Liberal activist group demands Democrats boycott AIPAC gathering
A major liberal activist group this week demanded Democrats boycott the upcoming convention of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, calling for a show of support for those who attack AIPAC as too powerful in U.S. politics.
The demand by MoveOn.org comes just weeks after freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar accused supporters of Israel of having been bought off by AIPAC’s money a charge that drew cries of anti-Semitism and then a progressive backlash over a planned House vote rebuking her comments.
“It’s no secret that that AIPAC has worked to hinder diplomatic efforts like the Iran deal, is undermining Palestinian self-determination, and inviting figures actively involved in human rights violations to its stage,” Iram Ali, campaign director at MoveOn Political Action, said in a statement.
He said Democrats’ field of 2020 candidates must shun AIPAC’s gathering, which begins Sunday, as a signal.
It appears that’s happening.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, who have addressed the annual gathering in the past, will be skipping it this year, according to multiple reports. So will Sen. Bernard Sanders; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Obama Cabinet Secretary Julian Castro and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
Former Rep. John Delaney also will not be attending this year, but a spokesman for his campaign said it was due to a scheduling conflict.
“John is disappointed that he can’t attend this year, he attended every year since he was in Congress and he very much looks forward to being back next year,” Will McDonald, the congressman’s communications director, told The Washington Times.
The absences are striking given Democrats’ past eagerness to speak.
Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama addressed AIPAC in 2008 amid their primary battle. In 2016, Vice President Joseph R. Biden spoke there. And Mr. Sanders, while missing AIPAC during his previous presidential campaign in 2016, said at the time he’d wished he could have been there.
Neil Strauss, a spokesman for the Republican Jewish Coalition, condemned the call for a boycott and said any candidate that sides with MoveOn would be making a “terrible decision.”
“It certainly cuts across Democrats’ typical talking points about wanting support for Israel to be bipartisan,” he said
The calls for a boycott are set against the backdrop of Democrats’ recent struggles to grapple with their vocal left wing and the election of two Muslim women to Congress last year.
One of those women, Ms. Omar, said this year that U.S. support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins,” meaning all about money. That drew a rebuke from Jewish lawmakers who said it was an anti-Semitic trope.
Weeks later, Ms. Omar again drew ire when she suggested Israel supporters, including Jewish Democratic lawmakers, were acting from dual allegiance, another longtime anti-Semitic dog whistle.
Democratic leaders, at the urging of top Jewish Democrats, planned a House vote to condemn that kind of language. But after opposition from liberal activist groups, Democrats rewrote the resolution to also condemn Islamophobia, white supremacy and numerous other prejudices. Ms. Omar herself voted for it.
The change in the resolution left Republicans mocking Democrats for being unable to approve a straightforward condemnation of anti-Semitism.
“That really shows the far left base they can push their party towards their views of Jews and Israel,” Mr. Strauss said. “When you refuse to stand up to blatant anti-semitism, blatant anti-Israel attitudes, it emboldens the people that hold those views.”
While Democratic presidential candidates may be absent, the party’s congressional leaders will speak at AIPAC. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer are expected.