Incoming president Joe Biden is reportedly close to selecting a vocal Israel critic to serve as his White House press secretary.
Karine Jean-Pierre, a longtime campaign adviser and incoming vice president Kamala Harris's chief of staff, is currently the "top candidate" for the job, according to NBC News. Jean-Pierre was senior adviser and national spokeswoman for MoveOn.org, a far-left anti-Israel group that defends boycotts of the Jewish state, from April 2016 until August 2020, when she was hired as chief of staff for Harris.
Jean-Pierre has been a vocal critic of Israel, accusing the Jewish state of committing "war crimes" and, during the Democratic primary, celebrating Democrats who boycotted the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual conference in Washington, D.C. She praised those lawmakers for "boldly choosing to prioritize diplomacy and human rights over the power of a lobbying organization."
Team Biden's focus on Jean-Pierre is likely to rankle the pro-Israel community, which enjoyed strong support from the White House during President Donald Trump's tenure in office. As Biden makes early staff decisions, the selection of a prominent Israel critic could signal his administration is willing to make overtures to Israel's detractors.
MoveOn, the progressive group for which Jean-Pierre served in senior roles, launched a campaign during the Democratic primary calling on Democrats to boycott the AIPAC conference and the organization itself. "[Democratic] candidates should be prepared for push back regarding their involvement with AIPAC," a MoveOn spokeswoman told Politico at the time. The group's first candidate endorsements in the 2020 cycle were of the two leading anti-Israel members of Congress, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.).
In a 2019 opinion article for Newsweek, Jean-Pierre said AIPAC helped the Trump administration "sabotage" the Iran nuclear deal. She claimed that AIPAC "supported the group that's credited with inspiring President Trump to enact the Muslim Ban and has been known to spread anti-Muslim racism." Jean-Pierre did not name the group. She attacked AIPAC for hosting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at its conference on the grounds that "under his leadership of Israel, according to the United Nations, Israel may have committed war crimes."
AIPAC, she claimed without evidence, engages in "severely racist, Islamophobic rhetoric. … The organization has become known for trafficking in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric while lifting up Islamophobic voices and attitudes."
AIPAC, which was once a broadly bipartisan organization, has increasingly come under fire from progressives who view it as deferential to the Israeli government. While the organization was once a symbol of America's broad support for U.S.-Israeli ties, progressives have worked to undermine its efforts and demand that Democrats boycott the group
MoveOn also defended House Democrats accused of anti-Semitism, tweeting that Democratic leaders "must stand strong in solidarity with Reps. Tlaib, Omar—stand up to Israel right-wing government for doing Trump's racist, political dirty work." When far-left activist Linda Sarsour was criticized for anti-Semitism, the group tweeted that she "is a leader in the fight for justice for all of us." MoveOn also defended Angela Davis, the notorious communist activist, as a "civil rights leader" after an award was revoked over her record of anti-Semitism.
The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.