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  • Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren are boycotting AIPAC's annual conference.

    Kamala Harris, Beto O'Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren are boycotting AIPAC's annual conference. | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 March 2019

2020 Democrat presidential candidates will skip AIPAC annual conference revealing the growing discontent of progressives with the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S.

The 2020 Democratic Presidential nominations will not be attending pro-Israel lobby’s annual convention this year. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference will start Sunday amidst a growing debate about Israel’s influence on internal politics in the United States.

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Thousands of high-profile pro-Israel lobbyists, lawmakers, and politicians are going to the Washington Convention center to attend the event. Around 15,000 Jewish-Americans are also expected to visit Washington.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will deliver a keynote address Tuesday, a day after meeting United States President Donald Trump Monday.

Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren said they will not go to the event. AIPAC’s list of confirmed speakers also does not feature any Democrat running for president or any expected candidate like former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

This decision of the Democratic candidates is a reflection of the debates within the party in the recent past regarding the pro-Israel lobby’s influence on U.S. politics, andwhich revealed many Democrat’s opposition it.  

"AIPAC is faced with a unique set of challenges this year. There is a change in the discourse," said Abed A Ayoub, national legal and policy director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington.

"You see a lot more individuals on the left, Democrats and progressives, realizing that Israel is complicit in human rights violations, that what they are doing to the Palestinians is essentially an Apartheid state and the US is supporting this to the tune of billions of dollars a year," Ayoub said.

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MoveOn, a progressive advocacy group with millions of members, decided to call on Democratic presidential candidates to boycott AIPAC's conference after over 74 percent of its members expressed support for the move in an online survey.

"Any progressive vying to be the Democratic nominee for president should skip the AIPAC conference,” MoveOn said.

"The Democratic public position on Israeli policy has really become more critical over time," Shibley Telhami, a pollster at the University of Maryland, told Al Jazeera. "Every politician who is clever and wants to win is going to have to weigh where AIPAC is on this issue, but they can't ignore the public and the public right now is on the other side."

AIPAC is an American pro-Israel lobby group based in Washington D.C. The AIPAC Policy Conference is the largest gathering of America's pro-Israel community. The conference is a celebration of the U.S.-Israel partnership and the premier meeting to lobby their Congressional office to reinforce the U.S.-Israel relationship.

AIPAC's controversial history came under the spotlight after U.S. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar said that members of Congress support Israel because of money they receive from the pro-Israel lobby. She tweeted that support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins” i.e., Benjamin Franklin whose image appears on the US$100 bill.

"There's clearly a shift happening in the progressive base, where the clearly partisan actions of AIPAC can no longer be pushed under the rug," Iram Ali, campaign director at MoveOn told Middle East Eye.

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