US Vice President Mike Pence has claimed that US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is siding with Israel's enemies as a result of his support for Palestinian rights.
At a speech at controversial American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, Pence claimed that US President Donald Trump should remain in the White House because of his pro-Israel stance.
He said: "In the days ahead, we must ensure the most pro-Israel president in history must not be replaced by one who would be the most anti-Israel president in the history of this nation. That's why we need four more years of President Trump in the White House."
Pence, who is an Evangelical Christian and staunch Israel supporter, then went on to falsely claim that Sanders supported the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and had "slandered" AIPAC conference after he refused to attend, saying it was a platform for leaders who "express bigotry".
Pence said: "Those who side with Israel's enemies must never be allowed to call themselves friends of Israel. It is wrong to boycott and slander Israel. It is wrong to boycott and slander AIPAC."
He went on to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.
Sanders has expressed support for Palestinian rights during the Democratic primary debates, but has not said he backs BDS.
In a tweet on Sunday he reiterated his reasons for skipping the AIPAC conference.
Sanders said: "The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security. So do the Palestinian people. I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason I will not attend their conference."
The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security. So do the Palestinian people. I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason I will not attend their conference. 1/2
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 23, 2020
Sanders himself volunteered at a kibbutz in northern Israel in 1963 for several months, and lost his father's side of the family in the holocaust.
He has previously said that the centuries long history of suffering endured by the Jewish people was one of the reasons he supports the rights of Palestinians.