A new Super PAC aligned with AIPAC looks to undercut the only Palestinian Democrat ever elected to Congress, and diminish the growing support between Palestinians and African-Americans.
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (PHOTO: TLAIB.HOUSE.GOV)
A new Super PAC has reared its head and it’s made no secret of its first target: Rashida Tlaib.
It comes as no surprise that Tlaib, the only Palestinian-American woman and the only Palestinian Democrat ever in Congress, is coming under severe attack ahead of her primary two months from now. But the nature of that attack is a particularly dangerous and pernicious one, and its nature is one that constitutes a unique and serious threat to not only advocates of Palestinian rights and freedom, but to progressives across the board.
The Urban Empowerment Action PAC (UEA) says its “supporters include a broad coalition of African American business, political and civic leaders, working alongside peers in the Jewish community.” Its stated mission is to “narrow the wealth gap between Black and white Americans.”
They explicitly stated that ousting Tlaib was their focus, and they planned to spend over $1 million to support Janice Winfrey, a centrist African-American and the Detroit City Clerk since 2005, against Tlaib.
UEA squares its thin anti-racist rhetoric with targeting one of the most progressive members of Congress by implicitly accusing Tlaib of ignoring the needs of the Black community. To carry that case, UEA is employing activist and CNN commentator Bakari Sellers, who has long been one of the leading spokespeople for AIPAC in the Black community.
In 2016, Sellers was a key figure in the fight between the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders camps over how to address Israel and the Palestinians in the Democratic Party platform. Sanders’ camp led an effort to draft wording that called for “an end to occupation and illegal settlements,” which clearly aligned with stated U.S. policy in 2016.
Sellers wrote a letter opposing the mention of occupation or settlements and got dozens of other African-American leaders to sign on. A compromise was eventually reached where the Democratic platform expressed some sympathy for the Palestinians for the first time, but there was no mention of occupation or settlements. There is little doubt that Sellers’ efforts were an important factor in staving off what was a popular proposal during the 2016 race.
Sellers was hardly subtle in his attacks on Tlaib. “Congresswoman Tlaib, I’m sure, serves admirably,” he told POLITICO. “However, we were hoping that we can have a candidate that doesn’t have varying distractions…we want someone, particularly in these Black communities, that does not get distracted by shiny things or media opportunities but is focused on the uplift of our communities and does right by them.
“I don’t have a beef with her directly,” Sellers continued. “I just think that there are individuals who will have the interest of their district, first and foremost, and not their brand. And will do things in the interest of uplift of that community. It’s not as much of a knock on her as it is that somebody else can do the job better because they’re focused on these particular issues.”
Sellers characterizes Tlaib as being self-centered, an odd charge considering that her politics are not well-suited to upward mobility and she has remained closely connected to the grassroots in her district. He makes no secret of what he means by “distractions,” noting that her criticisms of Israel are “high on the list” of his concerns about Tlaib.