(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Sunday praised Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ decision to stay away from the upcoming annual conference of the nation’s leading pro-Israel lobby, and said all the candidates should do the same.
“Thank you Bernie Sanders for standing up for Palestinian human rights,” tweeted Omar, whose own comments about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) stoked controversy and divisions within the House Democratic caucus last year
“All candidates should follow Bernie’s example and #SkipAIPAC!” added Omar, who has endorsed and is campaigning for Sanders.
Sanders, the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, tweeted on Sunday that he will not attend AIPAC’s annual policy conference, in Washington next week.
“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,” Sanders said. “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,” he added.
Sanders did not elaborate on his charge that AIPAC hosts “leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights”
Its lengthy list of speakers for this year’s conference includes more than two dozen Democratic and Republican lawmakers, among them Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Democratic Caucus chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and House GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.)
AIPAC called Sanders’ announcement “odious” and “shameful,” and highlighted the bipartisan nature of its gatherings.
“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,” it said. “Truly shameful.”
Sanders’ announcement got the thumbs up from Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, a surrogate for Sanders and, like Omar, a supporter of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
“You can support the Palestinian & Israeli people without supporting leaders or organizations that oppose the freedom & liberation of the Palestinian people,” Sarsour tweeted. “Thank you Bernie Sanders. #SkipAIPAC”
If Not Now, a left-wing Jewish activist group working to end U.S. Jewish support for the Israeli occupation of territory claimed by the Palestinians, also cheered Sanders’ decision, saying it “shows growing momentum in the campaign to ensure that the Democratic Party rejects the bigotry that we will see on the AIPAC stage next week.”
Warren won’t go, Biden will
While campaigning in New Hampshire earlier this month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) indicated that she will not attend the AIPAC event.
Asked by an If Not Now activist whether she would commit not to go, Warren replied, “Yeah.”
She said that in order for America to be “a good ally” of both Israel and the Palestinians it needs to encourage both sides to negotiate.
“And we are not doing that if we keep standing with one party and saying we’re on your side, we are going to give you all of the things you ask for – for all kinds of political reasons, domestically here, and domestically in Israel.”
“The two-state solution is not something people have just bought up,” Warren continued. “It has been the official policy of the United States of America for nearly 70 years and the official policy of Israel.”
(In fact the two-state solution was not U.S. policy “for nearly 70 years.” For more than half a century after the creation of the modern State of Israel in 1948, U.S. administrations opposed an independent Palestinian state. The policy was only reversed in mid-2002, by President George W. Bush. The first Israeli prime minister to voice official support for the right of statehood for the Palestinians was Ariel Sharon, in Sept. 2001.)
If Not Now also asked former Vice President Joe Biden this month if he’d commit to stay away from this year’s AIPAC conference, but he replied, “No, because I’m there to convince. Convince them to change their position.”
Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, also confronted by an activist, said he had not “made any scheduling decisions yet about that,” and added, “I don’t even know when it is.”
None of the then much larger field of Democratic presidential candidates is known to have attended last year’s AIPAC conference.