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Jewish activists shut down Biden headquarters to demand that he skip the AIPAC conference

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Jewish activists and their supporters descended on Joe Biden’s Philadelphia campaign office this morning to demand that the presidential candidate skip American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual policy conference. The protests come just weeks after the progressive groups MoveOn, Indivisible, and Working Families Party formed a coalition to encourage Democratic candidates to skip the event.

Earlier this week, Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders said he would not attend the AIPAC conference and accused the pro-Israel organization  of providing a platform for bigotry. The lobbying group called Sanders’ decision “shameful.” Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren also said she would skip it, but Biden has indicated that he’ll be attending.

“For every decade of his political career, Biden has worked in lockstep with AIPAC,” the progressive, Jewish group IfNotNow declared in a statement, “Together they’ve built a shameful legacy of shielding the Israeli government from consequences and doing nothing to end Israel’s brutal military occupation that strips Palestinians and Israelis of their dignity and freedom.”

IfNotNow has been live-tweeting the events, where a number of activists have been arrested over their civil disobedience.

AIPAC has had a few months. Earlier this year, it had to apologize for a series of Facebook ads comparing Democratic lawmakers to the terror-group ISIS. After that debacle, Minnesota Rep. Betty McCollum referred to the organization as a “hate group.”

Michael Arria

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

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10 Responses

  1. DianePerlman on February 25, 2020, 2:26 pm

    Here is why I think the Dems can do more good by having the courage to show up and speak. It is not a monolith. I have been there 7 times as press and any Dem would have a platform to speak and would have supporters. Here are my reasons why they should go and make good use of this golden opportunity.

    https://medium.com/@dianeperlman_24337/can-dems-be-part-of-the-solution-at-aipac-1adabd134ddc

  2. DianePerlman on February 25, 2020, 2:27 pm
    • brent on February 26, 2020, 1:01 am

      DianePerlman’s link directs our attention to a very important perspective for the current reality. Now that the 2SS is unlikely and the one secular state, the only plausible solution, enlightened thinking is necessary to get to positive neighborly relations. If one can’t part of the solution, they will be part of the problem.

  3. just on February 25, 2020, 3:36 pm

    Thank you IfNotNow and others! Sometimes a divorce is healthy, Joe. It’s better for the children in Palestine, too.

  4. Misterioso on February 26, 2020, 9:29 am

    Not precisely on topic, but most relevant:

    https://forward.com/opinion/439563/ive-taught-at-six-jewish-day-schools-theyre-preaching-dual-loyalty-to/

    “I’ve taught at six Jewish day schools. They’re preaching dual loyalty to Israel.” By Anonymous, The Forward, Feb. 21/20

    “The Forward is publishing this article anonymously to protect the author, who currently teaches at a New York day school, from repercussions at work.”

    “A recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League found that nearly a quarter of Americans believe American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the United States. Based on my experience teaching at half a dozen Jewish day schools over the past twelve years, I am shocked that the figure is so low.

    “Imagine being a non-Jewish employee at one of these schools in New York City, maybe a security guard or a special-education teacher’s aide. You walk into the building and see Israeli flags hanging all over the place. Lessons are delivered in Hebrew — often at the obvious expense of student comprehension. Children sing HaTikvah in the morning with enforced gusto. Israeli soldiers regularly address the student body. Children wear kippot and hoodies emblazoned with the logo of the Israel Defense Forces.

    “Zionism is messaged in these schools as the most essential attribute of our students’ identity. It’s a huge problem.

    “I’ve heard teachers or administrators say at assemblies things like ‘you don’t belong in America,’ ‘Israel is your country’ and ‘the IDF are your soldiers.’ When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the United States Congress in opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, against the wishes of President Obama, the high school where I was working cancelled classes to watch ‘our Prime Minister.’ That’s a real quote.

    “In the six schools at which I have taught, HaTikvah was sung more often than the Pledge of Allegiance or the Star Spangled Banner. Israeli national holidays are taught with a reverence or solemnity that outstrips what is accorded to religious or American ones. Veteran’s Day was never discussed, but Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, had special projects and assemblies. Many of these schools receive grants from the Avi Chai Foundation, which requires recipients to declare that they ‘seek to instill in our students an attachment to the State of Israel and its people.’

    “Are we really to blame non-Jewish staff if they leave campuses thinking that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the United States? Perhaps we tell ourselves that they just don’t understand the incredible, mystical, nuance that underpins the relationship between Judaism and Zionism. That while it sometimes looks like we’re supporting a foreign government, it’s really about our hopes, dreams and historical identity.

    “But that’s not what I’ve experienced. The jingoism around Israel and its military goes beyond any possible doctrinal link between Judaism and Zionism. There is no similar enthusiasm for the Torah in these schools. On the contrary, there was an understanding at all the schools in which I have taught that we don’t push religion, that we must teach about religion in a detached way. So while we may teach what the Torah says, we are pretty much forbidden from actually saying the key point — that ‘as Jews we have to do what the Torah says.’ It’s like a very lame, extremely limited, comparative religion class. But when discussing Israel and Zionism, there is rarely room for leniency, disagreement, or apathy.

    “Many Jewish leaders were outraged last summer when President Trump suggested that Jews who vote for Democrats showed ‘great disloyalty’, presumably to Israel, raising an old anti-Semitic trope about American Jews’ fealty to the United States. But anyone who has witnessed daily life at a Jewish day school and thinks that accusations of dual loyalty are anti-Semitic is either spiteful or idiotic.

    “Of course, some saw this coming. After the founding of the state of Israel, the 1950 Blaustein-Ben Gurion agreement demanded that Israel not claim the loyalty of Diaspora Jews since such loyalty would jeopardize the Diaspora communities.

    “Now, more than 70 years into Israel’s existence, we are at a disadvantage regarding old questions of loyalty. The question is whether we are being wise in how we combat these suspicions. If our loyalty really is — as it must be — to the United States, then it is time to think about how we show it. We’re really not being at all clear about it in our Jewish day schools. Until this is addressed in a meaningful way, we are in no position to feign shock at how it is perceived.”

    • hai_bar on February 26, 2020, 12:07 pm

      (This was meant as a reply to the article below -> Sander’s relocating Embassy back to Tel Aviv)

  5. Misterioso on February 26, 2020, 10:09 am

    Wow!!

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/sanders-relocate-embassy-tel-aviv-elected-200226090233559.html

    “Sanders says may relocate US embassy back to Tel Aviv if elected”

    “Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders condemned Donald Trump’s decision to move US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in 2018.” Al Jazeera, Feb. 26, 2020

    “Leading US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he would consider moving the US embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv if elected president.

    “Sanders’s comments about revisiting US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision in 2018 to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem came during Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate.

    “Trump’s move came after he declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – a move long sought by Israel – in December 2017.

    “‘The answer is, it is something that we would take into consideration,’ Sanders said before calling Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an ally of Trump, a ‘racist’.

    “Sanders went on to say while he was proud of his Jewish heritage, he stood against Netanyahu’s policies.

    “‘I am very proud of being Jewish. I actually lived in Israel for some months,’ said Sanders.

    “‘But what I happen to believe is that right now, sadly, tragically, in Israel, through Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country.’

    ‘Cannot ignore’
    “Sanders added although he supports Israeli sovereignty, there should be a greater focus on Palestinians and their rights.

    “‘I happen to believe that what our foreign policy in the Mideast should be about is absolutely protecting the independence and security of Israel.’

    “‘But you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people,’ he said. ‘We have got to have a policy that reaches out to the Palestinians and the Americans.’

    “Israel’s foreign minister denounced Sanders on Wednesday for what he called his ‘horrifying comment’ about Jerusalem, saying those who support Israel would not back Sanders’ presidential candidacy after such remarks.

    “Foreign Minister Israel Katz said there was a not a Jew in the world who ‘hasn’t dreamed of Jerusalem’, and Sanders words were so severe he had no choice but to retort.

    “‘We don’t intervene in the internal American electoral process, which is splendid,’ Katz told Israel’s Army Radio, before noting Sanders had a long history of attacking Israel and the things most sacred to its identity and national security.

    “The embassy move was one of Trump’s key promises during his election campaign leading up to the 2016 US presidential vote.

    “It infuriated Palestinians and sparked international condemnation but was widely hailed in Israel as a huge success.

    “Previous US presidents, as well as nearly every other country, refrained from opening embassies in Jerusalem, arguing that the city’s final status should first be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”

    • hai_bar on February 26, 2020, 12:08 pm

      I’m becoming very skeptical of this “progressive” nature of those things. It seems more like a chemical reaction at equilibrium, constantly going back and forth.

      Some nasty all-out “right-wing” moves embassy, a _progressive_ “left-wing” un-do that, going back to point one. I hope your and many others’ (incl. many Palestinians’) enthusiasm is not going to be a history repeating itself, in this case Obama’s election. I remember some people celebrating in Ramallah at that day.

      • CigarGod on February 29, 2020, 10:02 am

        Good way to illustrate humans being at the mercy of/being subject to the laws of the universe.
        Not something we will ever escape.
        I often think of a surfing metaphor. Just trying to catch that big wave for an excellent ride…and not end up in the rocks.

  6. Citizen on March 1, 2020, 1:10 pm

    Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar will send greetings to AIPAC attendees by video, along with former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who confirmed on Saturday night. Up until Friday, only Bloomberg had confirmed he would be speaking in person.

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