2020 Presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris met with representatives of American Israel Public Affairs Committee today, after joining a long list of other candidates who decided not to attend the pro-Israel lobby's policy conference. The move has garnered harsh criticism from progressives on social media.
Harris welcomed members of the group's leadership from California to her Senate offices Monday. She posted a photo of the meeting on Twitter, where it was retweeted twice on AIPAC's own account.
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Harris wrote in her tweet that it was “Great to meet today in my office with California AIPAC leaders to discuss the need for a strong U.S.-Israel alliance, the right of Israel to defend itself, SenatorHarris was among numerous Democratic 2020 contenders who replied “no” when journalists asked if they would be attending the AIPAC gathering.
The questions followed a high-profile campaign by the progressive activist group MoveOn. The group urged lawmakers to forgo the policy conference, charging that AIPAC “has been known to peddle anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric” and had “undermined” U.S. diplomacy, as in the case of the Iranian nuclear deal.
The group’s spokeswoman said that public support for the campaign “should give a clear insight to 2020 candidates on where their base stands instead of prioritizing lobbying groups and policy people who rarely step outside of D.C.”
Even though she did not enter the convention center where the AIPAC conference was held, critics from the left fiercely attacked Harris on social media for allowing AIPAC representatives into her office, some of whom called her a “hypocrite,” “on the fence,” and “in AIPAC’s pocket."
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The San Francisco Chronicle noted that Harris's tweet showing her with AIPAC delegates “quickly garnered more replies than likes, an indicator of 'controversial' content, with a ratio of 2,700 replies to 1,600 likes in the first three hours of posting.”
From the long list of 2020 hopefuls who did not attend AIPAC, only Senator Bernie Sanders explicitly cited political reasons for his absence - the other candidates did not give reasons or said they had not been invited. None of the candidates explicitly characterized their absence as a boycott or formally signed a pledge committing to their non-attendance.
Harris’s decision not to attend was notable, since she had attended and addressed AIPAC’s conference on multiple occasions in the past, as had three of the other Democrats who chose not to attend: Senator Cory Booker, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Senator Kristen Gillibrand.
In 2017, Harris spoke on the main stage in front of the group’s 18,000 delegates. “The bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable," she said, "and we can never let anyone drive a wedge between us.”
The following year, in 2018, Harris held an unannounced, closed-door session with AIPAC delegates.