A right-wing AIPAC-affiliated group is airing ads targeting Sen. Bernie Sanders in Iowa in an attempt to stop the increasing success of his presidential campaign days before the state's voters caucus to kick off the 2020 Democratic primary.
The Democratic Majority for Israel, a group tied to AIPAC, sponsored the ad.
"This is dishonest, disgusting, and discrediting," said Sanders surrogate James Zogby, founder of the Arab-American Institute.
This is dishonest, disgusting, & discrediting of @DemMaj4Israel. They want to attack @BernieSanders cuz he’s balanced on Israel/Palestine, but can’t cuz Dems don’t support their view. So they use “too old, heart attack, socialist” canards. https://t.co/e6N6wvr9hT— James J. Zogby (@jjz1600) January 29, 2020
The Democratic Majority for Israel was created in January 2019 as an arm of AIPAC to address the Democratic Party's move toward supporting Palestinian rights, said progressive Jewish advocacy group IfNotNow's founder Emily Mayer.
"AIPAC created the Democratic Majority for Israel because they know they're losing ground in the Democratic Party," said Mayer. "The vast majority of Democrats agree that our country should not give a blank check to Israel if the Israeli government continues the violence of the occupation and to deny Palestinians basic freedom and dignity."
In the commercial, which begins airing across Iowa Wednesday, a number of Iowans express their hesitance at supporting the Vermont senator's bid for a number of reasons, including a heart attack Sanders suffered in October.
"The ad raises serious questions about his electability in their own words," the Democratic Majority for Israel's leader, pollster Mark Mellman, told Politico. "Health is one of the things that people raised. But in general people say they like Bernie Sanders, they respect him but they say he can't win."
As progressive magazine Current Affairs pointed out, centering the argument against a candidate on the candidate's likeability and well-respected status isn't a recipe for success.
"It's funny that even ATTACK ADS against Bernie include people saying 'I like Bernie, I think he has great ideas,'" the magazine tweeted. "If your opponents say this about you, you are winning."
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By focusing on Sanders' electability, the Democratic Majority for Israel commercial conspicuously avoids hitting the senator on the merits of the group's main message. That's because the Democratic electorate has largely stepped away from rigid support of Israel and more toward support for Palestinian rights, Mayer said in a statement Tuesday evening.
"The ads don't focus on any of the AIPAC-front group's foreign policy positions because they know they are increasingly out-of-touch with Democratic voters, so they have to hide behind tired talking points about electability instead," said Mayer.
Researcher Andrew Perez blasted the attack on Sanders as dishonest and unacceptable on the merits.
"A consultant for health insurers and pharmaceutical interests using a front group named 'Democratic Majority for Israel' to attack the first potential Jewish presidential nominee is phenomenally low and should be universally condemned," said Perez.
Sanders himself hit back against the ad blitz and reports that the Democratic establishment is targeting his campaign in a video posted online Tuesday night.
"It's no secret that we're taking on the political establishment and the big money interests, who are now running attack ads against us in Iowa," Sanders said in a tweet. "But we have the people, and our grassroots movement will prevail."
It's no secret that we're taking on the political establishment and the big money interests, who are now running attack ads against us in Iowa. But we have the people, and our grassroots movement will prevail. pic.twitter.com/77Zxpvn8RB— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 29, 2020
As Common Dreams reported on Monday, the Democratic Majority for Israel is one of a number of groups trying to stop the Sanders campaign.
Sanders surrogate filmmaker Michael Moore warned the senator's supporters that the road was going to get difficult.
"The knives are out," said Moore.