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Dueling hashtags urge people to #skipaipac – or say they’re #aipacproud

Sen. Bernie Sanders last week became the highest-profile figure to say that he would be boycotting the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual Policy Conference — spurring many on social media to celebrate the success of a #SkipAIPAC publicity campaign, while allies of the lobby group pushed back with their own hashtag, #AIPACproud.

Even before Sanders announced he would be missing the conference, a collection of progressive organizations, including MoveOn, Indivisible, the Working Families Party and the Jewish group IfNotNow, had started a boycott-AIPAC effort, citing Islamophobic and otherwise objectionable speakers that the conference had hosted in the past.

While Sanders did not mention that campaign specifically, he did provide similar reasoning for his planned absence:

Some on the Jewish left expressed support for Sanders’ decision, as did non-Jewish surrogates like Rep. Ilhan Omar — who was accused of anti-Semitism last year when she claimed that AIPAC paid politicians to be pro-Israel (AIPAC does not donate directly to candidates but its members do.)

In response, AIPAC called Sanders’ comments “odious” and an “outrageous attack,” noting that thousands of Americans, including fellow Democratic elected officials, were proud to associate with the lobby.

An #AIAPCproud hashtag soon emerged, promoted by defenders of the advocacy organization, including leaders of several other large Jewish organizations, as well as politicians and activists:

AIPAC then used the hashtag to promote the unveiling of its guest speakers list — and came in for more criticism when it highlighted the expected presence of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who during the 1990s oversaw Yugovslavian President Slobodan Milosevic’s propaganda efforts during the ethnic cleansing of the Kosovo War, and said a few days after the massacre of thousands of Muslims in Srebrenica, “For every Serb killed, we will kill 100 Muslims.” (Vucic said those remarks were taken out of context.)

(Full disclosure: I interned for AIPAC for a college semester, and Forward editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren will be speaking at the conference.)

Aiden Pink is the deputy news editor of the Forward. Contact him at pink@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @aidenpink

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