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Pennsylvania Democratic congressional candidate Summer Lee talks to the press outside of a polling station on May 17, 2022 in Pittsburgh.

Pennsylvania Democratic congressional candidate Summer Lee talks to the press outside of a polling station on May 17, 2022 in Pittsburgh. (Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

'Harmful Actions of AIPAC Don't Speak for Us': Jewish-American Coalition Backs Summer Lee

"AIPAC has chosen to cast Democrats like Lee as extremists, while continuing to endorse 109 GOP members of Congress who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results," says a new open letter.

Kenny Stancil

More than 240 Jewish Americans living in and around Pittsburgh penned an open letter Wednesday to publicly express their support for Summer Lee, the progressive Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, and to condemn the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for spending significant sums of money to help her Republican opponent Mike Doyle.

"In Congress, Summer Lee will fight for our community's values and needs," says the letter. "From standing up for women's rights to protecting our democracy, she is the person we need to represent us at this pivotal moment in history."

"We are appalled that after spending over $25 million in Democratic primaries on ads that claimed to care about democratic values and priorities—including millions of dollars here in Pittsburgh—AIPAC's super PAC, United Democracy Project [UDP], is now spending over $1 million to attack Summer Lee as extreme, and to support her Republican opponent."

As Common Dreams reported earlier this week, UDP recently pumped almost $80,000 into mailers opposing Lee, according to new federal filings. UDP also launched a $627,000 ad buy against Lee on Monday.

This spending comes after UDP tried and failed to prevent Lee from beating corporate attorney Steve Irwin in the Democratic primary in May. UDP dropped more than $2.3 million on that contest, including ads attacking Lee for "fighting Democrats," alluding to the progressive candidate's past criticisms of the party's neoliberal leadership and orientation.

UDP's latest intervention against Lee, which Haaretz noted is the the super PAC's "first-ever spend in a Democrat vs. Republican election battle," underscores the disingenuous nature of the Republican billionaire-funded group's purported concerns about the progressive candidate's presumed lack of loyalty to the Democratic Party.

As the Jewish Americans from the Pittsburgh area pointed out in their new letter, AIPAC is attempting to "flip an historically Democratic-held seat with control of Congress at stake by electing [Lee's] anti-choice Republican opponent."

The signatories expressed outrage that "at this critical moment in American history, AIPAC has chosen to cast Democrats like Lee as extremists, while continuing to endorse 109 GOP members of Congress who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results on January 6th."

"We also condemn AIPAC's endorsement of lawmakers who have promoted the antisemitic 'Great Replacement' conspiracy theory that helped inspire the murder of eleven members of the three synagogues housed at Tree of Life," they wrote. "Clearly, their definition of 'extreme' is completely opposite to that held by the majority of American Jews—who worry about the stark rise in antisemitism and white nationalism in our state and in our country."

"All of us in the American Jewish community and beyond who are concerned about the survival of democracy in the United States and around the world should do what we can to support candidates like Summer Lee up and down the ballot—and to make clear that the harmful actions of AIPAC do not speak for us," they concluded.

AIPAC—which launched UDP last December as a way to legally shell out unlimited amounts of cash to directly influence elections and counter mounting criticism of Israeli apartheid from within the Democratic Party—has not been shy about what journalist David Dayen calls its "perversion of the primary process."

Earlier this year, the powerful anti-Palestinian rights lobbying group boasted that it had helped topple nearly 10 left-leaning Democrats in primary races, including Jewish Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), and progressive champions Nida Allam in North Carolina, Nina Turner in Ohio, and Jessica Cisneros in Texas.

If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other leaders "do nothing to combat right-wing entryism in their own party primary process, even as Republican funders target mainstream Democrats with close personal ties to the party's elite, AIPAC will only be emboldened further," journalist Alexander Sammon argued in July.

In light of UDP's first general election effort to boost a Republican over a Democrat, Sammon's warning looks increasingly prescient.

Jewish democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been a vocal critic of AIPAC, accusing the group of bankrolling super PACs such as UDP "to buy elections and control this democracy."

"Why would an organization go around criticizing someone like Summer Lee for not being a strong enough Democrat when they themselves have endorsed extreme right-wing Republicans?" Sanders asked earlier this year. "They are doing everything they can to destroy the progressive movement in this country."

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