Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during the 2019 J Street National Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. on October 28, 2019.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during the 2019 J Street National Conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. on October 28, 2019. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

'Political Courage': Sanders Will Not Attend AIPAC Conference Over Concern for 'Basic Palestinian Rights'

"You can support the Palestinian and Israeli people without supporting leaders or organizations that oppose the freedom and liberation of the Palestinian people."

Eoin Higgins

Democratic 2020 presidential primary frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders earned the praise of progressives after announcing on Sunday he would not attend the annual AIPAC conference due to his concerns over the group's willingness to endorse the views of bigots and its dismissal of the human rights of Palestinians. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), also a candidate for president, announced on February 6 she would not go to the AIPAC conference. 

"The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security," Sanders said Sunday. "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."

"As president, I will support the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and do everything possible to bring peace and security to the region," Sanders added.

The group hit back, issuing a statement attacking the Vermont senator and accusing him of ignorance about the organization's purpose.

"Sen. Sanders has never attended our conference and that is evident from his outrageous comment," the group said, adding, "By engaging in such an odious attack on this mainstream, bipartisan American political event, Sen. Sanders is insulting his very own colleagues and the millions of Americans who stand with Israel."

Axios reporter Jonathan Swan noted that the comments were "the strongest statement AIPAC has ever made against a top presidential candidate."

AIPAC has made no bones over the years of its distaste for Sanders, who declined to attend the conference in person in 2016 over similar concerns about the group's treatment of the Palestinians and its connections to hate groups.

A group loosely affiliated with AIPAC, the Democratic Majority for Israel, ran attack ads against the senator in Iowa and Nevada in January and February.

"The wall of fear protecting AIPAC is cracking and crumbling due to the grass growing down below," said Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah.

Abunimah's remarks were echoed by Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald, who pointed out that both Warren and Sanders rejecting the conference spoke to a broader problem of legitimacy for the organization. 

"That Sanders has the political courage to reject an organization devoted to an apartheid state is yet another positive," said Greenwald. "But AIPAC doesn't mention that Sen. Warren also refused to attend because AIPAC, like Israel, is becoming a far-right rogue outcast.

"You can support the Palestinian and Israeli people without supporting leaders or organizations that oppose the freedom and liberation of the Palestinian people," said activist and Sanders supporter Linda Sarsour.

Progressive Jewish advocacy group IfNotNow called on the rest of the Democratic field to follow Sanders and Warren's example. 

"Bernie's progressive agenda, which is strongly motivated by the Jewish tradition of social justice, has no room in it for the unholy alliance of Islamophobes, antisemites, and white nationalists that AIPAC has worked with in recent years," said IfNotNow co-founder Dani Moscovitch. "We renew our call on every single Democratic candidate to follow the lead of Bernie and Elizabeth Warren and Skip AIPAC and embrace the movement fighting for freedom and dignity."

The Vermont senator's remarks were welcomed by writer Mairav Zonszein.

"For me and many other Israeli and American Jews on the left, Sanders is literally a hero for saying fuck you to AIPAC," said Zonsein.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Border Patrol Accused of 'Unfathomable Cruelty' for Cracking Whips on Haitians

"It doesn't matter if a Democrat or Republican is president, our immigration system is designed for cruelty towards and dehumanization of immigrants," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Brett Wilkins ·


As Gov. Tim Walz Proclaims 'Minnesota Climate Week,' Ilhan Omar Says 'Stop Line 3'

"The state of Minnesota simply cannot meet our carbon reduction targets if this pipeline goes through," said the Democratic congresswoman. "Our future is on the line."

Kenny Stancil ·


Supreme Court Announces Date for Case Directly Challenging Roe v. Wade

"The fate of Roe v. Wade and legal abortion is on the line."

Julia Conley ·


Avi Lewis Hoping Canadians' Climate Concerns Deliver Electoral 'Upset of Epic Proportions'

"We need to send Avi to Ottawa to shake up the entire political establishment, including his own party, and tip the scales in favor of people and the planet," said environmentalist David Suzuki.

Brett Wilkins ·


Sanders Denounces a Pentagon Budget System Found 'Inherently Susceptible to Fraud'

"They don't seem to want to get serious about spending taxpayer dollars wisely and effectively," said the Vermont senator, declaring it "absolutely unacceptable."

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo