AIPAC goes to war against Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders speaks to crowd of supporters

Bernie Sanders is speaking to huge and enthusiastic crowds across the US, ahead of the South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday.

Bob Daemmrich Polaris

Bernie Sanders, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, announced Sunday that he will not attend AIPAC’s annual conference.

He said no to the early March gathering because the powerful Israel lobby group provides a platform for “leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”

Earlier this month, Elizabeth Warren was the first Democrat vying for the presidency to say she would not attend.

AIPAC hit back hard at Sanders, calling his statement “truly shameful.”

The group tweeted that Sanders “has never attended our conference and that is evident from his outrageous comment.”

The right-wing organization – which nevertheless receives significant support from Democrats unwilling to challenge Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights – termed Sanders’ comment an “odious attack on this mainstream, bipartisan American political event.”

But AIPAC is losing progressive support at the grassroots level and knows it.

The group has repeatedly provided a platform to Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s bigoted prime minister – among many less prominent opponents of Palestinian human rights.

Sanders, whose campaign I support, has stated that Netanyahu is “a racist.”

Defenders of Israeli colonial expansion on Palestinian land and leaders of groups which have stood by as Israel has subjugated Palestinians for decades also spoke out on AIPAC’s behalf.

Among them was Senator Ted Cruz, who just days ago was accused of anti-Semitism for maliciously stating that presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg owns the media.

Bloomberg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money to buy his way into the Democratic race, but it is factually wrong and bigoted of Cruz to say he owns the media.

In fact, Bloomberg founded and holds an 88 percent stake in media company Bloomberg LP.

That is one piece of the media, not all of it.

DMFI PAC and AIPAC ads

AIPAC’s attack against Sanders comes just days after the organization was roundly excoriated for vicious Facebook ads targeting congresswomen Betty McCollum, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

McCollum vigorously pushed back, calling AIPAC a “hate group.” That language appears to be unprecedented from a member of Congress.

McCollum did not accept the organization’s attempted apology.

As Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, consolidates his frontrunner status, mainstream and pro-Israel organizations are escalating their political war against him.

AIPAC is now following the political action committee of Democratic Majority for Israel in seeking to undercut the Sanders campaign.

DMFI PAC, a group that funds political campaigns in support of Israel, ran ads against Sanders in both Iowa and Nevada.

The organization was worried enough about the support of grassroots Democrats for Palestinian rights that it focused instead on Sanders’ health and socialism.

Nevertheless, Sanders won the popular vote in both states, including a victory by a wide margin in Nevada.

Paul Begala, a CNN analyst and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, was forced to take a leave of absence from Democratic Majority for Israel when his affiliation with the group was trumpeted at the time of the ad campaign in Iowa.

That has not stopped political consultant Anton Gunn, also a board member of Democratic Majority for Israel, from commenting for MSNBC without revealing his links to the group.

I saw him speak critically about Sanders to MSNBC host Joy Reid Saturday night with no reference to his DMFI connection.

He apparently is not an official MSNBC contributor so the situation is less egregious than Begala’s, but the omission shortchanges viewers.

As a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, Democratic Majority for Israel is restricted from direct political activity. So like many such organizations, it has a legally separate political action committee, DMFI PAC, which raises taxable funds that can be used directly for political campaigns.

Although technically separate, DMFI PAC operates out of the same office and is linked directly from the website of Democratic Majority for Israel, reflecting how they work – by different means – for the same pro-Israel agenda.

Gunn ought to explain his connection to the organization and should consider either stepping away from DMFI during the presidential campaign or insist that his affiliation with the group be prominently noted during his television speaking engagements.

MSNBC, for its part, is only loaning greater credence to complaints of bias against Sanders that have multiplied with the sickening Nazi-Sanders comparisons made by anchors Chris Matthews and Chuck Todd in recent days.

The ugliness is just getting started.

Pushback is imperative.

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I feel awful, having to defend Ted Cruz.

"Senator Ted Cruz, who just days ago was accused of anti-Semitism for maliciously stating that presidential candidate
Mike Bloomberg owns the media.... it is factually wrong and bigoted of Cruz to say he owns the media."

In fact, Cruz was responding to this tweet: "Bloomberg campaign says it’s a two-man race for the nomination per Bloomberg
the news organization owned and controlled by Bloomberg" and quoting a Bloomberg media post saying exactly that.

And Cruz said "almost", for what it's worth: "It’s almost as if he owns the media." As you point out,
"[candidate] Bloomberg founded and holds an 88 percent stake in media company Bloomberg LP."

Let's not go overboard by instantly inferring anti-semitic tropes.
And please don't make me defend the odious Ted Cruz again.

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Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, TheNation.com, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.