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An African American proverb says “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” 

Do you, dear reader, want progressives to have an important level of influence in the U.S. Congress in the next few years? If so, there is something you can do about it….today, and tomorrow, and this weekend. 

Here’s why that is the case. There’s an important and maybe pivotal election Tuesday, August 2. This election may determine, in part, the ability of progressives to influence the Democratic party and the future of the United States. In that election Representative Andy Levin, of Michigan, one of the most effective and influential Congressional progressives in Congress today, is in trouble. 

His conservative Democratic rival has been hugely funded by the powerful Israel Lobby group AIPAC (American Israel Political Affairs Committee). They have teamed up with Republican billionaires to defeat as many progressives in Congress as they can. 

Andy Levin is running behind at this moment and is in grave danger of losing his seat next Tuesday. If he falls he will be the third Democratic progressive candidate to do so in a month. Massive AIPAC money has already been decisive in defeating Jessica Cisneros in Texas. Former House rep. Donna Edwards, even though she was endorsed by Nancy Pelosi, was defeated two weeks ago; again with massive AIPAC spending against them. 

Andy Levin has been very, very popular in his district, but Republicans redistricted him into a less favorable district and then AIPAC sponsored a conservative Democrat opponent. Andy was then targeted because he stood up for Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who are stalwart progressives in the initiatives they’ve put forward such as the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, amongst others. They have all criticized Israel for blatant and serious violations of the rights of Palestinians, in what is now generally considered an apartheid state. (This has the opinions of, among others, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and B’tselem, the leading Israeli human rights organization.) 

(Dear reader, I will interrupt this narrative for a brief note. Time is short. I want to pose a challenge to you as a progressive reading this article to offer an opportunity to address the grave threat to progressive action in Congress. If you want to support Rep. Levin, please contact Mike Fox, Dep. Director of PDA (Progressive Democrats of America) at: mikefox@pdamerica.org. immediately for up-to-the-minute options on how to do that. Yes, it’s the right moment to act!) 

Now I’ll explain why we need to act immediately. AIPAC, (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) the powerful leader of the Israel lobby, has spent over $33 million in this cycle alone, according to the Guardian, attacking progressive Democratic candidates in primaries. Their aim is to radically move the character of American politics rightward, with the specific aim of slowing down the growing chorus in Congress pushing back against Israeli apartheid. 

Israel and its American front groups, led by AIPAC, along with Republican billionaires like Paul Singer, correctly assume that progressive Democrats will continue to reflect growing American opinion that recognizes the segregationist nature (de jure and de facto) of Israel, which runs counter to any progressive version of contemporary democratic values. Those holding progressive American values cannot tolerate an ongoing ethnic cleansing by prolonging the fiction of Israeli democracy. (Apartheid South Africa had elections too, but that didn’t make it “democratic”.) 

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Particularly since Israel is the number one recipient of U.S. foreign aid, and since the U.S. runs diplomatic interference for Israel at the U.N., we as progressives must speak out - and we must act. “Center” Democrats have gone along with the Israeli-born conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Having an actual debate on Israel is the last thing they want, since they lose every time out. The old riffs of “ poor little Israel” were based on an inverted history of Israeli being the David to an Arab Goliath no longer comports with more widely known reality: Israel is a nuclear armed colonial-settler state in a post-colonial world. (Jewish Americans have been the most politically progressive ethnic or religious groups in the U.S., and…. 25% of American Jews now say Israel is an apartheid state. That number rises to 35% for those under 35 years old. 

AIPAC is probably right in their assumption about progressives. How can you take Black Lives Matter seriously, be supportive of humane immigration policies, be against a Saudi Arabian dictator (a new friend of Israel), or even be for seriously regulating corporations that are ramping up global warming, and turn a blind eye to the in-your-face systematic oppression of over 10 million Palestinians by a segregated Israel? 

As I’ve been writing this story, more reportage on the AIPAC assault on Levin has come out. On Tuesday, July 19th, the Guardian reported the following:

“Aipac launched a super political action committee, or super Pac, the United Democracy Project (UDP), in December as a legal mechanism to spend unlimited amounts to directly influence elections and counter growing criticism within the Democratic party of Israel’s continued domination of the Palestinians.” 

“The lobby group kickstarted the UDP with $8.5m and donations from wealthy donors with close ties to Israel. They include two Republican billionaire businessmen and Trump campaign funders, Paul Singer and Bernie Marcus, as well as the billionaire Israeli American Democratic donor Haim Saban.” 

“Aipac launched a super political action committee, or super Pac, the United Democracy Project (UDP), in December as a legal mechanism to spend unlimited amounts to directly influence elections and counter growing criticism within the Democratic party of Israel’s continued domination of the Palestinians.” 

“The lobby group kickstarted the UDP with $8.5m and donations from wealthy donors with close ties to Israel. They include two Republican billionaire businessmen and Trump campaign funders, Paul Singer and Bernie Marcus, as well as the billionaire Israeli American Democratic donor Haim Saban.” 

The Democratic party leadership is tolerating this literal invasion of their primary processes by the dumping of vast sums into their primaries, essentially by a proxy of a foreign power. The complaint against Russia in 2016 was about the Russian purchasing of $100,000 of Facebook advertising designed to de-stabilize the Hillary Clinton campagn. AIPAC has already spent $33 million (!), an unprecedented amount for primaries. 

So why then do they tolerate it? Because AIPAC punishes its enemies. If you as a member are dependent on corporate contributions, you may be accustomed to AIPAC contributions and you sure don’t want them as an adversary, since they have a history of knocking off opponents. This interference corrupts American foreign policy. 

This behavior by AIPAC goes back decades to Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon, Rep. Paul Finley of Illinois, and Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, all of whom were defeated by AIPAC for speaking up against Israel’s impunity and for Palestinian rights. However this is the first time that…..AIPAC has weighed in full bore in the primaries, specifically to weaken Progressives - even those who have said very little about Israel, but have shown even the smallest support for those who do speak up. 

Rep. Levin of Michigan has refused to back down to this powerful and wealthy lobby and has continued to ask for Palestinian rights, which as he sees it, is the only way Israel can move forward. Therefore he is in deep trouble and in danger of being turned out of office by the might of AIPAC millions. 

Rep. Levin (who was once President of his Jewish congregation) deserves to be re-elected not only for standing up for humane Jewish values when it comes to Israel-Palestine, but for his all-round quiet, efficient, and consistent record leadership in implementing democratic values in Congress. 

The question is, will progressives rally to keep him afloat? He’s only got until Tuesday. It’s up to us; “If not now, when?”