(February 23, 2020 / JNS) Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary, announced on Sunday that he will skip the annual AIPAC Policy Conference next week.
“The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security. So do the Palestinian people. I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason I will not attend their conference,” he tweeted. “As president, I will support the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and do everything possible to bring peace and security to the region.”
As president, I will support the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and do everything possible to bring peace and security to the region. 2/2
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 23, 2020
The announcement came just weeks after Sanders said on Feb. 5, “I don’t think I am [going]. I don’t think it’s going to be on my schedule, but you know, I have no objection to going,”
The annual pro-Israel event will take place from March 1-3, with the final day falling on Super Tuesday, where 14 states will hold presidential primaries.
The Sanders campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
AIPAC immediately criticized Sanders.
“Senator Sanders has never attended our conference and that is evident from his outrageous comment,” said the pro-Israel lobby in a statement. “In fact, many of his own Senate and House Democratic colleagues and leaders speak from our platform to the over 18,000 Americans from widely diverse backgrounds—Democrats, Republicans, Jews, Christians, African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, members of the LBGTQ+ community—who participate in the conference to proclaim their support for the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
“By engaging in such an odious attack on this mainstream, bipartisan American political event, Senator Sanders is insulting his very own colleagues and the millions of Americans who stand with Israel,” continued AIPAC. “Truly shameful.”
Senator Sanders has never attended our conference and that is evident from his outrageous comment.
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) February 24, 2020
The Republican Jewish Coalition did not hold back in criticizing Sanders for announcing his boycott of this year’s AIPAC conference.
“Bernie Sanders, the now de facto leader of the Democrat Party, does not support Israel and our alliance with the only democracy in the Middle East,” RJC spokesperson Neil Strauss told JNS. “That Bernie Sanders doesn’t care about advancing bipartisan support for Israel is unsurprising and shows that he will complete the Democrat Party’s abandonment of bipartisan support for Israel.”
Strauss continued, “This all goes to show how important it is that Jews come out strongly to support the Republican Party, the only pro-Israel party.”
The anti-Israel group IfNotNow, which has asked the Democratic candidates if they’ll skip the AIPAC event, celebrated Sanders’s announcement.
“Bernie Sanders’ commitment to Skip AIPAC shows growing momentum in the campaign to ensure that the Democratic Party rejects the bigotry that we will see on AIPAC’s stage next week,” said IfNotNow co-founder Dani Moscovitch in a statement.
“Bernie’s progressive agenda, which is strongly motivated by the Jewish tradition of social justice, has no room in it for the unholy alliance of Islamophobes, anti-Semites and white nationalists that AIPAC has worked with in recent years,” he added. “We renew our call on every single Democratic candidate to follow the lead of Bernie and Elizabeth Warren and Skip AIPAC and embrace the movement fighting for freedom.”
The Jewish Democratic Council of America said “we are participating in AIPAC Policy Conference, along with many other Democrats, including members of Congress. We welcome the opportunity to come together with others with a wide range of views to express the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, which has been and must remain a bipartisan issue.”
Sanders also declined to speak at AIPAC when he ran for president in 2016.
At the time, Sanders reportedly offered to address the conference remotely, citing scheduling conflicts, but was denied by AIPAC. Instead, Sanders released a speech of what he would have said had he been in attendance. AIPAC has presidential candidates speak only in an election year. AIPAC has yet to announce which, if any, presidential candidates will be in attendance.
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