Muslim group Emgage raises money for pro-Israel candidates

Woman and two men sit on podium with AIPAC sign

Democratic Congresswoman Lizzie Pannill Fletcher of Texas is one of several hardline Israel supporters who are being endorsed or funded by Emgage. (via Facebook)

Last month, The Electronic Intifada exposed the extensive ties between leaders of the American Muslim group Emgage and the Israel lobby.

Since then, Emgage has been trying to prove its pro-Palestinian bona fides.

As it scrambled to contain the mounting damage from the revelations, Emgage claimed that it “has always supported the human rights and freedom of the Palestinian people.”

It even affirmed its backing for BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

Emgage also bragged that it “steadfastly supported proud Palestinian American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib” and “stood by our sister [Congresswoman] Ilhan Omar as a proud Muslim progressive who supports Palestinian rights.”

If endorsements are a measure of Emgage’s values, then what about the ones the group has not boasted about?

In the current election cycle, Emgage is backing – and giving thousands of dollars to – members of Congress with hardline pro-Israel and anti-BDS positions.

Haley Stevens

Emgage’s endorsement for Congresswoman Haley Stevens describes her as a “strong supporter of human rights” and an “advocate for underrepresented communities.”

But Stevens’ unconditional support for Israel and disregard for its blatant abuses of Palestinian human rights shows this to be fiction.

In September, Emgage’s political action committee held a virtual fundraiser for Stevens, co-hosted by Emgage board member Iltefat Hamzavi.

Since 2017, Hamzavi has personally donated $3,450 to Haley.

First elected in 2018, Stevens represents Michigan’s 11th district, which includes Detroit’s northwest suburbs.

Stevens makes no bones about her ardent and unconditional support for Israel.

One of her first acts in Congress was to co-sponsor a 2019 resolution backed by the Israel lobby group AIPAC condemning the BDS movement.

That’s in line with her campaign pledge to “stand alongside Israel against the BDS movement,” including by “supporting legislative efforts in Congress that push back against the BDS movement.”

Stevens’ campaign website describes Israel as “the only democracy in the Middle East and our strongest ally in the region.” She even claims that the United States and Israel “share a commitment to justice and equality for all.”

Meanwhile, Stevens ignores Israel’s systematic abuses of Palestinian rights. Her campaign website makes no mention of military occupation and settlements, let alone the reality of apartheid that Israel imposes on millions of Palestinians.

The website’s only affirmation that Palestinians exist is her statement that “While a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian question is vital for long-term safety and security in the region, it cannot infringe on Israel’s right to exist safely and as a Jewish state.”

In other words, her commitment to Israeli Jewish supremacy trumps all other considerations, especially Palestinian rights.

Stevens is even prepared to attack fellow Democrats on behalf of Israel.

In February 2019, she signed a letter amplifying scurrilous attacks on her House colleague Ilhan Omar, who was the target of a vicious incitement campaign by Israel supporters falsely accusing her of anti-Semitism.

Stevens also issued her own statement ostensibly against anti-Semitism in which she said “I’m eager to reaffirm my support for Israel.”

That support goes well beyond mere words. In June 2019, Stevens claimed she played a “key role” in securing the passage of $3.3 billion in no-strings-attached military aid for Israel.

Stevens has said that “my beliefs on Israel” will “never be bought and paid for.”

But when Stevens and her mother went on a junket to Israel in August 2019 sponsored by the lobby group AIPAC, the congresswoman described the experience as “phenomenal” and like “being in summer camp.”

The trip – which some other new members of Congress chose to skip – was paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, an AIPAC cutout.

On her return, Stevens duly gushed Israeli government propaganda about everything from “terror tunnels” to Israel’s “innovative technologies.”

Susan Wild

Congresswoman Susan Wild, endorsed by Emgage, represents Pennsylvania’s 7th district.

She also voted for the resolution condemning BDS.

Wild describes herself as a “very pro-Israel member of Congress.”

She’s been to Israel repeatedly, calling it “one of my favorite places,” and brags that her children have also gone on lobby-funded Birthright trips which aim to propagandize American Jewish youth into Zionism, Israel’s anti-Palestinian state ideology.

Emgage donated $5,000 to Wild’s campaign in the current cycle.

Donna Shalala

Emgage’s endorsement for Donna Shalala, who represents Florida’s 27th district, calls her a “staunch proponent of civil rights.”

Yet like many alleged civil rights defenders, that advocacy is nowhere to be found when it comes to Israel’s gross violations of human rights.

The Miami-area congresswoman, who held a cabinet position under President Bill Clinton, boasts that she has fought for “pro-Israel values” throughout her career.

As well as Emgage, Shalala has received endorsements from Israel lobby groups J Street and Democratic Majority for Israel.
J Street explicitly opposes BDS and the rights of Palestinian refugees, while Democratic Majority for Israel attacks and smears candidates – including Bernie Sanders – who express any sympathy for Palestinian human rights.

When she was president of the University of Miami a decade ago, Shalala traveled to Israel as part of a delegation of US university leaders.

Their goal was to deepen cooperation with Israeli universities in order to defy calls to boycott these institutions over their complicity in abuses of Palestinian rights.

Not surprisingly, Shalala also joined the smear campaign against Ilhan Omar.

Lizzie Fletcher

Emgage has endorsed Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, who was first elected in 2018 to represent the 7th district of Texas, which includes some of Houston’s wealthy western suburbs.

While Fletcher ran as a progressive, she is second to no one in her support for Israel.

Like Stevens and Shalala, she voted for the anti-BDS resolution and signed the letter implicitly attacking Ilhan Omar.

In August 2019, Fletcher also went on the junket to Israel funded by AIPAC.

There’s no evidence of her ever speaking up for Palestinian rights, but she is adept at regurgitating talking points about Israeli “technology, art and innovation.”

Indeed, she has helped whitewash Israel’s attacks on Palestinians.

In November last year, Israel provoked a massive escalation of violence when it carried out an air attack on the home of an Islamic Jihad official in the besieged Gaza Strip, killing him and his wife.

Islamic Jihad retaliated for the killings with volleys of rockets into Israel. Israel then massively escalated its bombing.

Two days of Israeli attacks on Gaza left more than 30 Palestinians dead, including eight children and three women.

No Israelis were killed.

Fletcher tweeted out her full support for Israel, falsely laying all the blame on Palestinians and saying nothing about the horrific death toll caused by Israel.

AIPAC must have been satisfied that the money it invested in her junket was well spent.

Fletcher has however condemned Islamophobia and said that “our Muslim neighbors are important members of our community.”

She even condemned attacks on Ilhan Omar, barely a month after Fletcher herself participated in the smear campaign.

Those are undoubtedly welcome words, but that’s all they are.

Emgage, it appears, satisfies itself with such symbolic support, while giving politicians a complete pass on their harmful policies and votes in Congress – especially their unconditional support for Israel.

“Beacon of light”

Other pro-Israel candidates supported by Emgage include:

  • Pennsylvania Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, who touts her co-sponsorship of legislation to fund Israel’s military and deepen “cooperation” between the US and Israel.

“As our most important ally in the Middle East, we must remain dedicated to preserving the sovereignty of the Jewish state’s rightful home,” Dean has said.

  • New Jersey Congressman Tom Malinowski, who has bragged about traveling to Israel to show “support for the US-Israel partnership and opposition to BDS.”

  • Florida’s Charlie Crist, who was first elected to Congress in 2016.

One of Crist’s first acts after being sworn in was to co-sponsor a measure condemning the United Nations for passing a resolution reaffirming the illegality of Israel’s settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Dean, Malinowski and Crist all voted for the anti-BDS resolution.

  • In 2019, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who is now running for Congress, went on what he called a “life-changing” junket to Israel funded by lobby groups in his state.

When he returned, DePasquale pledged to tour Pennsylvania, telling everyone that Israel is a “beacon of light” and America’s best ally.

DePasquale has received nearly $23,000 in pro-Israel money this cycle.

He also received $2,500 from Emgage.

Working for pro-Israel candidates

The Electronic Intifada’s exposé of Emgage’s pro-Israel ties sparked a heated debate among Muslim American leaders and activists about what actions to take.

There are growing calls to cut all ties with Emgage.

American Muslims for Palestine has banned all cooperation with the group.

Yet at least one prominent voice in the Palestinian American community has counseled postponing further action until after next month’s US election.

Emgage leaders will undoubtedly welcome such calls as giving them breathing space to focus their efforts on getting their favored anti-Palestinian candidates re-elected to Congress.