Imagine looking at Fidel Castro’s Cuba and finding the sunny side of his dictatorship, and then turning around and castigating a modern liberal democracy and its supporters for oppression. Actually, no need to imagine that, because Bernie Sanders pulled off that trick in a single day. Just before Sanders made his but the literacy! argument on 60 Minutes to defend his support of Castro, he went on Twitter to declare that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was beyond the pale for its “bigotry.”
That might be news to fellow Democrat Rep. Steny Hoyer, who’s co-headlining the event:
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 didn’t take this lying down. They slammed Sanders for his “odious” remarks, calling them “truly shameful”:
Senator Sanders has never attended our conference and that is evident from his outrageous comment.
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) February 24, 2020
How will Sanders’ fellow Democrats take this? They can’t exactly afford to lie down either, thanks to their investment in Israel’s alliance and for credibility with its supporters. The House Majority Leader is hardly alone in speaking at AIPAC, after all. House colleagues Angie Craig, Elaine Luria, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Vincente González, and even progressive Democratic caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries will speak at the conference next week. Senator Bob Menendez will also address AIPAC, as will former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who’s not exactly one of Sanders’ favorite people anyway.
This move emphasizes Sanders’ radical nature in foreign policy as well as economics. AIPAC is a mainstream pro-Israel organization, one that strives mightily to keep its partisan balance and prevent Israel from becoming a victim of red/blue politics. This conference appears to actually feature more Democrats in office than Republicans, in fact, although it’s close. By calling the organization and its platform bigoted, Sanders is painting a very broad smear that attacks not only elected officials in his own party but also participating organizations such as the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.
That’s the look that the Democratic Party will have to adopt if it hands Sanders the nomination. ¡Fidel Si, Israel No! might sell with the Bernie Bros and the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fringe of American politics, but it’s not going to fly with mainstream Americans who have a much clearer view of both Fidel and Israel.