Pence suggests Jewish candidate Sanders is anti-Semitic for criticizing Israel

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Pence falsely claimed that Bernie Sanders 'smeared Israel' at last week's Democratic debate in South Carolina.

Mike Pence falsely claimed at a pro-Israel conference on Monday that Democratic candidate and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders "smeared" Israel at last week's debate.

That never happened.

Speaking at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which calls itself "America's pro-Israel lobby," Pence argued that "anti-Semitism has changed forms in recent days," saying it was no longer simply a "hatred of the Jewish religion or hatred of the Jewish people on every occasion" but "now it often propagates as simply hatred of the State of Israel."

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He then turned his sights on Democrats, whom he claimed were insufficiently supportive of Israel.

"Today, the leading candidate for the presidential nomination of the party of Harry S. Truman openly and repeatedly attacks Israel as a racist state and defames AIPAC as, of all things, as he said a 'platform for bigotry,'" Pence said, referring to Sanders, who is Jewish.

Sanders had tweeted in late February that he would not be attending the group's conference because he was "concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights."

Pence added, "Even more troubling, when Bernie Sanders smeared Israel at last week's debate, not a single candidate on that stage stood up to challenge him. But I'll promise you: we will always call out those who try to cloak their animus toward Israel inside the phony mantle of friendship."

Pence also equated Sanders not attending the conference with businesses boycotting and divesting from Israel. "It's wrong to boycott and slander Israel. It's wrong to boycott and slander AIPAC," he said.

Pence appeared to be referencing a comment at last week's Democratic presidential debate in Charleston, South Carolina.

Asked at that debate about his views on foreign policy toward Israel and his earlier criticism of AIPAC, Sanders noted his Jewish identity and said that he once lived in Israel.

"But," he added, "what I happen to believe is that, right now, sadly, tragically, in Israel, through [Prime Minister Benjamin] 'Bibi' Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country."

Sanders made no criticism of Israel more broadly.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Pence stood by his misleading remarks this week.

Netanyahu last week criticized Sanders, saying he was "wrong" to call the Israeli leader a racist.

Just one day prior to Israel's national elections last September, however, Netanyahu and his Likud Party were caught sending recorded messages warning supporters of "high Arab voter turnout." Netanyahu made similar attacks on Arab-Israeli citizens voting in the 2015 election as well.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.