Rep. Mark Pocan speaks outside the U.S. Capitol

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) speaks outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on March 22, 2023.

(Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

'I Don't Give a F*ck About AIPAC,' Says Mark Pocan

"It's time to call them out for what they are—a front group for conservative policy here in the U.S.—instead of being afraid of them."

Progressive U.S. Congressman Mark Pocan pulled no punches in an interview published Monday by Slate , addressing his ongoing feud with the influential lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee—a fervent booster of Israel's bloody bombardment of Gaza and a top contributor to the campaign coffers of Democrats and Republicans alike.

"I don't give a fuck about AIPAC—period," Pocan (D-Wis.) told Slate politics writer Alexander Sammon. "I think they're a cancerous presence on our democracy and politics in general, and if I can be a surgeon, that's great."

"The reason I'm poking the bear is because they've become a Trojan bear," Pocan explained. "AIPAC at least pretended to be bipartisan when I first got [to Congress]. Now they're basically a wholly owned subsidiary of the GOP."

"It's time to call them out for what they are—a front group for conservative policy here in the U.S.—instead of being afraid of them," he added.

Pocan was drawn into the fracas between progressive lawmakers and AIPAC last month after the group falsely accused him and other representatives of "trying to keep Hamas in power." The attack came after 10 members of Congress—nine Democrats and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.)— voted against an October 25 resolution pledging unconditional support for Israel's war on Gaza.

Massie joined progressive Democrats in pushing back against AIPAC, posting on social media that "this baseless smear is meant to intimidate me into voting to send $14+ billion of your money to a foreign country."

Pocan—who did not vote against the resolution— wrote : "AIPAC is not good at telling the truth. We don't support Hamas. We just don't support killing kids, which it seems you do."

Palestinian officials said Monday that Israeli forces have killed at least 10,022 people in Gaza, including 2,550 women and more than 4,100 children, while wounding over 25,000 others. At least 155 people have also been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the illegally occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since October 7, when Hamas-led militants launched surprise attacks in southern Israel that left more than 1,400 people dead.

On Sunday, Pocan responded to an AIPAC social media post that observers said was meant to drive a wedge between progressives who support a cease-fire and others, like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who don't.

"I should be glad to get tagged regularly by the GOP/Netanyahu front group AIPAC," he wrote , referring to far-right Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "Without me, their tags would be all people of color, showing their generally more racial approach to their conservative politics."

"Bluntly, a lot of what they've been doing is just going after women of color," Pocan told Slate . "I believe the reason I'm even thrown into the loop is because I'm a white guy, which gives them a bit of cover."

Indeed, AIPAC has reserved its most vitriolic attacks for lawmakers like Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)—the only two Muslim women and, in the case of Tlaib, the only Palestinian American, in Congress—and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), who last month introduced a resolution calling on President Joe Biden to push Israel for a cease-fire.

Sanders also entered the fray after AIPAC thanked him for not demanding a cease-fire.

"AIPAC has supported dozens of GOP extremists who are undermining our democracy," the progressive senator said Sunday on social media. "They're now working hard to defeat progressive members of Congress. We won't let that happen. Let us stand together in the fight for a world of peace, economic and social justice, and climate sanity."

AIPAC has spent lavishly on both Republicans and non-progressive Democrats and was the number one donor to both House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) during the last election cycle.

The group has also been a top contributor to lawmakers like Reps. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), who not only vocally support Israel, but also attack colleagues like Tlaib and Omar for their pro-Palestinian views. AIPAC was by far Gottheimer's largest contributor in the 2022 electoral cycle, donating more than $216,000 to his campaign. The same goes for Torres, who received over $141,000 from the group during the same period.

Critics also say it is no coincidence that Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.)—whose third-biggest campaign contributor during the last election cycle was AIPAC— introduced a censure motion against Tlaib last month, baselessly alleging she sympathizes with terrorism.

On Monday, far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.)—who once suggested that a "Jewish space laser" started a California wildfire—reintroduced a resolution to censure Tlaib for alleged offenses including "antisemitism, spreading pro-Hamas propaganda, and inciting an illegal occupation in the Capitol complex."

Pocan responded by calling Greene "dumb and unconscionable."

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