Last week’s political news understandably focused on Attorney General Tish James’ report on the allegations against Governor Andrew Cuomo. But for those of us interested in a strong US-Israel relationship, there was another political development of even greater importance.
In the 11th Congressional District in Ohio, Shontel Brown scored an upset Democratic Primary victory over Nina Turner. Brown’s victory proved that we don’t have to accept that anti-Israel progressives are the wave of the future in the Democratic Party. Brown’s victory was largely a result of strong support from the Jewish community throughout the country, including two organizations that I am involved in and urge you to become active in: NORPAC and Pro-Israel America.
Why was a primary in a heavily Democratic, African American district so crucial to supporters of Israel?
Nina Turner was President of Our Revolution, the grass roots movement founded to support Senator Bernie Sanders. She was the national co-chair of the 2020 Sanders campaign and spoke for him around the country. During the recent fighting in Gaza, Turner accused Israel of “apartheid.”
When President Biden appointed Congresswoman Marcia Fudge as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the stage was set for a Special Election to replace her. Turner jumped into the race. Far left pro-Palestinian groups like Justice Democrats and If Not Now made electing Turner a top priority, pouring money and troops into the campaign. Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came into the district to support her. Polls showed Turner ahead by 30%. It looked like Nina Turner was poised to be the next member of the “Squad.”
Establishment Democrats rallied around Shontel Brown. The political arms of the Congressional Black Caucus supported her as did Congressman Jim Clyburn and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Turner hurt herself when she used an expletive for excrement to describe supporting President Biden.
Support for Israel became a major issue in the campaign. While Turner accused Israel of “apartheid” and expressed her solidarity with Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, Brown accused Hamas of placing civilians on both sides at risk and said, “Israel has a right to defend its citizens in the face of these attacks. Israeli families should never have to spend the night in a bomb shelter.”
On primary night, Shontel Brown scored an upset victory with 50% of the vote to 44% for Turner.
Turner was quick to point out who was to blame for her unexpected loss, saying, “We did not lose this race; evil money manipulated and maligned this election.” However, Turner actually spent more on the campaign than Brown. Her complaint was not about Brown’s war chest but the source of much of her support.
Outside groups like The Democratic Majority for Israel and Pro-Israel America poured significant resources into the race. For Turner and other progressives, money and support from outside progressive groups like the Justice Democrats is “clean,” while support from Jews and other pro-Israel Americans is “dirty.” Since antisemites frequently associate Jews with money and use the term “dirty Jews” as an epithet, the implication of Turner’s statement is clear.
To be sure, Jewish support for Brown was a significant factor in the race. Jews make up about 5% of the population in the district. There was a high turnout in areas with a large number of Jewish voters and those neighborhoods voted overwhelmingly for Brown.
In her victory speech, Brown took note of where her support came from, thanking “my brothers and sisters in the Jewish community.”
Let’s be clear: Shontel Brown is a liberal Democrat. She will be in lockstep with the Biden agenda, as anyone representing that area would be. But Brown is and will be a strong supporter of Israel and sensitive to the needs of the Jewish community.
We can’t draw too many conclusions from a race in one district. There will be future battles between anti-Israel progressives and supporters of Israel. But some things are clear: An outspokenly pro-Israel candidate can win a Democratic Primary in a heavily African American district; we do not have to accept Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the “Squad” as the future of the Democratic Party; and we can fight back and win.
I participated in Shontel Brown’s campaign, contributing money and volunteering through two groups with which I am involved.
One is NORPAC, a non-partisan political action committee whose primary purpose is to support Congressional candidates who demonstrate a genuine commitment to the strength, security, and survival of Israel. They do this by raising funds and contributing to pro-Israel candidates. Their annual mission to Washington is an opportunity to educate Members of Congress and their staffs about the importance of the US-Israel relationship.
Most of us do not have the resources to be major campaign contributors. Our small contributions can go unnoticed. When we contribute to NORPAC, we are pooling our resources and showing Members of Congress that we appreciate their support for Israel, and they can count on us to have their backs. The NORPAC mission to Washington gives us the opportunity to interact directly with Members of Congress and their staffs. Many individuals in the Queens community have built strong relationships with Members of Congress throughout the country and are able to influence them on issues of concern to Israel by participating in the NORPAC mission. When we participate in campaigns through our affiliation with NORPAC, we are bringing out the vote for pro-Israel candidates in crucial elections.
Pro-Israel America works to strengthen support for the US-Israel relationship by independently promoting and supporting the election of pro-Israel candidates to federal office regardless of party; educating voters about pro-Israel candidates and their Congressional races; creating a simple accessible, online portal for members to make pro-Israel campaign contributions.
As a member of Pro-Israel America, you will receive news, election analysis, and invitations to exclusive conference calls with Members of Congress and candidates. I have built relationships with a number of Members of Congress by participating in such calls.
Members of Pro-Israel America can use its online portal to support the election of pro-Israel candidates from both sides of the aisle. What I find attractive about Pro-Israel America is that you can contribute directly to the candidates of your choice. This enables you to funnel your contribution specifically to candidates from one party or who agree with you on a wide range of issues. By sending your contribution through Pro-Israel America, you will show that your support is coming from the pro-Israel community.
To join or become active in Pro-Israel America, go to www.proisraelamerica.org.
If you want to know what can be done to counter the influence of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, look in the mirror to find the answer. We can fight back. You can fight back. Don’t just complain – do something about it! Become involved in organizations like NORPAC and Pro-Israel America and make a difference.