Liberal Group MoveOn Calls For 2020 Democrats to Boycott AIPAC

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington in 2015 / AP
March 20, 2019

The liberal activist group MoveOn is urging 2020 Democratic contenders to boycott this year's AIPAC policy conference, saying the pro-Israel group verges on Islamophobia.

"It’s no secret that that AIPAC has worked to hinder diplomatic efforts like the Iran deal, is undermining Palestinian self-determination, and inviting figures actively involved in human rights violations to its stage," said Iram Ali, campaign director at MoveOn Political Action, in a statement to Politico. Ali also said the call should "give a clear insight to 2020 candidates on where their base stands instead of prioritizing lobbying groups and policy people who rarely step outside of D.C."

So far, no candidates have said whether they will attend or boycott the conference, which begins this Sunday. But Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) are scheduled to appear at the conference, along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many Republican lawmakers.

MoveOn is calling for the boycott after a poll in which three-quarters of its respondents supported the move. In the poll, MoveOn members were told to respond to a number of statements accusing AIPAC of opposing former President Barrack Obama's Iran nuclear deal and of pushing "anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric while giving platforms to Islamophobes."

MoveOn spokeswoman Anna Zuccaro said the boycott only applies to this year's conference, but Democrats should be ready for more pressure from MoveOn in the future.

"Candidates should be prepared for push back regarding their involvement with AIPAC," she told Politico.

The proposed boycott comes just weeks after Rep. Ilhan Omar's (D., Minn.) anti-Semitic comments divided Hill Democrats. After Omar alleged that AIPAC and others push for "allegiance to a foreign power" while speaking at an event, Democrats passed a sweeping resolution condemning all forms of hate.

"I think she has a different experience in the use of words, and doesn't understand that some of them are fraught with meaning that didn't realize, but nonetheless that we had to address," Pelosi said in reference to Omar's comments.

Some Democrats, however, expressed concern that the resolution did not focus on anti-Semitism.

"This resolution is a fine resolution and I will support it, but I am very disappointed that we weren't able to have a separate resolution to specifically condemn anti-Semitism and what our colleague said that really was a very hateful term," said Rep. Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), who is Jewish.