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Pro-Israel group secures 'stunning' victory in US primary election

US Shontel Brown on 1 August 2021 [Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images]
US politician Shontel Brown on 1 August 2021 [Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images]

The Democratic primary election in the US state of Ohio on Tuesday saw pro-Israel Shontel Brown defeat progressive Nina Turner in a hotly contested race that has left a bitter after taste. It's alleged that votes were tipped in favour of Shontel with outside money poured in by the pro-Israel Political Action Committee (PAC) Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI).

According to research group tracking money in US politics, OpenSecrets, DMFI, one of many pro-Israel Super PAC, raised nearly $6.5 million in funds to back their preferred candidate.

It's claimed that DMFI, which has multiple ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), spent more than $1.9 million on TV ads, digital ads, and mailers that were either pro-Brown or anti-Turner. American news agency, Brick House publication reported that this sum is more than the $1.7 million than the Brown campaign had disclosed spending on the race as of its final spending filing, which covers through July.

In her concession speech, Turner blamed what she called "evil money", which is thought to be a reference to the outside spending in the race from DMFI and other groups that secured her defeat in a close primary.

Ohio is a safe Democrat seat which means that Brown, favoured by pro-Israel right-wing members of her party, is the likely candidate to become member of Congress for Ohio's 11th congressional district. The election was triggered by the resignation of Marcia Fudge, who has been appointed to the position of housing secretary by President Joe Biden.

READ: US foreign policy adrift: Why Washington is no longer calling the shots

Turner is an outspoken progressive who came to national prominence as a Bernie Sanders surrogate. She was predicted to win the race. But her surprise defeat has left a bitter after taste. "I am going to work hard to ensure that something like this doesn't happen to another progressive candidate again," she said. "We didn't lose this race, evil money manipulated and maligned this election."

Like fellow progressives within the Democrat party, Turner has called for conditioning US aid to Israel to "align with significant advances in human rights," while Brown has said she supports continuing to give Israel $3.8 billion annually in military aid without any strings under a $38 billion aid package approved by former US President Barack Obama in 2016.

Brown thanked her "Jewish brothers and sisters" during her victory remarks, according to a report in the Haaretz. She described how her 2018 trip to Israel gave her insight into the importance of the US-Israel relationship.

Following Brown's victory, DMFI congratulated the councilwomen saying that it was a "stunning upset" and that the pro-Israel group was "proud to have supported her successful campaign."

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