Senator Bernie Sanders will address Americans for Peace Now’s annual gala in early October, marking the organization’s 40th anniversary advocating for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The event comes nearly one year after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez backed out of a memorial event organized by the left-wing Jewish organization for late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin following backlash from pro-Palestinian activists who objected to his “total contempt for Palestinian lives.”
The events differ in the sense that the Rabin memorial was relating to a specific historical event, whereas October's gala is about the left-wing organization itself – including honoring APN board members who have long been involved in the intersection of politics and the Jewish community.
“We're thrilled and honored to have Senator Sanders’ joining us to help celebrate APN’s 40th anniversary. Like APN, he's been at this for a long time, and he continues to be a committed champion for peace,” APN President and CEO Hadar Susskind said.
While the difference in the two events may seem miniscule, and Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are virtually aligned in their views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, their participation, or lack thereof, in APN events reflects a schism in messaging that will become all the more relevant as the spotlight on progressive criticism of Israel grows brighter in the coming months and years.
Ocasio-Cortez represents one side of the divide: not hesitant to voice support for Palestinian rights nor criticize Israel, though perhaps unwilling to properly engage with potential liberal Jewish allies more in the mainstream. Sanders, on the other hand, has been staunch in his positions for decades, and has never been afraid to take his argument to potentially hostile environments.
Some progressives have seemingly taken lessons from Sanders in the past few months, offering more direct engagement with mainstream liberal Jewish organizations beyond likeminded allies on the fringes of the Jewish communal debate. Whether that continues as the debate evolves remains to be seen. In the meantime, Sanders will directly offer his message and his perspective unabated or unperturbed, no matter the audience.