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Jon Ossoff Victory Proves That the Israel Lobby Still Has an Iron Grip on Democrats

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/02/2021 - 3:03am in

Jerusalem — Jon Ossoff’s historic win was presented as defying America’s far-right. His election to office helped flip the Senate blue and after six long years, changed Mitch McConnell’s title from majority to minority leader. He defeated Donald Trump ally Sen. David Perdue by teaming up with a Black reverend associated with the late civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis. And he was the first Jew to win a Georgia Senate seat while a racist, anti-Semitic mob raided the U.S. Capitol.

Despite these progressive feats, Ossoff’s political experience and campaign donations reveal he’s more aligned with the Democratic establishment than meets the eye.

 

Ossoff’s undeniable love affair with the Israel lobby

Ossoff was one of the pro-Israel lobby’s top donation recipients for the 2019-2020 campaign cycle, ranking at number four with a total of $607,915. J Street, the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), New Israel Fund, and the Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs (JACPAC) all funded his campaign. Out of the Israel lobbying groups, JACPAC handed Ossoff the most money with a sum of $12,250. Pro-Israel groups J Street, DMFI, and the Jewish Democratic Council for America endorsed him as well.

Before becoming a senator, Ossoff didn’t have many political credentials to his name. According to The Forward, he handled foreign policy issues as a congressional aide for Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson. In the role, he “work[ed] on legislation improving military funding for Israel and mandating tougher inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities.”

While he supports the Iran Deal and opposes Israeli annexation of the West Bank, the senator has openly embraced Zionist views. He is opposed to the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, has supported Israeli attacks on Gaza, commended Israel’s normalization agreements with Arab countries, and supports a two-state solution. A two-state solution is a longtime Democratic Party position, but progressive public support for it is diminishing with the growing momentum for the One Democratic State Campaign.

Foreign policy wasn’t a large section of Ossoff’s campaign platform. As a state senate hopeful upholding a “Black-Jewish alliance,” he focused more on domestic race relations than geopolitics. However, Ossoff’s campaign did publish a document outlining his stance on Israel. In it, he pledged unwavering support for the state, specifically lauding his commitment to Israel’s security and his opposition to BDS as well as any legislation permitting the U.S. to divest from Israel.

Ossoff-Israel-PaperOssoff-Israel-Paper

Ossoff promised to “vigorously” defend Israel from peaceful boycotts

“Israel’s security requires the Israel Defense Forces to maintain a Qualitative Military Edge (QME) in the region. U.S. foreign assistance ensures that Israel has the military and intelligence capabilities necessary to maintain that QME, to defend itself against missile and rocket threats, and to prevent terrorist attacks within Israel,” the statement read.

“In the Senate, I will push for strong, mutually beneficial, and mutually respectful U.S.-Israel relations, whose strength can sustain Congressional support for the appropriation of U.S. foreign assistance vital to Israel’s security,” Ossoff said.

This excerpt suggests Ossoff supports continuing U.S. military aid to Israel—an issue that received nationwide condemnation after Congress voted to give $600 to Americans amid a pandemic-spurred recession yet handed $500 million in aid to Israel.

In addition to the pro-Israel endorsements Ossoff snagged, he often touts his connections to pro-Israel politicians. His June, 2020 position paper cited his relationship to Michael Oren, the far-right Israeli ambassador he studied under at Georgetown University. Ossoff also credits his historic rise in politics to Rep. Lewis. While Lewis is remembered as a prominent civil rights activist, he was also staunchly pro-Israel. Like Ossoff, he opposed the BDS movement and was considered a friend to Israel.

 

The Democratic Party toeing the line with pro-Israel funds

Along with Ossoff being the first Jew elected to Georgia’s senate, Rev. Raphael Warnock also made history as the first African-American elected to Georgia’s senate. Together the Democratic pair attributed their success to having fostered a strong Black-Jewish alliance.

Despite his win, Warnock’s campaign was marred with controversy prior to the state’s highly-publicized runoff election in January. Warnock’s Republican opponent, Kelly Loeffler, targeted the reverend’s past criticism of Israel in an attack ad. Warnock signed a letter in 2019 comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa. He also criticized Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and slammed Israel for shooting Gazan protesters.

Loeffler’s smears worked. His campaign was losing public support and funding was drying up. Two days after Loeffler’s attacks, Rev. Warnock immediately backtracked and released a statement “condemning” the BDS movement and declaring his support for Israel. His quick reversal earned him an endorsement from the Israel lobby group DMFI. Similar to Ossoff, Warnock was also part of the Israel lobby’s top 10 campaign donation recipients, securing funding from J Street, DMFI, and the New Israel Fund. Warnock may not have been as successful with fundraising if he had maintained his previous position on Israel.

Sut Jhally, documentary filmmaker and communications professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, was surprised at how easily Warnock caved to pro-Israel pressure.

“He was persuaded by the mainstream Democrats to win the Georgia election, so he had to make this horrible statement about Israel and BDS,” Jhally told MintPress News.

Warnock and Ossoff ran for Senate on a civil-rights-branded agenda. But for Jhally, you can’t call yourself a progressive if you ignore Palestine.

“The test of whether you’re a true progressive is your position on Israel,” Jhally said. “Because you can’t be progressive about everything else and espouse human rights for everyone else and not espouse human rights for the Palestinians.”

Warnock’s swift 180 on Palestine-Israel demonstrates just how strong of a grip the Israel lobby has on the Democratic Party. While the Trump administration’s policies favorited Israel, the Democratic Party is largely kept in check with pro-Israel funding.

An analysis by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs shows the pro-Israel lobby contributes significantly more money to Democrats than Republicans. And those campaign funds appear to be doing their job in scratching both the Democrats’ and the lobby’s backs. The top recipient of Israel lobby donations in 2020, President Joe Biden, has made it clear he’s willing to reverse every Trump-era policy except those related to Israel.

 

Keeping with the status quo

Criticism of Israel is growing louder in the Democratic Party with remarks from more progressive politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Ilhan Omar, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib. And while Professor Jhally agrees there’s an unprecedented divide emerging in the party over Israel, that will only generate discussion and not substantial policy reform.

“The Israel lobby is still very powerful within both the Republican and Democratic parties and their role right now is to make sure policy does not change,” Jhally said. “And that is about putting pressure on progressives and making sure BDS becomes delegitimized.”

With BDS—arguably the best international strategy available to end Israel’s occupation of Palestine—still seen as a dirty word in American politics, Democrats will likely adhere to the Israel lobby’s agenda rather than risk losing money or being perceived as anti-Israel. And that means sticking with the status quo in the Democratic establishment: condemning BDS, promising U.S. aid to Israel, and supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against “terrorists.” Just like the self-proclaimed progressive Ossoff did in cementing his election win.

Feature photo | Artist Brandon Litman holds up a U.S. Senator-elect Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., campaign poster on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Atlanta. Brynn Anderson | AP

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab, and Gulf News.

The post Jon Ossoff Victory Proves That the Israel Lobby Still Has an Iron Grip on Democrats appeared first on MintPress News.

Georgia Dems Relied Heavily on Massive Corporate War Chest to Cinch Historic Election

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/01/2021 - 6:48am in

In order to beat GOP incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the Georgia Senate elections, Democrats had to spend big, raising hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.

The two Georgia Senate elections — called today for the Democrats — were easily the most costly in history, amounting to nearly $830 million in total ($468 million for the race between  Democrat Joey Ossoff and Republican David Perdue and more than $361 million for the special election between Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock and Republican Kelly Loeffler.

The Democrats’ massive war chest came in no small part from hefty contributions from corporate America. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, tech companies rallied around the Democratic challengers, plying the two campaigns with millions of dollars. Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent organization, was the largest single source of funds, their PACs, shareholders, or employees donating almost $1 million to Ossoff’s campaign alone with other big tech companies cracking his top ten, all with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donations from the like of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and AT&T. The rest of the top ten were made up by universities.

The Republican candidates also relied on large corporations for much of their funding. Perdue’s biggest donors included Delta Airlines, Home Depot, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America, while Loeffler was generously supported by oil and chemical giant Koch Industries as well as a number of financial institutions like Ryan LLC and Blackstone Group.

However, Democrats decisively outraised their opponents, giving them a critical edge. Ossoff outraised Perdue by $138 million to $89 million while Warnock received $124 million to Loeffler’s $92 million. With over 98% of the votes counted, Warnock has been declared the winner, with 50.6% of the vote. Ossoff, meanwhile, is all but assured of winning as well, and has already declared victory.

Thus, both contests have conformed to political scientist Thomas Ferguson’s “Golden Rule” of politics: that the party that spends the most almost always wins the election. Ferguson’s 1995 thesis, “The Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems,” argued that elections are essentially contests between rival big businesses and that the two political parties compete to serve those who pay them, not the public. Nearly 20 years later, a University of Princeton study of 1,779 policy issues found that,

Economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

Empirical evidence seems to support this notion. Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that, since 2000, the candidate spending the most money has won between 70% and 98% of their races in the House or Senat

The 2020 election was already by far the most expensive in history, even before the Georgia numbers were added into the mix. The sums of $468 million and $361 million are comfortably higher than any of those from two months ago, the most expensive of which was the $299 million contest in North Carolina between Thom Tillis (Republican) and Cal Cunningham (Democrat).

Many were heralding the Democratic upset in Georgia as the start of a new era and a victory against racism and hate. “The votes of Black people have been suppressed in this nation for a very long time. This is the dawning of a new day,” said Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Warnock, who will become the state’s first black senator, agreed. “Tonight we proved that with hope, hard work, and the people by our side, anything is possible…All of us have a choice to make; will we continue to divide, distract and dishonor one another, or will we love our neighbors as we love ourselves?” he said in his victory speech.

Yet while corporations continue to have such an outsized role in funding both major political parties, it is unclear whether substantive change is even possible. The debate over whether this represents a victory for racial justice can be had, but what seems unmistakable is that the real winners in this election were corporate America, who could not lose, whoever won.

Feature photo | Senate candidate Jon Ossoff introduces President-elect Joe Biden in Atlanta, Jan. 4, 2021, as he campaigns for Raphael Warnock and Ossoff. Carolyn Kaster | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Georgia Dems Relied Heavily on Massive Corporate War Chest to Cinch Historic Election appeared first on MintPress News.