Congresswoman Betty McCollum, who represents Minnesota’s 4th District, is embroiled in controversy with AIPAC after calling the organization a “hate group.”
The comment came in a statement the 10-term congresswoman released Wednesday afternoon in response to a Facebook ad released by AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), which uses a composite photo of McCollum, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). The ad had a link to a petition that encouraged AIPAC supporters to “protect our Israeli allies especially as they face threats from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and — maybe more sinister — right here in the U.S. Congress.”
“AIPAC claims to be a bipartisan organization, but its use of hate speech actually makes it a hate group,” McCollum wrote on her website. “By weaponizing anti-Semitism and hate to silence debate, AIPAC is taunting Democrats and mocking our core values. I hope Democrats understand what is at stake and take a stand because working to advance peace, human rights, and justice is not sinister – it is righteous.”
AIPAC did not return calls or emails seeking comment.
McCollum’s statement came four days after AIPAC posted an apology on Twitter, which in part read: “We offer our unequivocal apology to the overwhelming majority of Democrats in Congress who are rightfully offended by the inaccurate assertion that the poorly worded, inflammatory advertisement implied.”
AIPAC describes itself as “a bipartisan organization of U.S. citizens committed solely to strengthening, protecting and promoting the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel.”
McCollum, in her statement, asserted that AIPAC was targeting her because of her bill H.R. 2407, Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, which amends a provision of the Foreign Assistance Act, known as the “Leahy Law,” to prohibit funding for the military detention of children in any country, including Israel.
Beyond H.R. 2407, there has been a long history of bad blood between McCollum and AIPAC.
In 2018, McCollum received a leadership award from the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and at the time, she called Israel “an apartheid state,” where she spoke after Professor Noura Erakat who praised the terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”
In 2006, after McCollum voted in the House Foreign Relations Committee against the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act — a bill which was soon passed by the full House of Representatives. In the she said/they said back and forth that ensued, McCollum said that her chief of staff was told by an AIPAC representative that the congresswoman was supporting terrorists by voting against the law. That representative, Amy Rotenberg, denied at the time — and again last year — that was what she said.
While AIPAC has been posting paid Facebook ads attacking Congressional Democrats and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the group also used paid ads on the social media platform to take Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to task for blocking U.S. aid to Israel.