WASHINGTON (JTA) – The chief of staff for Democratic vice-presidential pick Kamala Harris applauded the 2020 presidential candidates who chose to skip the 2019 AIPAC Policy Conference.
Karine Jean-Pierre, then national spokesperson and senior adviser for the left-wing group MoveOn, wrote in Newsweek that the Democratic candidates “made the right call,” and that both AIPAC’s policies and values “are not progressive.”
“You cannot call yourself a progressive while continuing to associate yourself with an organization like AIPAC that has often been the antithesis of what it means to be progressive,” she wrote, alluding to certain Democratic candidates.
Harris did not attend the 2019 conference, though has been to them in years past.
Jean-Pierre slammed AIPAC for opposing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the United States withdrew from in May 2018, reimposing sanctions lifted under it, along with enacting new ones. She further criticized having Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak, considering his indictment for alleged fraud and bribery, and that “under his leadership of Israel, according to the United Nations, Israel may have committed war crimes in its attacks on Gazan protesters.”
Without calling out Democrats by name, Jean-Pierre slammed those on the left side of the aisle who attended the conference for rebuking Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). Since entering Congress, Omar and Tlaib have been accused of an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel agenda with the former accusing AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel lobbying organization, in February 2019 of paying members of Congress to back Israel, saying it was “all about the Benjamins.”
At the 2019 event, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) delivered an indirect rebuke of Omar for making anti-Semitic statements.
“When someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: Accuse me,” said Hoyer to a standing ovation.
“Instead of standing for progressive values, some Democratic members of Congress did just the opposite: They attended the conference and proceeded to bash the freshmen congresswomen who paved the way in identifying AIPAC as the obstacle to progress that it is,” she wrote. “But disavowing AIPAC and skipping its conference isn’t anti-Semitic.”
“After all, AIPAC itself has refused to condemn the repeated and callous anti-Semitic remarks that have come out of the Trump administration,” wrote Jean-Pierre, citing former Trump White House chief strategist and senior counselor to the president Steve Bannon, who, reportedly, according to his wife, “had his kids removed from school because of ‘the number of Jews that attend’ and that he ‘didn’t want [his children] going to school with Jews.’”
AIPAC declined to comment on Jean-Pierre’s piece, while the Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment about it.
At the time, the pro-Israel lobby said none of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates were invited, and that it only invites presidential candidates during an actual election year.