With 9 months to go, AIPAC scrubs 2021 conference over pandemic
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With 9 months to go, AIPAC scrubs 2021 conference over pandemic

Citing ‘continued uncertainties’ over the coronavirus, the powerful pro-Israel lobby says it will not hold the confab, scheduled for early March

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks from Israel via video link at the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, on March 26, 2019. (Jim Watson/AFP/File)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks from Israel via video link at the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, on March 26, 2019. (Jim Watson/AFP/File)

WASHINGTON — The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has cancelled next year’s annual policy conference due to virus concerns, according to an email the group’s president sent its members on Sunday.

The confab, which usually brings together nearly 20,000 people, had been scheduled for early March 2021, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.

“Given the continued uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and without a predictable avenue to safely bring together thousands of pro-Israel Americans, we have been forced to cancel the 2021 AIPAC Policy Conference,” AIPAC President Betsy Berns Korn wrote in the email, which was seen by The Times of Israel.

She said the lobby will refund the registration fees that people had paid and send everyone a confirmation email.

The most recent policy conference, in March, came as the infectious disease had just reached America’s shores and was beginning to spread throughout the nation.

At least six people who attended the 2020 AIPAC conference tested positive for the coronavirus.

AIPAC’s Sunday announcement comes as states have begun implementing re-opening plans and many US cities are beginning to relax stay-at-home orders.

It also comes as mass protests have broken out nationwide, following the police killing of a Black man, George Floyd, over Memorial Day weekend.

Those gatherings have caused health experts to fear that asymptomatic carriers of the virus could unwittingly infect others — with people standing shoulder to shoulder, many without masks — unleashing a fresh surge of infections.

Meanwhile, health officials have been warning about a potential second wave of infections in the fall and winter, further complicating AIPAC’s plans for a March conference.

It’s not clear yet whether the powerful pro-Israel group will try to host the program virtually instead.

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