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Activists are pressuring Democratic candidates to skip AIPAC conference

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A coalition of progressive organizations has launched a campaign aimed at pressuring Democratic candidates into skipping the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington.

IfNotNow, MoveOn, Indivisible and the Working Families Party’s #SkipAIPAC effort was kicked off last when Jewish student, and IfNotNow member, Sarah O’Connor asked Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders whether they would attend the event. Warren skipped the conference last year and said she planned to do it again. When O’Connor asked a follow-up question inquiring what Warren would tell candidates who are considering attending, she shifted the topic to a wider discussion about policy.

Sanders also skipped the conference last year and was the only Democratic candidate to skip it in 2016, but surprisingly he didn’t rule out attending this one.  “Well if I do go — I don’t think I am, I don’t think it’s going to be on my schedule — but you know, I have no objection to going, but the question is what I say when I get there,” he told O’Connor, “That’s the point. And what I will say is something that I have said for years, and I speak as somebody who’s Jewish, and that is we need a foreign policy in this country, we need a Mideast policy which absolutely protects the integrity and the independence and safety of Israel, but also understands that the Palestinian people have needs and they have got to be treated with respect and dignity. And that is not the case right now. So that is my view. We will treat all people with respect and dignity.”

Joe Biden told IfNotNow that he wouldn’t skip the conference, but that he’d use it to “convince them to change their position.”

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg told the group that he wasn’t sure when the conference was and would have to check his schedule before making a decision.

Last week, AIPAC pulled four Facebook ads and apologized for running them. The ads targeted “radicals in congress” such as lawmakers Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). One of the ads implied that, by supporting pro-Palestine legislation, these congress members posed a greater threat than ISIS. “It’s critical that we protect our Israeli allies especially as they face threats from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah ISIS and — maybe more sinister — right here in the U.S. Congress,” it read.

“This is a test of moral leadership for the presidential field,” said Working Families Party National Director Maurice Mitchell said in a statement announcing the launch of their campaign, “AIPAC has given a platform to toxic bigotry and provided cover for right-wing nationalists like Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu. We call on presidential candidates to skip AIPAC’s conference and to embrace a progressive vision where all people, including Palestinians and Israelis, can thrive.”

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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4 Responses

  1. Misterioso on February 12, 2020, 9:54 am

    Donald Trump, will be bought and paid for again by his billionaire puppet masters, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson – at least $100 million!!

    “Sheldon, Miriam Adelson to spend $100 million for Trump re-election bid”

    “The Guardian said most of the money would be funneled through political action committees and ‘dark money’ groups that are not required to reveal donors.

    The Jerusalem Post, Feb. 11/20, by RON KAMPEAS

    WASHINGTON (JTA) — “Sheldon and Miriam Adelson plan to spend $100 million on electing Republicans and re-electing President Donald Trump.

    “The Guardian on Monday quoted three Republican fundraisers it did not name as saying that the couple, known for their generosity to Republicans, pro-Israel causes and medical research, was ready to spend nearly the same amount, $124 million, as they did in the 2016 cycle. One of the Guardian’s sources said it could reach $200 million.

    “Sheldon Adelson is a casino magnate and Miriam Adelson is a physician and medical researcher. The Guardian said most of the money would be funneled through political action committees and ‘dark money’ groups that are not required to reveal donors.

    “The Adelsons did not favor Trump in the 2016 cycle until May of that year, something he has teased the couple about now that they are close. A number of Republican Jews were wary of Trump at first because of a confrontation between the candidate and the Republican Jewish Coalition in December 2015, and because he originally would not commit to moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

    “As president, however, Trump has delivered on Israel-related issues favored by the Adelsons to a greater degree than any of his White House predecessors. He has moved the embassy to Jerusalem, cut virtually all funding to the Palestinians, recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and advanced a peace plan that would allow Israel to annex nearly a third of the West Bank.

    “Trump awarded Miriam Adelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.”

    • genesto on February 12, 2020, 12:47 pm

      But let’s not forget the Democratic candidates who are also bought and paid for by billionaire Zionists and the Israel lobby. Mayor Pete has 40 billionaires contributing to his campaign, nearly half of which (18) are hardcore Zionists. Seth Klarman, the most notable among them right now, was the developer of the Iowa app that muddled things and, possibly, stole delegates from Bernie. (I wonder what, if any, impact Seth and Co. had in the N.H. primary. Hmmm). Mayor Pete is his man and, increasingly, the Zionists’ choice among the Democrats. This accounts for his about face regarding aid to Israel. Not long ago, he said he would condition aid to Israel based on the settlement issue. Now, he says he wouldn’t touch aid to Israel, but simply try to get Israel to reconsider its position. In other words, he’s toeing the line as necessary to keep that AIPAC money flowing.

      Meanwhile, Amy sees no violations of human rights by Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians (clearly, she desperately needs AIPAC-directed contributions to keep her surprisingly surging candidacy alive), while Biden is a long-time Israel ass-kisser.

      With the notable exception of Bernie, it’s business as usual as far as Zionist influence in the presidential campaigns.

      • Jasonius Maximus on February 12, 2020, 2:41 pm

        Exactly! I can’t see Sneaky Pete missing the opportunity to ingratiate himself with his billionaire donors and a lobby group that, even if he drops out, will pave his way to Capitol Hill with a golden highway. He’s still young and has everything to lose.

        Amy isn’t going to throw away any political capital now and has been in Congress long enough to know the pitfalls of crossing AIPAC. So she’ll be there too.

        Joe has witnessed first hand (via his old boss and friend) the wrath of the Israeli government and their agents in the US. Given his precarious state in the primaries thus far, he’s going to take help wherever he can find it. Count him in.

        Bloomberg has so much invested in Israel (personally and financially), I’m surprised the guy hasn’t run for Prime Minister yet. Although, given his ego and vanity, that’s probably still an option he’ll consider after the primaries. So he’ll definitely be attending, especially considering he’s unlikely to make a single debate stage before March and the platform at AIPAC is a perfect opportunity for him to boost his public profile further.

        Tom is an interesting one though. He’s managed to remain uniquely quiet and opaque on his positions regarding Israel/Palestine. The few times he’s been on record, he’s quoted the traditional Democrat stance and phrases, but has never elaborated, waxed lyrical, pontificated, or flat out gushed over Israel. In fact his official comments on Trump’s “peace plan” were not only harsh, but seemed to deviate slightly in substance and tone from many recent remarks and opinions from other Democrats too scared to offend lobbyist and pro-Israel supporters in DC. Having said that, he’s clearly not stupid, and a much needed bump in he polls would certainly help him right now. So he’s a definite maybe.

        So it’s really only Warren and Sanders who are highly probable hold outs. Even then my guess is that Bernie is almost certainly a no and Elizabeth is a maybe/maybe not/but probably a yes if it gives her an edge over Bernie.

        There is of course the Trump factor. He’s is almost certain to be a major feature at the conference, whether in person or via pre-recorded message bragging about being the greatest President, friend and thing EVER to happen to Israel. This could possibly change a few Democratic minds about attending, but even that isn’t a guarantee in today’s political climate.

  2. genesto on February 12, 2020, 3:54 pm

    Yes, Steyer is definitely an interesting figure, and one that doesn’t need AIPAC’s blood money either. As you say, he’s not stupid, though. While he doesn’t, since he doesn’t need to, grovel and beg for lobby money, I’m sure he doesn’t want any of the trouble the lobby could cause him as he struggles for viability.

    All of this , I believe, makes Bernie’s success while standing up to the lobby, and suffering the attacks that have come about as a result, even more remarkable. If he does manage to beat the Republicans, along with the Democratic establishment, and become president, I wouldn’t be surprised if he proves to be even closer to our side on the I/P issue than he has let on to date.

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