How AIPAC has doubled down support for Netanyahu and 'Gaza disinformation'

How AIPAC has doubled down support for Netanyahu and 'Gaza disinformation'
AIPAC's doubling down in support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comes as key Democrats criticise Israel's conduct its war on Gaza.
4 min read
22 March, 2024
AIPAC has recently told its staff to amplify Israeli talking points, including disputing casualty figures from Gaza's health ministry [Getty]

Relations between the US and Israel have been increasingly strained due to escalating criticism from key US senators, including Chuck Schumer and Chris Van Hollen, of Israel and its war on Gaza

Secretary of State Antony Blinken repeated the administration's warnings on Thursday that Israel should not conduct a military operation in Rafah, while a US-sponsored resolution in the United Nations on Friday will call for an immediate ceasefire.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has attempted to shut down criticism of the country's war effort, with the death toll provided by Gaza's health ministry the latest target.

Why is AIPAC's changing Gaza discourse?

According to Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN) Advocacy Director Raed Jarrar, a recent change in discourse by AIPAC follows criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by Democrats, showing the pro-Israel lobby group is now aligning itself with his far-right government.

"What appears to be happening is that AIPAC is doubling down and taking sides in the rift between Biden and Schumer on the one hand and Netanyahu on the other," Jarrar said.

While pro-Israel sentiments have always been a bipartisan issue in the US, the recent pressure from sections of the Democrat party in Congress has changed that, he said.

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"Being pro-Israel and giving Israel a blank cheque for support, historically was something both parties abided by, but now we see a new reality where there is definitely a different approach when it comes to dealing with the Netanyahu government," Jarrar added.

His comments on AIPAC's alignment with Netanyahu follow leaks reported by The American Prospect, revealing extensive lobbying by the group after recent criticisms of Israel by Democratic politicians and the Biden administration

This includes attacking new talking points on the potential conditionality of military aid to Israel over its conduct in Gaza, as well as from International Court of Justice findings.

Likewise, AIPAC is telling members to promote the Israeli government line that it doesn't target civilians and question the number of people killed in Gaza by disputing the statistics provided by the health ministry.

The Israeli government has also denied reports by NGOs that it is hampering aid deliveries to the enclave and rejected well-documented claims of an ongoing famine in Gaza.

Such questions over Gaza's casualty count align with Netanyahu's refutations regarding the numbers from Gaza's health ministry. He told Politico in a recent interview that the number of civilian casualties was less than 20,000

That discourse is in full swing on social media, with AIPAC posting and reposting various accounts on X that amplify Israeli talking points that were outlined in the leaked documents.  

Disputing Gaza's casualty count

Tactics for challenging the legitimacy of the death toll reported by Gaza's health ministry include posting an article from Tablet, written by Professor of Statistics Abraham Wyner, analyzing the ministry's data in an attempt to disprove the count.

The article claims that "the numbers are not real" and that "it is highly suggestive that a process unconnected or loosely connected to reality was used to report the numbers".

However, taking papers published by the medical journal The Lancet, Epidemiologist Les Roberts writes in Time Magazine that "both [papers] conclude that the Gazan numbers were plausible and credible".

Many medical experts believe the real death toll is likely to be far higher than the figure given by the health ministry, due to the number of people still missing and other hurdles in maintaining such statistics in times of war.

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In the Johns Hopkins paper, correlations between civilian casualties, UN casualties and those killed by Israeli bombing support the health ministry's estimates

This was also indicated by Director of Communications at UNRWA Juliette Touma who told The New Arab that while the organisation was unable to verify the number of killed, "(what) we can confirm however is that at least 168 UNRWA colleagues have been killed since the war began, the highest number of UN workers killed in the world in any conflict or natural disaster".

Likewise, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine analysis "found near perfect correlation between Government bombing reports and satellite imagery" and, using the Gaza's ID system, found that it was "very unlikely that there could be meaningful data fabrication".

According to Gaza's health ministry, at least 31,988 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's war on Gaza, with a further 74,188 injured.