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March 4, 2020 8:09 am

Rabbi Believes Bernie’s Big Lie About AIPAC

avatar by Naomi Cohn


Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden addresses the annual AIPAC Policy Conference, March 1, 2020. Photo: AIPAC.

The radical anti-Israel group IfNotNow gloated last week on its Facebook page about a prominent recruit to its campaign to boycott the AIPAC conference. IfNotNow had been aggressively lobbying the Democratic presidential candidates to boycott the pro-Israel lobbying group, arguing that AIPAC is “bigoted.”

A Facebook post by Matthew Green, Assistant Rabbi at Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim, was clearly influenced by IfNotNow. The rabbi wrote in reference to attending AIPAC: “Our presence has given a heksher to bigots.”

He also linked his boycott call to Senator Bernie Sanders. The title of his post was “Bernie is making the right decision to #SkipAIPAC.” The rabbi wrote: “I feel it’s necessary for me — as a rabbi — to #skipaipac this year and onward.” Further, he wrote of Sanders: “It excites me that the most prominent Jew in America today reflects the values of the American Jewish future.”

The rabbi neglected to note that Senator Chuck Schumer is one of his congregants. Senator Schumer spoke at the AIPAC conference. The rabbi’s post, in essence, accuses Schumer of being a bigot.

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Like the rabbi and IfNotNow, Senator Sanders claims that his boycott of AIPAC is due to “bigotry.” In explaining his decision, Sanders said: “I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry.” During the Democratic debate in North Carolina, he doubled down, saying: “Right now, sadly, tragically, in Israel, through Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country.” It appears that Sanders was unaware that Netanyahu’s chief rival in the Israeli elections, Benny Gantz, essentially agrees with the current prime minister on his approach to the Palestinian issue. This is because Israeli voters want peace, but do not see any way of attaining it with the current intractable leadership of the various Palestinian factions.

In any case, Sanders’ contention that he was skipping AIPAC because Netanyahu is a “reactionary racist”  is a flat-out lie. AIPAC itself pointed out in its response that the senator has never attended the yearly event.

While he has never attended AIPAC, last year Sanders did address the Islamic Society of North America. The ISNA conference featured speakers who express hatred of Jews, women, homosexuals, and other minorities

A look at the senator’s surrogates shows that many of his supporters are antisemites and anti-Zionists. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Linda Sarsour, Amer Zahr, and Ariel Gold all embrace the boycott of Israel.  Many of them regularly tweet antisemitic tropes and pal around with notorious antisemite Louis Farrakhan. So the contention by both Senator Sanders and Rabbi Green that they are boycotting AIPAC because of the “bigotry” rings false.

It is sad to see a relatively young rabbi taken in by the IfNotNow campaign. One can only wonder whether he is truly aware of what AIPAC conferences are really like — with some 18,000 attendees who come to hear the incredibly diverse citizens of Israel — gay, straight, and trans; black and white; Muslim, Christian, and Jewish. Instead, he stands with Sanders, who has never retracted his admiration for brutal dictators in the USSR, Cuba, and Venezuela.

Naomi Cohn is an attorney and writer. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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