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The AIPAC attack on Andy Levin is an attack on the future of peace in Israel

Andy Levin vocally supports a two-state solution. For AIPAC, this makes him ‘insufficiently pro-Israel’

If you thought that a candidate running for Congress who shares the policy of both the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking would be applauded by the largest pro-Israel organization in the U.S., you’d be tragically wrong. 

In Michigan’s 11th District, Andy Levin is the candidate whom AIPAC is trying to defeat in a competitive Democratic primary. They have already spent $3 million against the scion of one of the leading American Jewish political families. No one can say that the Levins — including former Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Sander Levin, Andy’s uncle and father, respectively, who together spent decades in Congress vocally championing aid to Israel and providing political support for it — haven’t done their part for the State of Israel.

So why is Levin being targeted for defeat? Because, according to some of the old guard of American Jewish political life, he’s insufficiently pro-Israel because he vocally supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This is an odd argument to make, because, in this view, that would also mean that new Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid is insufficiently pro-Israel (spoiler alert: he’s not). Lapid, just last week alongside President Biden in Jerusalem, said of the two-state solution:

“I haven’t changed my position. A two-state solution is a guarantee for a strong democratic state of Israel with a Jewish majority.”

President Biden reaffirmed that view by saying: “Two states along the 1967 lines, where mutually agreed-to swaps, remain the best way to achieve equal measure of security, prosperity, freedom, and democracy for the Palestinians as well as Israelis … Two states for two peoples, both of whom have deep and ancient roots in this land, living side by side in peace and security.”

I’m likely the only person to have worked both for Bernie Sanders on Jewish issues, as his 2020 campaign’s national Jewish Outreach Director, and to have also sat at the Jewish establishment’s Conference of Presidents table from 2020-22 as the executive director of the American Jewish Congress. Sitting in these two lanes taught me that the tactics for achieving peace varied widely, with progressives impatient about Israeli moves to achieve it and the establishment groups willing to wait and follow the Israeli government’s lead.

As a proud Zionist, I have deep empathy for the concerns about antisemitism and the State of Israel that the Jewish community — especially its establishment infrastructure — is struggling with right now. These organizations have made fighting antisemitism central to their work, along with seeking to maintain broad support for Israel. Doing this is not easy. It requires effective persuasion and coalition building. 

Yet while it’s clear that Israel can’t afford to lose the next generation of American Jews, AIPAC seems to have not gotten the memo, as its political maneuvers against Levin make this more likely. Turning away the next generation of American Jews is a luxury that we in the pro-Israel community can’t afford.

And by seeking to so aggressively defeat a Jewish candidate who champions the two-state solution, AIPAC is running directly against the majority opinion of the American Jewish community, not to mention the view of the current Israeli prime minister. 

It’s also worth noting that the manner in which Andy Levin is being treated is the core of the problem. That’s because Levin is the epitome of what it means to be a progressive Jewish leader today. He is inspiring to young American Jews looking for a vision of empathy and inclusiveness, one that seeks peace and justice, and one that rejects hate. He is the kind of person who can convince young American Jews to love Israel and advocate for a more just Jewish state. 

Yet by attacking Levin on his pro-Israel bona fides, AIPAC is playing a short-term game. Since this primary race began in January, AIPAC and others have worked to impugn Levin’s — and by extension, his progressive Jewish supporters’ — commitment to the Jewish community and Israel. It is covering its ears and closing its eyes to progressive Jews — the majority of the American Jewish community. 

This is not how you grow support for Israel. This is how you tear it down.

So for those of us who want Israel to survive as a Jewish state and a democracy, a nation that is integrated into the rapidly evolving Middle East, we have an obligation to support the vision of Lapid, Biden and Levin. Just like them, we should not give up on a future of peace for Israel. Maintaining that vision of a two-state solution and a peaceful resolution to the conflict is crucial both for Israel’s future and American Jewish support for Israel.

The last thing our community should be doing is destroying that dream. Sadly, the way that Levin is being treated is doing just that.

To contact the author, email editorial@forward.com

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