Out of Blue, Midwest Vote Becomes Israel Scrap

Joe Walsh and Tammy Duckworth Spar Over Middle East

By Nathan Guttman

Published July 13, 2012, issue of July 20, 2012.
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The tough battle over Middle East politics has attracted some notable Jewish donors, even as the establishment pro-Israel PACs have steered clear.

Walsh, according to federal filings for this election cycle, has received $2,500 in donations from the Allies for Israel PAC, a pro-Israel campaign finance committee considered to be right-of-center. Its key contributor is Cherna Moskowitz, wife of casino operator Irving Moskowitz, who has bankrolled the purchase of Arab homes in East Jerusalem for resettlement by Jewish Israelis. Other donors to the PAC include Republican activists Cheryl Halpern, a former chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and Richard Schifter, who served as assistant secretary of state for human rights in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Cherna and Irving Moskowitz have also contributed a combined $5,000 to Walsh’s campaign as individuals.

Though not listed formally as a pro-Israel PAC, the Miami based American Principles PAC, which donated $1,000 to Walsh, includes members of the Falic family in Florida among its donors. Members of this family were among the top donors to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party primary campaign earlier this year.

Duckworth is being backed by J Street PAC, the political fundraising arm associated with the dovish lobby J Street. In the second quarter of 2012 the PAC raised $58,000 for Duckworth out of a total of more than $1 million the PAC raised for all the candidates it endorsed.

“We love to stand up for people who support two states,” said Dan Kilik, director of J Street PAC. “Walsh,” he added, “is one of the worst candidates on our issues.”

The PAC’s support for Duckworth has itself become an in the campaign. “J Street,” Walsh told the Forward, is “anti-Israel and anti-Semitic” and “a group of loony people from the far left” backed by George Soros, the liberal hedge fund billionaire. “Taking even one dollar from J Street is saying you are anti-Israel,” he said.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s president, rejoined that “pro-Israel Americans need and deserve better leaders than Joe Walsh, ones who will stand up for their belief that the United States best serves both our historic friendship with Israel and our own national security interests when it is actively working to advance a two-state solution.”

Illinois’s 8th Congressional district includes the northern suburbs of Chicago, but skips most of the areas with large Jewish populations. In 2008 the district voted for Obama by a large margin. Cook’s Political Report, a nonpartisan publication that closely tracks congressional races, currently predicts that Walsh will lose his seat, listing the district as “likely Democratic” by a five-point margin.

“I don’t have a heavy Jewish population but I do have a heavy Christian evangelical population and they are more pro-Israel than the average Jewish American,” Walsh said of his district. Duckworth argued that the issue of Israel is not at the top of the minds of voters, who, she said, are concerned more about jobs and healthcare.

“Israel is not a main issue, but it is part of a narrative of a person like Walsh who speaks first and thinks later,” said Duckworth.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com


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