Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is suddenly being taken seriously. This is welcome news for opponents of Israel who find the 78-year old Jewish senator much to their liking.
For months, the Vermont senator –a self-described democratic socialist who once proudly defended communist dictatorships across the world—was written off by political pundits as pushing a socialist agenda too radical for mass appeal.
Questions about his health, after a heart attack in the fall of 2019, cast a further blight on his prospects.
But the aspiring presidential nominee achieved a surprising turn-around in recent months. His health recovered, and his faltering campaign steadied itself and has even thrived.
A new CBS poll now places Sanders second to former Vice President Joe Biden in national polls and tied with Biden and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana for the lead in the upcoming Iowa primary.
This favorable shift in Sanders’ political viability can be partially explained by the gradual dropping out of other candidates such as Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Beto O’Rouke. But it has also been ascribed to the growing following of young Democratic voters across the nation who are attracted to Bernie Sanders’s socialist platform.
“The no-longer sleeping Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) now boasts 30,000 members,” a NY Times article notes, “most of them in their twenties and eager to follow the socialist banner.”
Only 11 percent of these supporters are Jewish, a Morning Consult poll released last May reported. The campaign must ratchet up those numbers if it is to achieve real growth.
Sanders recently said: “I am very proud to be Jewish and look forward to being the first Jewish president.” But many of his fellow Jewish Americans apparently do not look forward to that scenario. To some, it’s a frightening one.
One reason for this, say political observers, is the 78-year old Sanders’ poor record on support for Israel. Not only has he opposed actions taken by the Israeli government for self-defense and security. He has called for reducing U.S. military aid to Israel unless the Jewish state agrees to pursue policies in “the occupied Palestinian territories” in accordance with Palestinian demands.
“Voters who wish to do harm to the Jewish state gravitate toward Sanders,” noted the Simon Wiesenthal Center in its list of the “Ten Worst Anti-Semitic incidents in 2019.”
Sanders Silent on Anti-Semitism
Sanders’ disturbing record on Israel is combined with the senator’s failure to strongly protest the global rise of anti-Semitism. His warm embrace of forces hostile to Israel in the United States has alienated many American Jews.
The Jewish people today are facing a wave of anti-Semitism around the world not seen since the Holocaust era. Jew-haters encompass groups from all parts of the political spectrum, including neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Islamist extremists, and far-left groups.
Anyone who cares about the future of American Jewry as well as the overall health of American society seeks government leaders who will take a strong stand against anti-Semitism. Sen. Sanders does not inspire confidence in his willingness or ability to shoulder this kind of moral leadership.
Despite his own Polish-Jewish heritage and the murder of members of his own family in the Holocaust, Sanders has been conspicuously reserved on the burning issue of anti-Semitism.
His relative silence on this critical issue casts doubt on his ability to lead the country in combating anti-Semitism and in defending other moral priorities.
More Comfortable Speaking About Pope Francis
Sanders’ tendency to distance himself from his Jewish identity has ironically drawn increased media attention to it.
“People are confused why Bernie Sanders won’t own his Jewishness,” commented the JTA.
“[Sen. Sanders] seems more comfortable speaking about Pope Francis… than about his own religious beliefs,” wrote the New York Times, noting that Sanders admitted belonging to a category of people described by some as “non-Jewish Jews.”
Asked on a talk show whether he believed in God, he ducked the question.
“What my spirituality is about is that we’re all in this together. Turning our backs on people who are suffering… is not Judaism,” he said, taking refuge in a social justice sound-byte.
Referencing the pope as his apparent moral authority, Sanders added, “This is what Pope Francis is talking about, that we cannot worship just billionaires and the making of more money.”
Social Justice Replaced the Bible
“Those who know him,” the NY Times article elaborated, say he exemplifies a “secular offshoot of Judaism, whose adherents in the shtetls of Eastern Europe and the jostling streets of the Lower East Side were socialists, anarchists, radicals and union organizers.”
These predecessors of Bernie Sanders rejected Jewish observance, making economic and social justice their bible instead, the article noted.
Sanders, whose full last name is Sanderwitzky, grew up in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn in the 1940s and ’50s, in a family that distanced itself from Jewish tradition, although he took Sunday Hebrew classes at Kingsway Jewish Center and had his bar mitzvah there.
“My family showed up at a synagogue once a year on Yom Kippur,” said Sanders brother, Larry Sanders, in an interview with the NY Times.
After graduating from the University of Chicago, Sanders went to Israel to work on an agricultural kibbutz. He ended up at Sha’ar Ha’amakim, affiliated with the socialist-communist, anti-religious Hashomer Hatzair movement, which may have laid the foundations for his socialist world view.
Surrounding Himself with Bigots
Sanders offended traditional Jews by making a campaign appearance on Rosh Hashana, at Liberty University, an evangelical college in Virginia founded by Jerry Falwell.
But what has elicited deep distrust is his preference for surrounding himself with bigots such as Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and notorious anti-Semite Linda Sarsour, whose anti-Semitic remarks have garnered notoriety. These women often share the stage with him as “campaign surrogates.”
Rashida Tlaib, America’s first Congresswoman of Palestinian descent, launched her career in the U.S. House of Representatives by slandering colleagues who supported a resolution aimed at weakening the anti-Israel BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanction] movement.
“They forgot what country they represent,” Tlaib slurred the legislators, implying that Jewish Americans who want to see Israel continue to prosper, are deficient in their loyalty to America.
Similarly invoking the “dual loyalty” canard, Omar Ilhan told supporters, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”
Omar has falsely claimed that U.S. elected officials only support Israel to get Jewish campaign contributions, echoing the insidious anti-Semitic trope that wealthy Jews form a secret and sinister cabal controlling governments.
“It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” [“Benjamins” is slang for “money,” a reference to $100 bills on which Benjamin Franklin’s image appears]. When asked by someone who was paying pro-Israel politicians, Omar responded, “AIPAC!”
Sanders has defended both Muslim congresswomen and now is campaigning hard to win the support of American Muslims for his presidential bid, including those who have expressed hostility to Israel.
Countering universally known facts, he equates anti-Semitism with “white supremacist politics,” totally ignoring anti-Semitism among the left’s ranks, as well as among African-Americans and Muslims.
Sanders and Sansour Share the Stage
Perhaps most odious of the Jew-haters surrounding Sanders is the notorious pro-Palestinian activist and BDS supporter Linda Sarsour, whose anti-Semitic statements permeate her ‘’activism,” writes Tablet Magazine.
Sarsour has joined Ilhan and Tlaib as a Sanders’ campaign surrogate who regularly travels the campaign circuit with him.
In late November 2019, during a speech at the American Muslims for Palestine conference in Chicago, Sarsour attacked pro-Israel Americans. “Israel was built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everybody else,” she railed against the Jewish state. “How can you be against white supremacy and living in a supremacist state based on race and class, but then you support a state like Israel that is built on supremacy?”
Over the years, Sarsour has supported Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, who the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “an anti-Semite who routinely accuses Jews of manipulating the U.S. government and controlling the levers of world power.”
Sarsour has posting enthusiastic notes of support for the Nation of Islam on social media and has spoken at Farrakhan’s 2015 Washington, D.C. rally.
In a sign of how anti-Semitism has become mainstreamed in the Democratic party, Sanders apparently has no issue with Sarsour’s bigotry, nor her close ties with a rabid Jew-hater.
Sanders Campaign Seeks Jewish Voters
In efforts to win over American Jewish voters, Sanders has appointed a former Obama administration official with longstanding ties to an array of Jewish groups, to build ties with the American Jewish community which does not trust him.
Joel Rubin, the new liaison, is a co-founder of J Street, a Middle East policy group that that promotes itself as “the political home for Americans who are pro-Israel and pro-Peace,” but in fact is one of the most virulently anti-Israel groups in existence.
J Street was founded in late 2007, funded in large measure by the anti-Israel radical George Soros, a fact the organization continued to deny for several years after its founding.
“The Jewish-American advocacy group J Street, which bills itself as the dovish alternative to the influential AIPAC lobby, has secretly received funding from billionaire George Soros,” despite previous denials, wrote The Washington Times in Sept. 2010.
“Tax forms obtained by The Washington Times reveal that Mr. Soros and his two children, Jonathan and Andrea Soros, contributed a total $245,000 to J Street from one Manhattan address in New York during the fiscal year from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009. The contributions represent a third of the group’s revenue from U.S. sources during the period,” the article said.
Experts say deception and subterfuge are the organization’s modus operandi, as it works to weaken and harm Israel under the guise of being pro-Israel.
J Street is “a Trojan horse group dedicated to undermining American support for Israel and justifying left-wing hatred of the Jewish state,” asserts conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.
Other commentators have noted that through its politics of deception—pretending to be dedicated to Israel’s wellbeing while actively undermining it—J Street has inflicted the most damage against Israel of any organization in American history.
J Street Lets Its Claws Show
As any astute observer can’t help but notice, J Street repeatedly lets its pro-Israel mask slip, allowing its claws to show.
The group delegitimizes Israel by falsely accusing the Jewish state of being an “oppressor” and an illegal “occupier” of Arab land.
The organization’s leaders have denounced Israel’s very existence. They promote anti-Israel boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and anti-Jewish labeling regulations (another form of BDS.)
The organization lobbies for anti-Israel UN Security Council resolutions that condemn Israel; demands that Israel retreat to indefensible pre-1967 “Auschwitz” lines; and seeks to cut off the Jewish people from their holiest sites.
J Street has said it favors the creation of a Palestinian Arab terrorist state that does not have to recognize Israel. It urges the White House not to protect Israel by exercising its veto power in the UN.
The group championed the “Goldstone Report” that falsely maligned Israel’s actions in Gaza. (Goldstone later retracted his accusations against Israel.) On campus, J Street regularly hosts groups dedicated to smearing the Israel Defense Forces, accusing them of war crimes.
J Street justifies and legitimizes Arab terror and the promotion of anti-Israel hatred and violence by blaming Israel for all these evils. The organization’s president has accused Israel of “treating [Palestinian Arabs] in a way that forces them essentially to become terrorists.”
‘The Democratic Heart Has Moved Away from Israel’
In 2010, J Street lobbied Congress members to sign the infamous “Gaza 54 letter” that condemned Israel and urged then-President Obama to pressure Israel to lift the weapons blockade of Gaza.
This move meshed perfectly with Obama’s anti-Israeli sentiments. He readily embraced J Street, elevating the new organization to a position of importance by parlaying its views as representative of the broad American Jewish community.
Obama then felt free to pressure Israel to grant dangerous concessions to Hamas while bypassing the authentically pro-Israel voices at AIPAC. All he had to do was host a few J Street activists at Middle East policy meetings; the script they followed was one Obama could have written himself.
The delegates pretended advocating for negotiations with terrorists represented an acceptable opinion in the pro-Israel community, clearing the way for the Obama administration to proceed with its arm-twisting tactics against Israel that endangered the country’s security.
Having to deal with AIPAC’s objections would have been infinitely more complicated.
“The media quickly followed the White House’s cues, treating J Street as a legitimate representative of mainstream Jewish opinion on Israel. So did Democrats, particularly in the anti-Israel Obama administration,” explained conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.
“This is another indication that the Democratic heart has moved away from Israel,” he pointed out.
“J Street will go down in history as the most virulent, anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian lobby run by American Jews,” wrote Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz.
This is the organization whose co-founder now has just been hired by the Bernie Sanders campaign as a liaison to the American Jewish community.