Recap of AIPAC day 1

Speakers on the main stage during Sunday evening’s plenary session called out Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and her statements – charging supporters of Israel as pushing for “allegiance to a foreign country” – but without explicitly mentioning her.

“The fundamental reasons we support a strong U.S-Israel relationship have been attacked and worse, our loyalty to the United States has been questioned and people are watching to see what happens next,” AIPAC President Mort Fridman said. “I’m the child of a Holocaust survivor, I’m the president of AIPAC, we all have stories that brought us here and, though all of us are different in so many ways, we are similar too. In one very specific way — none of us are willing to be silenced or intimidated.” 

British Member of Parliament Joan Ryan addressed the controversy surrounding endemic antisemitism in the Labour Party. She explained the decision that she and seven other MPs made to quit the Labour Party.“I would never have believed just three years, that the party which backed a Jewish homeland, even before the Balfour Declaration, would have sunk so low, so fast,” she told the audience of 18,000. “Why did I, a non-Jewish friend of Israel, travel to your conference, to tell you this? To remind you that things can change quickly. To remind you that we must stay on our guard and to remind you that we must stand our ground. We must condemn antisemitism and anti-Zionism unequivocally wherever we find it, whenever we find it.”

FIGHT AGAINST BDS — In his remarks, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also expressed his support for a bipartisan resolution that opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, calling it a “front to delegitimize the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.” The resolution, introduced last week by Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), “puts Congress on record that BDS must be opposed and at its root — at its root — is an effort to eliminate the Middle East’s only pluralistic democracy,” Leader Hoyer said.

Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said it would be a worse problem if Israel would keep their inventions and technologies out of the hands of supporters of the movement. “Those countries and those organizations should be worried about Israel boycotting them,” he said during a Q&A session on the main stage. “I’m serious. If Israel starts boycotting people, there will be no cell phones, there’s not going to be any of these autonomous victories, go to that medicine cabinet, take out half the drugs that are in there. The BDS movement is not a threat to Israel’s economy, it is a moral attack against Israel, it’s an antisemitic attack against Israel, we have to fight back.”

Meghan McCain, appearing alongside former Senator Joe Lieberman in a tribute for the late John McCain at AIPAC’s Sunday evening session: “Many of you know, there are people out there today, including in the halls of Congress, who believe that America supports Israel only because it’s powerful. That line, recalling so many pernicious stereotypes, is a profound misunderstanding of how American democracy works. Americans don’t support Israel because AIPAC is influential. AIPAC is influential because Americans support Israel.” [Video]

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) declared to AIPAC, “I stand with Israel, proudly and unapologetically. So, when someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: accuse me. I am part of a large, bipartisan coalition in Congress supporting Israel. I tell Israel’s detractors: accuse us.”

Hoyer announced that he will lead the “largest delegation ever – probably more than thirty Democratic Members of Congress, including many freshmen” on an annual trip to Israel in August. “By the way, there are 62 freshman Democrats — you hear me? Sixty-two, not three,” Hoyer pointed out. “We stand with Israel because we are loyal Americans, patriots who believe it is in America’s interest that Israel remains strong and free and supported as a place of refuge from the haters of the world. We proudly stand with Israel. Accuse us,” he concluded to thunderous applause. [Video

HOW IT PLAYED — Hoyer delivers strong defense of U.S.-Israel alliance in veiled rebuke of Rep. Omar [WashPost• At AIPAC, Democratic majority leader aims fire at Ilhan Omar [JTA] • AIPAC speakers make thinly veiled jabs at Ilhan Omar in wake of comments deemed anti-Semitic [FoxNews]

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, during a Q&A session on Sunday afternoon: 
“You don’t have to agree with every single thing that AIPAC has supported or everyone who goes to an AIPAC conference. By the way, I think people who go to the AIPAC conference don’t all agree with each other. But you do have to agree that Israel matters in the world and that we have to have to defend Israel… The vast majority of Democrats support the state of Israel. The vast majority of progressives support the state of Israel. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.” [Pic]

By Laura Kelly from Washington, D.C.

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