Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg ripped Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I., Vt.) criticism of AIPAC on Monday, saying the Vermont socialist is "dead wrong" to say the pro-Israel group fosters racism.
"Unfortunately, not all of my fellow Democrats in this race have attended an AIPAC conference," Bloomberg told the crowd at the group's annual policy conference in Washington, D.C. "One of them, Senator Sanders, has spent 30 years boycotting this event and, as you've heard by now, he called AIPAC a racist platform. Well, let me tell you, he's dead wrong."
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"This is a gathering of 20,000 Israel supporters of every religious denomination, ethnicity, faith, color, sexual identity and political party," Bloomberg added. "Calling it a racist platform is an attempt to discredit those voices, intimidate people from coming here, and weaken the U.S.-Israel relationship."
Sanders called Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "reactionary racist" at the Democratic debate in South Carolina. He also said the pro-Israel lobby has a "lot of money" and "a lot of power."
Sanders took to Twitter last month to accuse AIPAC of providing a platform "for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights."
As president, I will support the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and do everything possible to bring peace and security to the region. 2/2
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 23, 2020
AIPAC hit back at Sanders's accusation of bigotry, saying it was "shameful" and "odious." Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon sharply criticized Sanders.
"We don't want Sanders at AIPAC. We don't want him in Israel. Anyone who calls our prime minister a ‘racist' is either a liar, an ignorant fool, or both," the ambassador said.
Sanders defended his attacks on the pro-Israel lobby, saying he was both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian.
The presidential frontrunner has floated the possibility of leveraging U.S. aid to Israel to put pressure on the Israeli government.
"$3.8 billion is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government or for that matter to any government at all," he said. "We have a right to demand respect for human rights and democracy."