Philanthropist Adam Milstein recently backed out of moderating a panel at the approaching AIPAC conference after being criticized, particularly by the Progressive activist group J Street, after sending a series of tweets accusing Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib of being associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. "The Muslim Brotherhood is now part of Congress," he asserted.
Apparently, this was a bridge too far for AIPAC, which has striven to maintain its ties to both political parties—even as the increasingly anti-Israel Progressive movement gains strength among the Democrats in Congress. Milstein's attack puts those ties at risk, it would seem.
But if AIPAC pushed Milstein out to satisfy J Street, it needn't have bothered. Thanks in part to Rep. Omar's sustained rhetorical assault, Democrats already are starting to view AIPAC as toxic. Over the past few weeks, several Democratic candidates for president in 2020 have ostentatiously announced that they will not be attending the AIPAC conference. Bernie Sanders's aide Josh Orton stated that Sanders is "concerned about the platform AIPAC is providing for leaders who have expressed bigotry and oppose a two-state solution," while Robert "Beto" O'Rourke said in a campaign stop that Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu "has sided with racists." Several candidates including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Julian Castro have confirmed that they will not be attending, but with no explanation.
It is true that none of these candidates was invited to speak; AIPAC generally waits for the election year to do that. But still, Sen. Harris and others had happily attended the AIPAC dinner in previous years. And in any event, it is telling that the candidates are trying to make political hay from their nonattendance.
This points to a far deeper problem than a few tweets from a supporter like Milstein could cause. Even the calculated agitations of a small number of House members like Omar and Tlaib would not have been enough to produce this sudden swing against a stalwart American ally on their own, were it not for decades of careful battlespace preparation by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), CAIR, and the many other groups who have convinced young Progressives that Israel is a uniquely evil colonialist monster.
Now we are seeing a preference cascade in the other direction, as Democratic politicians who just in 2017 were effusive in their praise of AIPAC are now quick to claim that they now oppose AIPAC as all right-thinking people should, seeking to curry favor with the activist base of their party—which has become militantly anti-Israel to the point of actual anti-Semitism.
Adam Milstein's tweets, while blunt, nevertheless told the truth about Reps. Omar's and Tlaib's ties to the Islamist network in the United States. For AIPAC to cut Milstein loose over a desire for white-gloved optics and prim propriety suggests that it doesn't appreciate the danger posed by Rep. Omar and her supporters, the extent to which their ties with the Democrats have already been undermined, or the need to forcefully confront the rising anti-Semitism within the Progressive movement. And that means calling things by their right names. An impolitic tweet that is fundamentally true is far better than deafening silence in the face of the rising tide of bigotry.
It is now more important than ever to push back against the continuing Islamist effort to co-opt the Progressive movement with their patented mix of half-truth, ideological corrosion, and blatant lies. If the truth is not spoken at every turn, then Ilhan Omar and her allies will have won.
Dr. Oren Litwin is the Associate Director of the Islamism in Politics Project.