Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire
Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire Reuters

The National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) on Monday defended AIPAC and supported the group’s criticism of Senator Bernie Sanders after the Democratic presidential candidate attacked AIPAC ahead of its annual policy conference in Washington, DC and said he would not attend the conference.

In a tweet on Sunday, Sanders said, “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.”

In response to Sanders’ tweet, AIPAC said, “Senator Sanders has never attended our conference and that is evident from his outrageous comment…By engaging in such an odious attack on this mainstream, bipartisan American political event, Senator Sanders is insulting his very own colleagues and the millions of Americans who stand with Israel.”

“Senator Sanders’ unprovoked and unbecoming attack against AIPAC, a bipartisan organization that works to strengthen and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship, is absolutely abhorrent,” said NCYI president Farley Weiss.

“The insinuation that AIPAC is giving a voice to people who espouse bigotry is as insulting as it is outrageous. When over 18,000 people with diverse political, religious and ethnic backgrounds gather in our nation’s capital in the beginning of March, their sole objective will be to celebrate the strong and unique bond that the United States and Israel share. For Senator Sanders, who has never been at an AIPAC policy conference and therefore has no true sense of the incredible and important experience that it is, to denigrate this annual event based on fabrications and unfounded allegations is disgraceful and an affront to every single American citizen who supports Israel,” added Weiss.

Sanders was also criticized by Jason Greenblatt, the former US envoy to the Middle East, who tweeted Sunday night, “Outrageous, shocking statement; wrong on so many levels; shows a total disregard for Israel & complete lack of understanding of the conflict & the very serious security challenges Israel faces. Bernie Sanders & staff should attend AIPAC conference not to speak but to listen/learn!”

Sanders was one of several Democratic presidential hopefuls who declined to speak at last year’s AIPAC conference, but he previously said he would not object to attending this year’s conference.

His statement follows that of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who indicated she would skip the AIPAC conference and did not push back against questionable assertions about the lobby.

Sanders has repeatedly criticized the Israeli government, most recently last week when he asserted that it is racist.

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