The American Israel Public Affairs Committee late Sunday called out Sen. Bernie Sanders over his decision to skip its conference next month in Washington and blaming his decision on his concern that the group provides a platform for leaders to “express bigotry” and oppose basic Palestinian rights.
Sanders, who is on the heels of an emphatic win in the Nevada Caucuses, took to Twitter on Sunday to voice his concern about the influential lobby. The Vermont senator vowed that if elected president he would work with both Israelis and Palestinians to bring peace and stability to the region.
AIPAC wasted little time to respond to the public rebuke and called his comments an ill-informed and an “odious attack.” The pro-Israel lobby said Sanders never attended a conference, which is “evident in the outrageous comment.”
“Senator Sanders is insulting his very own colleagues and the millions of Americans who stand with Israel,” the statement read. “Truly shameful.”
Last year, liberal groups like MoveOn called on Democratic candidates to sidestep the annual conference. The groups claimed that the lobby tried to thwart the Iran nuclear deal and backed Israel’s unfair settlement policies, according to reports. A candidate’s decision to shun the conference could bolster his progressive support.
Last year, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., one of the first Muslim women in Congress, insinuated that lobbyists with AIPAC were paying lawmakers to support Israel. Her remark drew bipartisan criticism and a rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Omar ended up apologizing for her comments.
Presidential candidates used to view the AIPAC gathering as a crucial campaign stop.
President Trump used the decision by top Democrats to skip last year’s AIPAC event as evidence that they are anti-Israel.
“I don’t know what’s happened to them but they are totally anti-Israel,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn, according to The Hill. “Frankly, I think they’re anti-Jewish.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report