Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Senator Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally at Desert Pines High School in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Yonah Lieberman, my good friend at IfNotNow, emailed me this morning: “Just now, the frontrunner in the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders, announced that he will Skip AIPAC this year (Sunday, March 1 to Tuesday, March 3).” I seem to recall that last year, Bernie also skipped the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington DC, so I was wondering why was this AIPAC conference different from all the other AIPAC conferences, and Yonah explained:

“This is in no small part due to our grassroots effort to push all Democratic candidates to skip AIPAC’s conference. But with just one week until AIPAC 2020, we need to keep the pressure up on the rest of the candidates, most of whom have not yet made a commitment to attend or skip.”

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Which, as I recall, was the case last year. I wrote about it in March: Gillibrand among 7 Dem Candidates Avoiding AIPAC. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) still had presidential aspirations back then, so she skipped AIPAC. Remember Beto O’Rourke from Texas? He, too, had high hopes. Senator Elizabeth Warren also boycotted the AIPAC conference. Kamala Harris didn’t show. And Bernie.

Senator Sanders on Sunday was trying to present his decision not to go to AIPAC like a new policy choice which he reached after much contemplation and heartache, because, you know, he, too, is a Jew. He tweeted:

“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. As president, I will support the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and do everything possible to bring peace and security to the region.”

This time, it appears AIPAC has had enough. They tweeted back:

“Senator Sanders has never attended our conference and that is evident from his outrageous comment. 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, progressives, Veterans, students, members of the LGBTQ+ community—who participate in the conference to proclaim their support for the US-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. Truly shameful.”

We’re not angry, Bernie, we’re just so disappointed…

According to The Intercept, AIPAC is heavily involved in the Democratic Party’s attempt to stop the Bernie Sanders Juggernaut, funneling funds to strategist Mark Mellman’s Democratic Majority for Israel, which produced two attack ads it ran in Iowa and Nevada on the eve of the primaries there. DMFI denied the story.

Last March, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-NY) did show up at the AIPAC conference. As did Joe Biden. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who spoke at the conference in 2018, skipped it last year. She tweeted that she had met with the Minnesota branch of AIPAC instead.

This year, it would be difficult for Democratic presidential candidates to attend the AIPAC conference even if they don’t wish to boycott it: the conference starts right on the Sunday leading up to Super Tuesday, and closes on the date when 40% of Democratic primary ballots are cast. Not great planning, if you ask me. There will probably be a lot of video speeches from those pro-Israel Democrats who will be chasing the big votes in Texas and California.

Yonah Lieberman, from IfNotNow, emailed me that “Bernie is reminding us that his progressive agenda — which is strongly motivated by the Jewish tradition of social justice — has no room for the unholy alliance of Islamophobes, anti-Semites, and white nationalists that AIPAC has worked with in recent years.”

I suspect neither Yonah nor Bernie be able to recognize the Jewish tradition of social justice if it hit them on the head with a frozen roll of gefilte fish. As to unholy alliances, we are reminded of this apt tweet:

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