Want the best from VICE News in your inbox? Sign up here.
UPDATE 3/22 10:00 a.m.: Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, another 2020 candidate, also confirmed Thursday night that she would not be attending AIPAC.
Democrats appear to be moving left on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Just weeks after Democrats had a meltdown over Rep. Ilhan Omar’s criticism of Israel, seven 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have opted to skip this year’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, which annually convenes prominent Israel supporters.
Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Jay Inslee, and Julian Castro have all confirmed they won’t attend the pro-Israel conference this year. Democrats started pulling out after MoveOn, a progressive advocacy group, called on Democratic presidential candidates to skip the event, which typically enjoys support from major Democrats. Top Dems, including Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, are speaking at AIPAC this year.
"He’s concerned about the platform AIPAC is providing for leaders who have expressed bigotry and oppose a two-state solution,” Bernie Sanders’ policy director, Josh Orton, told the Huffington Post. Sanders has highlighted his Jewish faith as part of his 2020 presidential campaign.
Multiple presidential candidates skipping the conference marks another sign that Democrats are being forced to reckon with their years of support for Israel. On Thursday, for example, the House unveiled a bipartisan resolution to condemn boycott movements against Israel. The United Nations and numerous human-rights groups have repeatedly condemned Israel over its occupation of Palestinian territories, which the U.S. doesn’t recognize as an official state. Just last week, the U.N. said that Israel may have committed war crimes in 2018 by shooting at unarmed Palestinians. Israeli forces killed at least 189 Palestinians in clashes last year.
Minnesota Democrat Rep. Omar and Michigan Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib — the first two Muslim women in Congress — are also the only members in the legislative body that support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Since taking office for the first time earlier this year, Omar has become the most vocal critic of Israel and AIPAC’s influence on American politics.
But Omar has faced fierce backlash from Democrats and Republicans alike — and even death threats. Critics have tried to paint her comments, which called out AIPAC’s use of money to influence politics, as anti-Semitic.
Earlier this month, the House planned to condemn anti-Semitism as a direct rebuke of Omar, though a huge amount of grassroots support manifested for her. Democrats ultimately decided to water down the resolution to instead condemn all forms of hatred, including Islamophobia and white supremacy.
Harris, Sanders, Warren, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand — another 2020 presidential candidate, who has not pulled out of AIPAC — all voiced support for Omar in the wake of her criticism of Israel.
Cover image: 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Henderson, Nev. Sanders injured his head on a glass shower door on Friday. (AP Photo/John Locher)