Who is Pro-Israel California Rep. Jared Huffman—Really?

Demonstration at campaign fundraiser for Rep. Jared Huffman at Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma, California. Photo: Peter Byrne

Protestors probe his political psyche and we follow the money

Northern California congressperson Jared Huffman, 60, held his annual “Hootenanny” campaign fundraiser at Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma, California.

Press were denied entry to the private party, but the real story was outside, as CounterPunch discovered.

The fundraising event did not go karmically well for the occasionally progressive Democrat who has represented Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino and other North Coast counties since 2013. About 80 of Huffman’s constituents were motivated to attend his fundraiser—not to donate money, but to protest his political stance regarding what he labels a “justified war” on the people of Gaza. Huffman consistently votes to fund Israeli war machinery that targets Palestinian civilians, and he opposes an unconditional ceasefire.

Confined inside a barricaded “free speech” zone patrolled by heavily armed Petaluma police officers, the youthful, keffiyeh wearing crowd waved Palestinian flags and brandished signs calling for a ceasefire and freeing Palestine from decades of Israeli occupation, ethnic cleansing, and genocidal warfare. The protest chants and songs could be heard inside the restaurant as Huffman worked a microphone, thanking about 150 attendees for donating money to his 2024 campaign.

ATM politics

Huffman’s campaign treasury is flush, holding more than $1 million in cash. Operating expenses for his 2022 campaign were $580,000, according to Federal Elections Commission datasets. But political coffers are always in need of lucre. That is because donations to Huffman are purchasing much more than streams of pan-handling email spam generated by his blue world marketing consultants. Cash is the arterial blood of influence and power in the purportedly democratic plutocracies of the West. Cash pays for newspaper, television, and social media advertising, gifting political allies, and more fundraising affairs. Without oodles of cash on hand to purchase media attention and generate popularity, a member of Congress is constantly at risk of becoming yesterday’s loser, a sudden nobody with only a phat pension left as the remainder of congressional power perks. As Bob Dylan’s immortal song about America’s propagandized culture observes, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears”. It also seduces; without buckets of cash to spill, there simply are no votes to be had, Ma. Hence, most politicians will kiss anyone who flashes a Benjamin while police are keeping constituents carrying protest signs at bay.

Down home with Jared

The loud and lively demonstration calling for Huffman to stop supporting killing the people of Gaza was organized by Sonoma County for Palestine and Marin County Democratic Socialists of America. At the request of U.S. Capital Police, the Petaluma Police Department assigned five officers to back up private security hired to deal with political disruption. Petaluma chief of police, Brian Miller, confirmed that the Huffman campaign is not covering the cost of providing police protection at the private party. But why did Huffman order up the police in such force?

By comparison, in 2021, a Huffman town hall meeting in San Rafael was disrupted by a mob of hundreds of enraged anti-vaxxers who rushed the stage. One person attacked an elderly, masked man; the MAGA mood was rude and ugly. Huffman gamely tried to debate with the protestors, but they were rambunctious, uncontrollable. Pointedly, Huffman declined to call in the police, who were staged a few blocks away. Take a note: these were mostly middle aged, white home-owner types living in the heart of Marin—not Black Lives Matter or “pro-Palestinian” radicals or politically awakening Generation Zs.

Inside the police-protected Lagunitas party were two dozen elected officials hailing from Marin and Sonoma counties, including four members of the Marin Board of Supervisors, Mayor Kevin McDonnell of Petaluma, and three Petaluma City Council members. Since October, many of these gray-haired, aging officials have successfully agitated to keep ceasefire in Gaza resolutions off their meeting dockets.

Outside the party, the crowd was loud, but peaceful and polite. Norman Solomon of Roots Action—who ran against Huffman in his first race for Congress in 2012—coolly handed out “Ceasefire in Gaza” signs. Two MAGA-type scowling provocateurs faced passing cars wielding an American flag and “Fuck Huffman” placards; they did not share the other protestor’s agenda. The mostly white, middle aged and elderly Huffman donors were compelled by the presence of the demonstration to park hundreds of feet away and to walk in front of the protestors to gain entrance to the Hootenanny. Many strode by with their heads down, perhaps chagrined, perhaps angry, but some shot the protestors “V for Peace” finger signs, as if to indicate that they, too, oppose the slaughter in Gaza, really.

Inside the brewery hall, the guests were entertained by SoloRio, billed as “a rock gospel stone soup band.” According to a Hootenanny attendee, Huffman himself plucked a guitar, singing a hobo ballad, “Wagon Wheel.” Huffman’s media campaign portrays the bookish lawyer cum politician as a down home, folksy yet progressive kind of farm-lover who likes to sport fish, play volleyball, josh and hootenanny with the country guys and gals.

Outside, the protestors portrayed Huffman onomatopoeically as “Genocide Jared,” noting that he had broken with 33 members of the House Progressive Caucus in an April vote to give Israel $17 billion in bombs, weapons, and infrastructural support to wage its explosively industrialized war on starving, thirsty, environmentally decimated, wounded and grieving Gazans, who were definitely not invited to the Hootenanny.

Generation Z objects to Huffman’s support of Israeli war machine at Huffman fundraiser protest. Photo: Peter Byrne

The protestors were also upset with Huffman because he has long opposed calling for a ceasefire in Gaza unless the negotiated terms are greenlighted by the Netanyahu administration; permanently disarm Hamas, but not Israel; call for the release of hostages held by Hamas, but not Palestinians held by Israeli Defense Forces.

Huffman also voted for a controversial bill equating criticism of Israeli militarism and apartheid practices with antisemitism.

Cognitive dissonances

Leading up to Lagunitas demonstration, Huffman twice engaged in candid colloquies with members of the Marin Country DSA. The participants failed to find much in the way of political common ground with their representative regarding Israel and Palestine, but transcripts provided by the Marin County DSA reveal the process by which Huffman masticates facts as he ponders how to vote on politically controversial issues.

On Netanyahu

In a May 10 interview on Zoom with members of the Palestine Solidarity Committee of the Marin County DSA, Huffman said, “I really don’t like Netanyahu. I think he is a thug and a fascist.” He said this while doubling down on affirming his support for giving Netanyahu and his generals the means to continue their collocated wars on Gaza, the Occupied West Bank, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. Huffman described himself as “heartbroken and concerned” about the annihilation of Palestinians at the same time that he is legislating their continued destruction as a people, which many genocide scholars argue is isomorphic to genocide, although Huffman does not agree with that analysis.

On geography

Huffman told the DSA interlocutors, “There are better ways to pressure Israel’s war plans than a full withholding of [military] aid and the reason is I want Israel to be able to defend itself … it’s a pretty delicate time for a country that is about the size of Marin County.”

Fact: Marin County population is 262,231; its land mass is 520 square miles. Israel’s internal population of Jews and Arabs is 10 million; its land mass is 8,019 square miles. Israel has 38 times the population of Marin County and 15 times the land mass.

On Biden

Huffman said he steadfastly supports the Biden administration’s actions regarding the war on Gaza, claiming that Biden “passionately wants to protect Palestinian lives … and try to get a ceasefire.”

Fact: The Biden administration has vetoed multiple calls for a ceasefire at the United Nations as it continues to arm Israel with bombs to explode Gazans. Biden and his Secretary of State, Antony Blinken—whom Huffman referred to as “Tony” during the conversation—refuse to effectively condition supplying weapons to Isreal upon Netanyahu re-opening the sealed borders of Gaza to allow humanitarian aid to flow, preventing mass starvation and even more deaths from disease, wounds, hunger and despair.

On apartheid

Huffman insists that Israel is a democracy and not an apartheid or settler colonial state, but that the West Bank “looks a lot more like apartheid [and] the occupation is a disaster.”

Fact: Israel is a fundamentally theocratic government created through acts of terrorism and population removal and expanded by IDF-backed settlers violently seizing and colonizing Palestinian lands. According to the Council of Foreign Relations, Israel denies equal rights to Arabs living inside its borders under socially and economically segregated conditions. Inside its national borders and in Gaza and the West Bank, “Greater” Israel has erected a vast military, digital and architectural apparatus to separate populations based upon ethnicity. The Israeli state regularly “mows the lawn” in Gaza and the West Bank, which means blowing up and bulldozing residences and businesses of Palestinians and murdering, torturing, and incarcerating stone-throwing resisters, including thousands of teenagers and children. Huffman claims to oppose these current and historical depredations, even as he votes for funding them.

On antisemitism

Huffman strongly opposes the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which he (incorrectly) labels as antisemitic. Huffman voted for a controversial congressional bill that equates criticism of Israel with antisemitism. In that regard, he told the DSA, “I’m a lawyer so I speak with a little bit of authority: the bill does not codify a definition of antisemitism. … It requires consideration of that definition … and I do want to show support for addressing antisemitism because it’s a thing, it’s real, and it’s raging right now.”

Fact: President Biden and most members of Congress regularly equate criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

On campus protests

Huffman opined that some of the pro-Palestine protestors “want world peace and are wonderful non-violent ideologues … others are nihilists and haters and want to fight and destroy things … Some police forces have shown incredible restraint … in allowing protest … others have not.” Regarding the politically reactionary mob of white males that attacked the student encampment at UCLA, Huffman “deplored” their violent actions, and he also “deplored the assault reportedly on the one Jewish student that the counter protestors thought justified their violence.”

Fact: There is no evidence of any assault prior to the mobs’ violent attack and beating of protestors, in fact, it is the so called “counter protestors,” many identified as right wing provocateurs, who initiated the fighting and assaulted the peacefully protesting students as the LAPD watched and did nothing.

Fact: On November 6, Huffman issued an apology to “my friends in the Jewish Community” for voting against a bill proposed by Burgess Owens, a Trump supporting Republican representative from Utah that had condemned Students for Justice in Palestine and professors at major universities as Hamas supporters. The Owens resolution subsequently supported by Huffman falsely accused universities of “the glorification of violence and usage of antisemitic rhetoric [which] creates a hostile learning and working environment for Jewish students, faculty, and staff.” Huffman explained in the local press that he now regretted not voting for the MAGA bill because it “was seen by many in the Jewish Community as a test of where members of Congress stand on growing scourge of college antisemitism.” Perhaps a few campaign funders put Huffman to the test.

On self-defense

Huffman, self-described as a “lawyer with a little bit of authority” said he does not support the right of Palestinians to armed self-defense against attacks by Israel’s military forces or settler militias.

Fact: International law supports the legal right of occupied people to resist attacks by colonizers and oppressors.

On the Nakba

Huffman said, “The Nakba was a real thing … And I think there are interesting debates about the scale and the reasons for it. But … many of those folks were told to leave by the Arab countries. There are some people in other countries who said, uh, we will destroy Israel and you’ll be able to return when we do. [There are] nuanced counter narratives [and] I have heard them and I’ve found some credibility there.”

Fact: Huffman holds an ahistorical view of the Nakba which occurred in 1947-48. The catastrophic ethnic cleansing, forcible expulsion and murder of indigenous people by the Jewish colonialists is exhaustively documented.

On international law

Huffman participated in another interview with Marin DSA on February 29, the day of the Flour Massacre, when the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) shot and killed 188 Gazans and injured hundreds of civilians who were seeking food for their starving families from the trickle of humanitarian aid trucks that had managed to pass through IDF and settler blockades. Huffman said, “It’s a problem that several UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] staffers in Gaza took part in the October 7th massacre.”

Fact: There is no credible evidence that UNRWA staff participated in the massacres, but that unproven allegation is a common talking point pushed by IDF public relations arms and Jewish non-profit funding foundations lobbying against locally elected officials supporting a ceasefire in Gaza. Huffman’s main talking points in his interviews with Marin DSA and his public statements since October 7 echo the positions of Israeli state-supporting organizations, such as the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Bay Area, that strongly and loudly oppose elected officials even considering measures to endorse a humanitarian or any type of ceasefire in Gaza.

On bombing the Iranian consulate

Huffman attempted to excuse Israel’s April 1 bombing of the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which killed seven Iranian military officers, by suggesting, without producing a scintilla of evidence, that there may have been “some terror act afoot,” adding “Let me be clear, the IRGC are not good guys.” Huffman then proffered an incoherent analogy, “But the Saudis chopped up Jamal Khashoggi in an embassy, so I’m not here to say that just because you walk in the door of an embassy you can do anything you want, I just don’t know enough about it.”

Fact: The 1961 Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations states, “The premises of the embassy shall be inviolable.” Huffman appears to be suggesting that assassinating Khashoggi was (perhaps) not a violation of diplomatic immunity because it was committed by Saudi Arabia at its own consulate in Turkey and not at Turkey’s consulate in Saudi Arabia. By this hair-splitting cognitive convolution: since the Iranian consulate was located in the capital of Syria, and not inside the borders of Israel, it was not a violation of the strictures of diplomacy to bomb it and kill high ranking Iranian officials. Bombing an embassy or consulate is an obvious act of war, however, and Iran treated it as such.

An “imaginary” solution

Huffman opposes the very idea of creating a democratic one state model of Israel in which Jews and Palestinians have equal rights. “It is a euphemism for ending the state of Israel .. . there would not be a Jewish homeland of any kind.” In the same breath, Huffman said he opposes the long time Israeli occupation and illegal settlements of the West Bank and is willing to “pre-recognize a demilitarized Palestinian state [but] we’ve been waiting for decades for this kind of imaginary negotiated solution between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government. It’s just not working.”

Fact: Huffman admits to supporting a “two state” political model that he views as “imaginary” and unobtainable.

On genocide

Huffman told DSA, “I think we have to be careful when we use a term like ‘genocide’ because we don’t want to dimmish its impact when something that truly is a genocide happens.” Huffman apparently does not view Israel’s decades of invasions, assassinations, destruction of mosques, hospitals, and universities combined with torture, imprisonment without due process, and the concentration camping of Palestinians because of who they are as “truly” a genocide. In response to a DSA query, Huffman declined to state whether he will respect the decision of the International Court of Justice if it orders Israeli to cease committing genocide presently in Gaza. To reiterate, Huffman, a lawyer who is a sworn officer of the court, and who claims to speak with a little bit of authority, is apparently prepared to officially disregard a ruling by an international court if it does not accord with his personal opinion.

Disrupting support for genocide

Four of Huffman’s constituents paid $40 each to attend the Hootenanny. As Huffman played master of ceremonies, the undercover protestors rose one by one to defend the people of Gaza. Each disrupter was quickly surrounded by pistol holstered policer officers and summarily pushed outside to the parking lot. Cell phone videos show Huffman trying to maintain the flow of his fundraising spiel throughout the commotions, pausing briefly as one protester was forcibly expelled to say, “This is democracy, this is democracy, and we are going to get through this together.”

In interviews with Counter Punch, the expellees recalled their experiences as disrupters.

S: “I walked out in front of the band between songs and pulled out a printout of a Palestinian flag. I said ‘I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day yesterday, on behalf of all the mothers in Palestine, free Palestine, free Palestine.’”

Expelled by police.

Sé: “I said, ‘Jared Huffman you are a coward not a leader! Shame. Call for a permanent ceasefire. Why is your number one donor Honeywell Industries, which collaborates with Israel and has contracts for nuclear weapons production? Why do you have such a weak stance when it comes to ethnic cleansing, and genocide? Why are you still voting in favor of sending arms to Israel when they have shown over and over and over again that they don’t give a fuck about civilian lives? Palestine will be free! Permanent ceasefire now!’”

Expelled by police.

J: “Huffman mocked republicans for trying to defund the IRS and that got me to jump up and start with him defunding UNWRA and closing all humanitarian aid to Gaza. I spoke about the horrors of 50,000 dead and 30,000 women and children. Then as they almost had me out of the room I heard him mock Republicans again. I said he was no different—they are all empire.”

Expelled by police.

The buck stops where?

When Huffman served Marin and Sonoma districts prior to 2013 as a state assemblyman, he told Marin Magazine that his political hero is US President Harry Truman. (Truman ordered the atomic incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the first use of nuclear weapons in 1945.) Channeling his Missouri-born hero’s favorite campaign aphorism, Huffman, who was also born in Missouri, had likewise decorated his desktop with a placard reading, “The Buck Stops Here.” Charming.

Federal Elections Commission data and Open Secrets show that since Huffman first ran for congress in 2012, he has raised $5.4 million and spent $4.3 million for a net “profit” of more than $1million. Why the surplus? Who gives him the bucks? Where do the bucks stop? Let us see.

Huffman campaigns as a fervent environmentalist. But his bone fides are undercut by looking at who funds his campaigns. The current cycle is topped with $10,000 from the political action committee of Honeywell International, a global conglomerate which supplies the US and Israel with many weapons systems and engages in fossil fuel and metals extraction and nuclear weapons manufacturing. By itself, Honeywell is a world class source of carbon gases and pollution, but it has consistently funded “environmentalist” Huffman throughout his career. For that matter, Honeywell regularly donates tens of thousands of dollars to Donald J. Trump and Joe Biden. Honeywell is not stupid; it knows what it is buying: allegiance. Notably, Honeywell only saw fit to give $28 to Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, who is a dedicated environmentalist who voted against funding Israel’s war on Gaza in April.

In the prior election cycle, Huffman’s top contributor was J Street PAC ($13,500), a “liberal” Israeli lobby in Washington DC. By way of comparison, J Street PAC only gave $7 to the iconic New York City progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

This year, according to Open Secrets, retired people like Huffman to the tune of $90,963, and the casino/gambling industry skimmed him $43,500. Because Huffman serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, greenhouse gas generating rail and air corporations and transportation unions granted him in excess of $50,000.

In past cycles, Huffman’s major donors have included industrialized agribusiness and a portfolio of global climate heaters, such as Sierra Pacific Industries, PG&E, Goldman Sachs, Carnival Corporation, Bechtel Group and General Motors.

A quick tour through Huffman’s campaign expenditures this year is instructive. Someone likes to fundraise on the hoof, with a $2,811 tab at Charlie Parker Steakhouse on March 8. Last September 6, the campaign paid $11,850 for “lodging” at the Gold River Lodge and Historic Requa Inn in Klamath, California—resorts for sports fishing.

(Huffman did not reply to a query about why his campaign paid for staying at these fishing resorts. For that matter, Huffman did not respond to Counter Punch’s repeated requests for comment on all aspects of this story.)

Huffman gifted thousands of dollars to political cronies, including $4,000 to the Sonoma County Democratic Party; $2,500 to Democratic Central Committee of Marin County; $5,000 to Biden Victory Fund.

On March 13, Huffman gave $1,000 to the New Israel Fund, which supports civil rights activities inside Israel. And on March 16, Huffman donated $1,085.50 to the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) in Berkeley, California, which renders material aid to children suffering in Occupied Palestine and Gaza. Huffman did not respond to a query about what the contribution to MECA was for—but if it was to buy off a guilty conscience, he got more of a bargain than the children did.

At the end of the day, it is apparent that Huffman does not fear the voices of protestors, nor nightmare echoes of the cries of burning children in Gaza, as much as he fears the political power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is spending at least $100 million this year to destroy “progressive” members of congress who dare to criticize Israel. We all get it, Jared: You are afraid.