US: Concerted campaign to get Jews and other to boycott the Aipac Conference

Aipac, the organisation at the heart of the Israel lobby in the US, is coming under great pressure as the Presidential campaign unfolds.

The Ifnotnow Movement is doing amazing work, producing  telling video and images to dissuade progressive Jews from attending the premier event in the US Jewish calendar: the annual Aipac Conference.

And insightful and informative reports in Ha’aretz and the Electronic Intifada…

 

Young American Jews on why they're going to #SkipAIPAC

New Video: Why should all progressives #SkipAIPAC? • Hear it from these American Jews who attended AIPAC’s conference in the past and all eventually chose to #SkipAIPAC. Then add your name onto this petition to let the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates know that they need to #SkipAIPAC ➡️➡️ https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/tell-the-2020-democratic-candidates-progressives-dont-let-progressives-go-to-aipac

Posted by IfNotNow on Monday, 17 February 2020

 

AIPAC Has Bigger Problems Than Sanders’ Snub – and It Could Define Its Future

A major clash between Sanders and AIPAC won’t just hurt the organization’s bipartisan bona fides in the short run. It could also come to define AIPAC for an entire generation of young American voters

Amir Tibon, Haaretz, 25th Feb 2020

WASHINGTON – Bernie Sanders’ announcement that he won’t attend this year’s AIPAC conference in Washington did not come as a surprise to anyone: In his three decades as an elected official in Washington, Sanders had never attended the gathering, and there was no reason to think this year would be his first time, especially in light of his recent statements regarding U.S. military aid to Israel.

But what did surprise the powerful pro-Israel lobby was Sanders’ decision to make a political statement out of not attending its policy conference. This year’s event, which is expected to attract as many as 18,000 people, will take place this weekend – just 48 hours before Super Tuesday, the most important day on the Democratic presidential primary calendar. Currently, it’s not clear if any of the party’s presidential contenders will choose to waste precious campaigning time ahead of that day at a conference in Washington.

Unlike the responses of other candidates, the declaration Sanders tweeted on Sunday – just one day after he won the Nevada Democratic caucus and entrenched his position as the front-runner in the Democratic race – wasn’t just about not attending the AIPAC confab: The Vermont senator gave political and ideological reasons for not doing so, unleashing a direct attack on the lobby.

More than the decision to give the event a miss, it was apparently Sander’s choice of words that surprised AIPAC most. He accused the organization of giving a platform “to leaders who express bigotry” – likely a reference to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is invited every year to speak before the conference, and is once again, in his current election campaign, making racist attacks against Israel’s Arab citizens and their representatives in the Knesset.

AIPAC’s response was swift and powerful: It released a statement rebuking Sanders, using words such as “shameful” and “outrageous,” which the lobby has never used before when criticizing a leading presidential candidate of either party. In the days that have passed since Sanders’ tweet, the lobby has used its social media accounts to highlight bipartisan support for its work, sharing posts on the subject from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress who, unlike Sanders, plan to attend the conference this weekend.

It was critical for the lobby to highlight such messages in the aftermath of Sanders’ statement not just because it prides itself on securing bipartisan support for Israel: Indeed, that is the main justification for AIPAC’s very existence. In the political reality of 2020, no one actually needs the lobby in order to ensure Republican support for right-wing Israeli policies. Such support is already being secured by powerful Evangelical Christian organizations and by major donors such as casino tycoon and billionaire Sheldon Adelson. But Israel’s official diplomatic approach is that the country needs bipartisan support in Washington, a city where power changes hands every few years between the two parties. AIPAC, for its part, presents itself to its donors and supporters as the organization most capable of providing “ironclad support” for Israel on both sides of the aisle.

Sanders’ attack on the lobby is a direct blow to its bipartisan talking points. If he does secure the Democratic nomination – a very likely scenario, at this point – AIPAC will face an extremely difficult challenge ahead of the November election, and its bipartisan reputation will be put to one of the toughest possible tests.

As far back as the 1990s, Democratic presidential candidates all had a cordial relationship with AIPAC. Hillary Clinton gave a speech at its 2016 policy conference, when she was running against Sanders in the primaries; Barack Obama spoke at AIPAC in 2008, during his first election campaign, and once again in 2012 when seeking re-election. Sanders is the first Democratic front-runner to level such harsh criticism at the lobby. If he is nominated, he will also be the first to boycott the organization’s most important annual gathering.

A Sanders-Trump election would be a nightmare for AIPAC, because of the vast and consequential differences between the two of them regarding Israel. Trump is preparing to give a green light to Israel to annexing each and every settlement (but not outposts) in the occupied West Bank – a move that will effectively shut the door on the option of creating a Palestinian state next to Israel. Sanders, meanwhile, calls to condition the billions of dollars in military aid Israel receives annually from U.S. taxpayers, and to use it as leverage to push the country to curtail expansion of settlements and to enter into serious negotiations with the Palestinians.

AIPAC – which officially supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – will find it very difficult to maintain its bipartisan approach in the event of a showdown between Sanders and Trump. Although the lobby has tried to maintain support among American liberals and progressives, should it condemn Sanders for his views, it will not be picking a fight with just any Democratic candidate, but rather with the party’s presidential nominee, whom many party members across the country will be rooting for as he takes on their nemesis, Trump. Such a situation will cause a major headache for AIPAC, which could be accused, for the first time, of taking sides in a general election, at great cost to its bipartisan reputation.

But Sanders is, in fact, just a short-term problem for the lobby, regardless of the results of the election. AIPAC’s larger, long-term problem is not confined to a specific politician, but is rather a generational phenomenon. Overall, Sanders is very popular among young Americans, as has been seen in the support he has received in the caucuses and primaries to date. Moreover, national public opinion polls show that voters under 35 overwhelmingly prefer him over Trump.

In general, Americans in that age bracket today tend to be more liberal and left-leaning politically than those belonging to the older generations, and the widespread support Sanders enjoys within these younger people is just one example of a broader trend. This also holds true within the U.S. Jewish community, with the exception of the more right-leaning Orthodox community. Even among Christian Evangelicals, those under the age of 35 seem to hold more progressive views and are less supportive of Trump and the Republican Party than their parents’ generation.

Therefore, a major clash between Sanders and AIPAC this election year won’t just hurt the lobby’s bipartisan bona fides in the short run: It could also come to define the organization among an entire generation of young American voters – which is, strategically, a much more serious problem for it.

AIPAC will likely survive the damage that one tough election year will cause; it is, after all, a very well-funded organization, led by professionals with a lot of political experience. But a generational fracture over Israel will create much more lasting, bipartisan damages. If the lobby group wants to stay relevant among Democrats – not just in 2020, but beyond – it needs to prepare seriously for this new reality.


Antisemites invited to speak at Aipac


AIPAC goes to war against Bernie Sanders

Michael F. Brown Lobby Watch 24 February 2020

Bernie Sanders, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, announced Sunday that he will not attend AIPAC’s annual conference.

He said no to the early March gathering because the powerful Israel lobby group provides a platform for “leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”

Earlier this month, Elizabeth Warren was the first Democrat vying for the presidency to say she would not attend.

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. For that reason I will not attend their conference. 1/2

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 23, 2020

ICYMI: @ewarren committed to #SkipAIPAC a few weeks ago.

We are happy that Warren decided to not normalize @AIPAC‘s unholy alliance of white nationalists, islamophobes, + antisemites and we look forward to other candidates joining her in this choice! pic.twitter.com/Crbw0UdZyi

— IfNotNow🔥 (@IfNotNowOrg) February 21, 2020

AIPAC hit back hard at Sanders, calling his statement “truly shameful.”

The group tweeted that Sanders “has never attended our conference and that is evident from his outrageous comment.”

The right-wing organization – which nevertheless receives significant support from Democrats unwilling to challenge Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights – termed Sanders’ comment an “odious attack on this mainstream, bipartisan American political event.”

That Sanders has the political courage to reject an organization devoted to an apartheid state is yet another positive.

But @AIPAC doesn’t mention that Sen. Warren also refused to attend because AIPAC, like Israel, is becoming a far-right rogue outcast https://t.co/3HYgvcziHH https://t.co/SV8LqDHQZP

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 24, 2020

But AIPAC is losing progressive support at the grassroots level and knows it.

The group has repeatedly provided a platform to Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s bigoted prime minister – among many less prominent opponents of Palestinian human rights.

Sanders, whose campaign I support, has stated that Netanyahu is “a racist.”

Defenders of Israeli colonial expansion on Palestinian land and leaders of groups which have stood by as Israel has subjugated Palestinians for decades also spoke out on AIPAC’s behalf.

Bernie Sanders announces he is not going to @AIPAC. To be clear, has never attended and has no clue what the organization is about or what it stands for. Go back to defending Castro and socialist dictators. We will go back to defending peace, democracy, and our ally Israel.

— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) February 24, 2020

Sen. Sanders,

You won’t address 18,000 Americans of all backgrounds celebrating US-Israel ties. Shame.

You overlook core interests & values at heart of 🇺🇸🇮🇱 link. Shame.

You describe #AIPAC as a platform for bigotry. Shame.

You ignore AIPAC’s support for 2-state deal. Shame. https://t.co/zMSfUykj0c

— David Harris (@DavidHarrisAJC) February 24, 2020

This is the Democratic front runner. https://t.co/uBrJzNmGTW

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 23, 2020

Among them was Senator Ted Cruz, who just days ago was accused of anti-Semitism for maliciously stating that presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg owns the media.

It’s almost as if he owns the media. https://t.co/0tVTBg0DtT

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 19, 2020

Here’s the exchange today between US @RepAndyLevin of Michigan and Sen. @tedcruz of Texas. Levin told Cruz: “I’ve dealt with anti-Semitism all my life. I don’t need you to explain it to me, Senator.” pic.twitter.com/wCZ9zobozL

— Niraj Warikoo (@nwarikoo) February 20, 2020

Bloomberg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money to buy his way into the Democratic race, but it is factually wrong and bigoted of Cruz to say he owns the media.

In fact, Bloomberg founded and holds an 88 percent stake in media company Bloomberg LP.

That is one piece of the media, not all of it.

DMFI PAC and AIPAC ads

AIPAC’s attack against Sanders comes just days after the organization was roundly excoriated for vicious Facebook ads targeting congresswomen Betty McCollum, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

McCollum vigorously pushed back, calling AIPAC a “hate group.” That language appears to be unprecedented from a member of Congress.

McCollum did not accept the organization’s attempted apology.

@AIPAC’s non-apology is just another attack. Occupation, annexation, & hate speech is AIPAC’s agenda. https://t.co/iGQ3exbX6U #StopAIPACsHate pic.twitter.com/Wbahq6RT6n

— Rep. Betty McCollum (@BettyMcCollum04) February 12, 2020

As Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, consolidates his frontrunner status, mainstream and pro-Israel organizations are escalating their political war against him.

AIPAC is now following the political action committee of Democratic Majority for Israel in seeking to undercut the Sanders campaign.

DMFI PAC, a group that funds political campaigns in support of Israel, ran ads against Sanders in both Iowa and Nevada.

The organization was worried enough about the support of grassroots Democrats for Palestinian rights that it focused instead on Sanders’ health and socialism.

Nevertheless, Sanders won the popular vote in both states, including a victory by a wide margin in Nevada.

Paul Begala, a CNN analyst and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, was forced to take a leave of absence from Democratic Majority for Israel when his affiliation with the group was trumpeted at the time of the ad campaign in Iowa.

Wait, so Democrats are calling for unity while @PaulBegala is on the board of an organization that is going on air to attack the Democratic front-runner, while Begala also appears on CNN to do political punditry. What is this? https://t.co/cZXFQo9TNJ pic.twitter.com/zJZifySKCD

— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) January 28, 2020

I was not aware of this ad. The PAC that is running it is a separate entity from Democratic Majority for Israel, and I have no association with the PAC. Still, to avoid confusion, I will be taking a leave of absence from the DMFI board until the primary season is over. 1/2 https://t.co/sMGDHtZ9bj

— Paul Begala (@PaulBegala) January 29, 2020

Paul was not aware of this ad because @DemMaj4Israel & DMFI PAC are in fact separate organizations.

Paul has always been a strong supporter of the US Israel relationship for which we are deeply grateful.

We look forward to welcoming him back after the primary season ends. https://t.co/APC0qHzUth

— Democratic Majority for Israel (@DemMaj4Israel) January 29, 2020

That has not stopped political consultant Anton Gunn, also a board member of Democratic Majority for Israel, from commenting for MSNBC without revealing his links to the group.

I saw him speak critically about Sanders to MSNBC host Joy Reid Saturday night with no reference to his DMFI connection.

He apparently is not an official MSNBC contributor so the situation is less egregious than Begala’s, but the omission shortchanges viewers.

As a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, Democratic Majority for Israel is restricted from direct political activity. So like many such organizations, it has a legally separate political action committee, DMFI PAC, which raises taxable funds that can be used directly for political campaigns.

Although technically separate, DMFI PAC operates out of the same office and is linked directly from the website of Democratic Majority for Israel, reflecting how they work – by different means – for the same pro-Israel agenda.

Gunn ought to explain his connection to the organization and should consider either stepping away from DMFI during the presidential campaign or insist that his affiliation with the group be prominently noted during his television speaking engagements.

MSNBC, for its part, is only loaning greater credence to complaints of bias against Sanders that have multiplied with the sickening Nazi-Sanders comparisons made by anchors Chris Matthews and Chuck Todd in recent days.

The ugliness is just getting started.

Pushback is imperative.

This is a wake-up moment for the American power establishment.

Many in this elite are behaving like aristocrats in a dying regime — including in media.

It’s time for many to step up, rethink, and understand the dawn of what may be a new era in America.pic.twitter.com/tr2jpTD7YY

— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) February 23, 2020

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