During the 2022 primary season, a significant number of candidates espousing anti-Israel views are running for office across the country. Some have engaged in inflammatory or antisemitic rhetoric related to Israel. As the primary elections enter their final weeks, voters have voiced their preferences at the ballot box for many of these candidates, and most have lost. While their defeat may reflect a rejection of their views by the electorate, strong showings by some radical anti-Israel candidates may convey the salience of their anti-Israel ideas among a large segment of voters.
Moreover, during the primaries a notable segment of anti-Zionist activists have engaged in rhetoric related to pro-Israel organizations and “Zionists” that has employed common antisemitic themes related to Jewish control and Jewish money.
Also troubling to ADL is the number of right-wing extremists who won their primaries. While both are problematic and deserving of attention, these two issues should not be equated in terms of the threat, degree of rhetoric, and embrace by the political mainstream.
Many anti-Israel candidates who have engaged in language that plays into antisemitic tropes only received a small percentage of the vote. Others who have only occasionally veered into inflammatory rhetoric, some of whom have expressed remorse, fared better:
Marco Amaral (Peace and Freedom Party): Amaral, who ran for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, vilified Zionists in May 2021 when he responded to Democrat Rep. Sara Jacobs’ (who is Jewish) statement about the escalation of violence between Israelis and Hamas by engaging in a lengthy conversation in the comments section on Facebook, during which he stated that “Zionists are just as bad as Neo-Nazis" and that “Zionism is a death cult.” He finished with 9% of the vote in a seven-way race.
Stephane Gallardo (D-WA): In December 2021, Congressional candidate Stephanie Gallardo (D-WA), endorsed by Seattle DSA, a local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, tweeted her disapproval of DSA’s decision against expelling Rep. Jamaal Bowman after he voted in favor of aid to Israel and participated in a trip to Israel and the West Bank with the left-wing pro-Israel group J Street: “...I am disturbed that our organization has chosen to give Zionism a pass.” In June 2021, Gallardo, active in the National Education Association, tweeted in response to developments within the group: “I will not allow Zionism to manifest any further in the largest labor union in the country.” In a May 2021 tweet, Washington Congressional candidate Stephanie Gallardo (mentioned previously) suggested Israel is “inextricably linked” with white nationalism. Gallardo finished with 13% of the vote in a six-way race.
Nina Turner (D-OH): Former Congressional candidate Nina Turner has expressed rhetoric playing into the idea that American pro-Israel policies are chiefly influenced by financial donations by supporters of Israel. She won 33% of the vote in a two-way race.
Max Socol (D-MD): In June 2020, Max Socol, who ran for state senate in Maryland and endorsed by Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), decried the ability of the “Jewish Zionist US right” to impose its “program” of “elevati[ing] key people into” positions of power over U.S. media. While he acknowledged that his comments could be construed as invoking antisemitic tropes about Jewish control of the media, he nevertheless decided to ascribe American support for Israel to some sort of Jewish influence or control rather than an alignment of values and interests. Socol finished with 37% of the vote in a two-way race.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI): Rep. Tlaib emerged victorious in her primary. As a Palestinian-American, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is understandably personal for Rep. Tlaib. Still, her rhetoric has played into antisemitic tropes related to the idea that American pro-Israel policies are chiefly influenced by financial donations by Zionists. On one occasion, Tlaib expressed regret for her words. She has also accused Israel of being an apartheid state and perpetrating genocide.
Antisemitic reactions to the 2022 primaries:
Several commons themes emerged throughout the course of the primary. One was that of Zionist dark money, using the contours of AIPAC and Democratic Majority of Israel’s preferred policy candidates to accuse Israel of injecting “dark PAC” money to unduly influence, “buy” or in some cases, outright steal elections. These evoke classic tropes about Jewish/Zionist power over a country’s policy. One may agree or disagree with AIPAC's policies and actions, but their participation in elections is no different from other interest groups and lobbying arms, whether they be progressive, conservative, business, energy, or others. When lawful and common election involvement is bluntly called out for its Jewishness (or pro-Israel nature), it undoubtedly energizes those who seek to discriminate against Jews.
A subgenre of this theme was the allegation that the Russian government’s overt active measures to destabilize the United States was somehow comparable to pro-Israel groups exercising their legally protected right to raise money through a PAC and endorse candidates aligned with their political stances.
In at least one more extreme case, a local Democratic party called for the exclusion of all Zionists from American office. They released an apology on the platform.
July 15, 2022: The Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy claimed that “Israel’s foreign agent is meddling in US politics...again.”
August 2, 2022: Nina Turner tweeted claiming that AIPAC bought the Michigan-11 seat.
July 20,2022: Rabbi David Mivasair accused “Zionist billionaires” of “smashing” progressive Democratic candidates through dark money donations and of “distorting” U.S. democracy.
July 22, 2022: Cynthia McKinney, noted antisemite and conspiracy theorist, claimed Israel buys elections and controls domestic policy.
Disclaimer: As a 501c3 nonprofit organization, ADL takes no position on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for office.