- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Progressives cheered Wednesday as Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar joined the list of Democratic presidential primary contenders opting to skip next week’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, the biggest pro-Israel event of the year.

Both candidates reportedly indicated that the event overlapped with the pivotal Super Tuesday primary on March 3, and neither criticized AIPAC, unlike Sen. Bernie Sanders, who created a stir Sunday by accusing the organization of promoting bigotry.

Even so, left-wing groups like MoveOn and IfNotNow, which have urged Democratic candidates to stay away from the conference, framed the latest opt-outs as a slap to AIPAC and its pro-Israel advocacy.

“This is a watershed moment and a major victory against the bigotry that AIPAC has legitimized for decades,” said Dani Moscovitch, IfNotNow co-founder, adding, “It is time to end the blank check and for our tax dollars to stop funding the Israeli occupation.”

MoveOn senior political advisor Dan Kalik said the organization’s members were “excited that Democratic candidates are listening to the grassroots majority that supports peace and diplomacy over disastrous wars of choice.”



So far only former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has agreed to appear at the March 1-3 conference in Washington, D.C., which is being headlined by Vice President Mike Pence. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also said she will not attend.

MoveOn, IfNotNow, Indivisible and the Working Families Party have formed a #SkipAIPAC coalition urging Democratic presidential primary candidates to avoid the conference.

“Thank you Senators Warren, Sanders, and Klobuchar and Mayor Pete for standing by your values and choosing to #SkipAIPAC,” Mr. Kalik said. “No candidates should be pandering to AIPAC, which spent millions in an attempt to defeat the Iran Nuclear Deal and continues to give a platform to Islamophobes and bigots.”

IfNotNow tweeted, “Four down, two (@JoeBiden and @TomSteyer) to go—and one lost cause (@MikeBloomberg),” which was retweeted by Sanders surrogate and Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour.

The Jewish News Syndicate reported that Ms. Klobuchar would not attend, while the Jewish Insider confirmed the Buttigieg news. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that both candidates cited the conflict with the 14-state Super Tuesday primary.

 

Mr. Sanders tweeted Sunday that he was “concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights,” which AIPAC called “truly shameful.”

“Senator Sanders has never attended our conference and that is evident from his outrageous comment,” said AIPAC in a Sunday tweet.

On Wednesday, 347 rabbis came to AIPAC’s defense with an open letter saying, “As strong supporters of the U.S.-Israel relationship and AIPAC’s role in advancing it, we reject Senator Bernie Sanders‘ outrageous comment accusing AIPAC of fostering bigotry.”

AIPAC is one of the last remaining vehicles in American politics that proactively seeks to bring Americans from across the political spectrum together to achieve a common goal,” said the letter. “The AIPAC Policy Conference may be the largest political gathering of Democrats and Republicans in the entire country.”

Tensions have run high in recent years between AIPAC and Democrats as the party’s progressive wing increasingly sides with the Palestinian cause, but AIPAC noted that other prominent Democrats are scheduled to speak, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, both of New York; Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

The conference typically draws about 18,000 attendees and more than two-thirds of the congressional membership, according to AIPAC.

 

 

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