The influential pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is criticizing 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders after he decided to skip the organization’s annual policy conference in March, calling it a platform for "leaders who express bigotry."
"The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security. So do the Palestinian people," Sanders, I-Vt., said on Twitter Sunday in his announcement that he would not attend the conference.
"I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason I will not attend their conference. As president, I will support the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and do everything possible to bring peace and security to the region," Sanders tweeted.
AIPAC replied to Sanders’ remarks in a statement on Twitter, saying, "Senator Sanders never attended our conference and that is evident from his outrageous comment."
"In fact, many of his own Senate and House Democratic colleagues and leaders speak from our platform to the over 18,000 Americans from widely diverse backgrounds — Democrats, Republicans, Jews, Christians, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, progressives, Veterans, students, members of the LGBTQ+ community — who participate in the conference to proclaim their support for the U.S.-Israel relationship," the organization said in their statement.
"By engaging in such an odious attack on this mainstream, bipartisan American political event, Senator Sanders is insulting his very own colleagues and the millions of Americans who stand with Israel. Truly shameful," the pro-Israel group added.
Sanders -- who is the son of polish immigrants and the only Jewish presidential candidate -- also skipped the group’s annual event in 2019.
Sanders' move to boycott the event follows his fellow democratic presidential candidate -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- after she announced she’s skipping the conference in early Feb.
Warren, D-Mass., also did not attend the AIPAC conference in 2019.
In response to Sanders and Warren’s announcements, Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said "Candidates should be judged on their positions, not on whether they attend any particular conference. JDCA will support the Democratic nominee - whomever that may be - in November, and strongly opposes the use of Israel as a political wedge issue."
"Jewish voters overwhelmingly oppose Donald Trump and will vote against him in November, regardless of who is the Democratic nominee for president," Soifer said in a statement.