US congresswoman slams 'hate group' AIPAC following attack ads
Betty McCollum, who has previously criticised Israel's occupation of Palestine, slammed the use of her image in the now-deleted ad, saying it incited "violence" and "hate speech".
The Minnesota Representative said advertisement weaponised her image, alongside that of fellow Democrats congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, in what she considered an attack over their defence of Palestinian children.
"The decision by AIPAC to use my image in paid Facebook ads weaponizing anti-Semitism to incite followers by attacking me, my colleagues, and my work promoting human rights for Palestinian children detained in Israeli military prisons is hate speech," McCollum said in a statement released on her website.
The congresswoman referred to legislation she introduced to prevent the mistreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military prisons.
"AIPAC wants its followers to believe that my bill [...] is a threat more sinister than ISIS," she said. "This is not empty political rhetoric. It is hate speech."
The two ads, which appeared on Facebook in late January, labelled the congresswomen "radicals in the Democratic Party" who are "pushing their anti-Semitic and anti-Israel policies down the throats of the American people".
The ads linked to a petition calling on supporters to "protect our Israeli allies especially as they face threats from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and - maybe more sinister - right here in the US Congress".
AIPAC retracted the ads last week and apologised for the campaign's wording, which it deemed to have "distorted our message".
"We offer our unequivocal apology to the overwhelming majority of the Democrats in Congress who are rightfully offended by the inaccurate assertion that the poorly worded, inflammatory advertisement implied," the organisation stated.
AIPAC said the campaign "alluded to a genuine concern of many pro-Israel Democrats about a small but growing group [...] that is deliberately working to erode the bipartisan consensus on this issue and undermine the US-Israel relationship".
McCollum labelled AIPAC's statement a "non-apology", viewing it as "just another attack".
Amanda Yanchury, McCollum's communications director, told The New Arab that AIPAC had not reached out to the congresswoman directly to apologise or discuss the matter.
Since her election in 2001, McCollum has steadfastly advocated for Palestinian human rights in Congress.
The Facebook campaign controversy comes as AIPAC prepares for its annual Policy Conference in early March.
AIPAC did not answer The New Arab's request for comment.
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