MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Rep. Betty McCollum is calling the pro-Israel lobby a "hate group" after it reportedly paid for a Facebook ad linked to a petition that said she and other Democrats in Congress were somehow a "more sinister" a threat to Israel than the Islamic State.
McCollum, who represents Minnesota's Fourth District, released a statement Wednesday saying that the ad and petition from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was a form of hate speech, thereby making AIPAC a hate group.
"This not empty political rhetoric," she said, adding that "attacks like this may be commonplace in the Trump era, but they should never be normalized."
According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency, the ad in question showed McCollum's image, as well as those of Reps. Ilhan Omar, also of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, saying, "The radicals in the Democratic Party are pushing their anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli policies down the throats of the American people."
The ad went live late last month and reportedly linked to a petition that said: "It's critical that we protect our Israeli allies especially as they face threats from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and – maybe more sinister – right here in the U.S. Congress."
The ad has since been removed from Facebook, and AIPAC issued an apology last week, saying that its messaging was "poorly worded." Still, the group said that there is a small group of Democrats in Congress that is working to erode the bipartisan nature of the Israel-U.S. relationship.
In her statement, McCollum said that the for Israel lobby to tell its supporters that she and other Democrats were "more sinister" than ISIS was a form of incitement. She noted that she met with AIPAC representatives from Minnesota last year.
McCollum's statement also addressed AIPAC's commitment to bipartisanship.
"AIPAC claims to be a bipartisan organization, but its use of hate speech actually makes it a hate group," she said. "By weaponizing anti-Semitism and hate to silence debate, AIPAC is taunting Democrats and mocking our core values. I hope Democrats understand what is at stake and take a stand because working to advance peace, human rights, and justice is not sinister – it is righteous."
McCollum is the author of a bill that would prohibit financial support for Israel to be spent on holding Palestinian minors in military detention. Meanwhile, Omar and Tlaib both support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel over its occupation of the West Bank.
This isn't the first time in recent political history that a Minnesota lawmaker has been in a public dispute with AIPAC. Last year, Omar apologized for a tweet in which she that suggested AIPAC was buying support for Israel in Washington. Many saw the tweet as playing on anti-Semitic tropes.
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