Israel's elimination and urge Muslims to shun all supporters of the Jewish state.

There are "three Ds" to antisemitism involving Israel and those who support it, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and Global Social Action director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center: Double standard, delegitimization and demonization.

"AMP's attack checks all the boxes," he told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. "Seems that everyone has the right to back candidates in the US except Jews who support candidates who support our ally the state of Israel!"

Consider the Source

If donors' motivation merits what AJP Action touts as a "groundbreaking election report," so, too, does the motivation of the report's authors. AMP Executive Director Osama Abuirshaid, has said his organization seeks "to challenge the legitimacy of the State of Israel."

AJP Action and AMP are front groups for a Hamas support network in the United States, pending litigation in an Illinois federal court alleges. In 2015, the Investigative Project on Terrorism first reported that AMP shared many of the same leaders and carried out much of the same work that was done by the "Palestine Committee," a Muslim Brotherhood-created Hamas support network in the United States.

That includes Abuirshaid. He editedAl-Zaytounah, a mouthpiece for pro-Hamas propaganda network published by the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP). IAP was a key Palestine Committee branch, internal records seized by the FBI show. It shut down around 2004, after a $156 million civil judgment was awarded to Stanley and Joyce Boim, whose son David was killed in a 1996 Hamas terrorist attack.

Attorneys for the Boims have persuasively argued that IAP and other groups found liable in the judgment shut down to avoid paying the damages. AMP, they claim in ongoing litigation, has "largely the same core leadership as IAP/AMS; it serves the same function and purpose."

Now, the complaint says, "Abuirshaid set up a replacement newspaper, which he published under the name Al-Meezan ... [which] continued the publication and advocacy of pro-Hamas positions. The content, target audience, website and many of the advertisers of Al-Meezan were essentially identical to those of Al-Zaytounah."

A federal judge allowed the lawsuit to continue in May, agreeing with an appellate court's finding that the Boims' "complaint is replete with factual allegations ... show[ing]" AMP and other defendants are "a disguised continuance of" IAP and other Palestine Committee branches.

Sour Grapes

The report, "Rightwing Zionist Money & its Influence on U.S. Elections," appears somewhat hastily assembled, and thin on examples showing the donations that AJP Action finds inappropriate playing a decisive role.

And many of those showcased are among the most progressive members in the House of Representatives.

For example, it spotlights a spring Democratic primary in Ohio's 11th congressional district. Incumbent Shontel Brown defeated Nina Turner for the second time in a year. Brown received more than $1 million – the most money – from "pro Zionist" donors, it said.

It notes that "Brown won with 66 percent of the vote," but somehow paints a 2-1 romp as an outcome that easily could have gone the other way. "The result was heavily influenced by money from DMFI pouring in."

Brown defeated Turner in a 2021 special election by just five points. Her easy rematch win came after voters had a chance to know her better. But AJP Action could not bring itself to consider other factors, including Brown's own accomplishments. It just had to be the "rightwing Zionists."

During her year in office, Brown joined the House Progressive Caucus and earned a 98.4 percent voting record from the group Progressive Punch.

That's far from the right wing darling that AJP Action tries to portray her as.

The 11th district, which is mostly in Cleveland, is more than 50 percent black. Brown was backed by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn in both elections for reasons that had nothing to do with Israel. Clyburn's 2020 endorsement in the South Carolina primary is credited with saving Joe Biden's presidential campaign.

By contrast, the more Ohio voters saw of Turner, the less they seemed to like her.

She blamed her 2021 primary defeat on "evil money [which] manipulated and maligned this election."

Turner, a Bernie Sanders surrogate, did herself no favors touting her solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain's Labour Party who was forced out in 2020 due to rampant antisemitism under his leadership.

Remarkably, AJP Action spins the midterms as a sign that anti-Israel forces have the "rightwing Zionists" on their heels. Israel supporters, the report says, are "hoping to bully their way and scare Members of Congress from advocating for Palestinian human rights. In a way, their actions this last election are an admission that they're losing."

While there are a few dozen anti-Israel voices in the House, they have yet to pass any meaningful legislation. An effort last year to oppose Biden administration arms sales to Israel went nowhere.

And in 2019, the House voted 398-17 approving a resolution criticizing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to isolate Israel politically, economically and in the arts. It is promoted by AMP and AJP Action, along with most American Islamist groups.

BDS "does not recognize, and many of its supporters explicitly deny, the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination," the resolution says. It "promotes principles of collective guilt, mass punishment, and group isolation, which are destructive of prospects for progress towards peace and a two-state solution."

It certainly has a right to issue this misleading, antisemitic report about Jewish money in American politics. And the "rightwing Zionist" groups have the right to "[inject] millions of dollars into our electoral system" to benefit candidates who will be better on issues they care about.

Sadly, such antisemitism from AJP Action and AMP is far from "groundbreaking."

Steven Emerson is executive director of theInvestigative Project on Terrorism, the author of eight books on national security and terrorism, the producer of two documentaries, and the author of hundreds of articles in national and international publications.