Media Analysis

Campaign against Sanders on ‘antisemitism’ for his criticism of Israel begins in earnest

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In recent days, a group calling itself Democrats Against Anti-Semitism has begun an earnest campaign to inject the discourse with the idea that Bernie Sanders, historically the leading Jewish politician ever to run for president, is an antisemite because of his positions on Israel. That group joins New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss and others in seizing on the urgent task of vilifying Sanders. They evidently aim to “Corbyn-ize” him, by parroting smears used effectively against the UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Sanders is a target because he has taken the strongest stances in favor of Palestinian human rights that any major candidate for the presidency has ever adopted. He has denounced the killings of Palestinian protesters in no uncertain terms, he has repeatedly called for the end of the Gaza siege so as to end a humanitarian disaster in the strip, he has said that he would condition military aid to Israel because of its unending settlement project and disrespect for Palestinian human rights, he has called Netanyahu a racist, and, worst of all, called for an “evenhanded” U.S. policy with respect to Israel and Palestine. All this, while saying that he is proudly Jewish, lived on an Israeli kibbutz as a young man, and supports Israel’s existence/favors a two-state solution.

Here, from Democrats Against Anti-Semitism, a new group, are some of the supposed bases for the slander, which involves the twisting of Senator Sanders’s words. Notice the Anglicism, “Whilst”:

Sanders may be ethnically Jewish, but his rhetoric, voting history and associations have not reflected the values of a friend of Jewish people…

Speaking of anti-Israel dogwhistling, Sanders himself, much like his comrades, has preached anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian and, at times, blatant anti-Semitic talking points…

In 1971, whilst giving a speaking outside a synagogue, Sanders stated his support for “no guns for Israel.” This just two years before the Yom Kippur War, where Israel came close to destruction, only surviving from American arms and aid shipments…

In 1988, Sanders reaffirmed his beliefs, quoted as saying “it is wrong that America provides arms to Israel.”..

It was also in 1988 that Sanders stated that he “wholeheartedly agreed” with Presidential Candidate Jesse Jackson’s plan for Israel. His plan, if you don’t know, was to ethnically cleanse the region of Jews in order to build a Palestinian State…

In 1990, when Sanders was elected as a Representative, he called Israel “the American administration’s mercenary” in an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz, and spoke about his “greatest wish” was to see “the U.S. press Israel harder”..

In 2004, a resolution was brought into the House of Representatives defending Israel after a resolution passed by the International Court of Justice condemned a security wall over “problem areas” in the West Bank. Sanders, naturally, opposed it…

In 2015, Sanders accused Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu of “overreacting” in the Gaza War. Whilst terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah were committing terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. Yikes.

Finally, in 2019, Sanders voiced support against blocking support for the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions Movement, a group that is built on attempting to bankrupt Jewish-owned companies and weakening the Israeli economy and government

Bari Weiss of the New York Times spoke out against Sanders earlier this month at the JCC in Manhattan. She said that many Jews, including her father Lou, a prominent member of the Israel lobby group AIPAC, are “Trump curious or Trump supporters.”

I’ve been traveling all over the country talking to “the Jews” and … the number of people that say to me, I will vote for Trump over Bernie Sanders– it’s really unbelievable actually….

[The term Trump curious] describes my dad and a lot of other Jews that I know. It’s a very real thing. We are talking about Israel, and in certain ways Trump has enacted policies that have been the fantasy of many conservative Jeiwsh pro-Israel supporters, and there’s no way around that.

Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic responded that Sanders wasn’t going to win the nomination but that no matter who is the Democratic nominee, s/he will get about three-fourths of the Jewish vote.

“Not if it’s Bernie or Elizabeth Warren,” Bari Weiss said, while, once again, equating white nationalists who shoot up synagogues to the anti-Zionist left.

Norman Finkelstein told me that progressive defenders of Palestinian rights need to mobilize to oppose the campaign against Sanders, even if they don’t support Sanders’s presidential ambitions. He pointed to several new organizations taking on “the new antisemitism” (including this organization lately founded by Israel supporter Ronald Lauder) and said some of this energy is aimed at Sanders. That gives Jews a special responsibility.

This is a huge occasion for progressive Jews to rise to the occasion. There has got to be already now, a repudiation by the whole liberal Jewish community of the campaign that’s starting up against Bernie. And you have to remember this. Our situation is very different in the UK. In the UK, only 15 percent of Jews support Labour. UK Jews are overwhelmingly Tory. Yes, but here is a huge contingent of Jews who will not like what’s happening in particular, young Jews: The attempt to sabotage Bernie’s campaign. Yes. And you know, Bari Weiss is already that…

We have to create a firewall for Bernie, a very vocal, large Jewish presence, saying regardless of what we think about Bernie Sanders’ candidacy, there is no evidence to suggest that he is an anti Semite. And after 40 years in politics, there’s every good reason to trust his judgment about whom he chooses to associate with.

The last is in part a reference to Sanders endorser Linda Sarsour and the effort by conservatives to smear her, ala Jesse Jackson, because of her support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

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There is no “new antisemitism.” There are only new uses for the charge of antisemitism.

I think the intersection of antisemitism and corbyn was a serious accusation, but this accusation against sanders is flimsy. The advocacy of a confrontational posture vis a vis israel is what is happening here and israel supporters are obviously on a different wavelength than sanders vis a vis israel. calling it antisemitism, because he hung out with people and endorsed people who were antisemitic is indulging in a type of purity, because politics is a… Read more »

Here’s a deep, articulate analysis of the parallels between the smearing of Corbyn and Sanders, and more generally, the strategy of driving people from politics with accusations of “anti-Semitism”. “Prof Finkelstein: “What’s happening to Corbyn is a trial run for Bernie Sanders” | George Galloway” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbmCPIpGLHg Personally, I think any person with their eye on Justice will trust Bernie even more for knowing his earlier statements on withholding weapons from Israel. I certainly do. The… Read more »

“Sanders may be ethnically Jewish, but his rhetoric, voting history and associations have not reflected the values of a friend of Jewish people…” What are the “values of a friend of Jewish people”? “Speaking of anti-Israel dogwhistling, Sanders himself, much like his comrades, has preached anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian and, at times, blatant anti-Semitic talking points…” Lets’s see what his blatant anti-semitic talking points are, because the rest is perfectly legitimate. “In 1971, whilst giving a speaking… Read more »

Bernie Sanders is on his way to get skewered by the zionist media, lobbies, and self appointed guard dogs of Israel, like Bari Weiss, Brett Stephens, and others. It happened to Corbyn, so you can be sure they will try the same tactics over here. Bernie Sanders, Jewish, who had his relatives killed during the Holocaust, will be caricatured and made into a self hating Jew, who is against “poor” Israel, and they will dig… Read more »