As we’ve frequently noted, Bernie Sanders is the most forthright critic of Israeli human rights violations in the presidential field. His outspokenness in taking on Benjamin Netanyahu during the 2016 New York primary and opposing attacks on Gaza has made him a target of Israel advocacy groups, and therefore his recent woes at the polls have been extremely gratifying to Israel supporters.
Democratic Majority for Israel spent $1.4 million against Sanders and is just about doing an end zone dance. DMFI’s ceo, Mark Mellman, claimed victory over Sanders in the name of American Jews in an interview with Israel’s i24 News:
The data we have on American Jews says very clearly that they much prefer Joe Biden to Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders was doing less well among Jewish Democrats than among almost any other segment of the Democratic Party. So I think Jewish Democrats are going to be very happy and pro-Israel Democrats are going to be very happy with the Joe Biden nomination. They would have been pretty upset about Bernie Sanders as the nominee.
The reality is [Sanders] has been very hyperbolic and very hostile and bellicose in his language against Israel, and really most importantly surrounded himself with the most anti-Israel and even antisemitic voices in the Democratic Party. He has made them officials of his campaign, he has promoted them, and he has absolutely refused to disassociate himself even from their antisemitic words.
The truth is that Sanders, who is Jewish, is in essence a liberal Zionist; he supports Israel’s right to exist, presumably as a Jewish state. DMFI is plainly worried that Sanders’s rise has the effect of politicizing what has been bipartisan support for Israel. DMFI is linked to the rightwing Israel lobby organization AIPAC, and so it was displeased by Sanders’s refusal to speak to the AIPAC conference earlier this month, when he wrote AIPAC off as a bigoted group.
Biden and other leading Democrats spoke at AIPAC. Biden said that it’s “dangerous” and against the U.S. interest for Israel support here to become politicized.
Sanders opposes BDS, the nonviolent campaign to boycott Israel over human rights violations, but many in his progressive Democratic following support BDS as real progressive action. Doing so makes them “antisemitic” in DMFI’s eyes. DMFI also claims that it is “hateful” to say that Zionism is “racist.” And it has falsely characterized Sanders supporter Rep. Rashida Tlaib as seeking to erase Israel.
After the young anti-occupation Jewish group IfNotNow endorsed Sanders on March 11, DMFI characterized the organization as a “fringe group” and anti-Zionist. (DMFI was angered by IfNotNow’s protest methods aimed at Biden.)
Once again @BernieSanders — who says he is pro-Israel — touts the endorsement of a fringe group that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state in any borders…
The news network CNBC cites DMFI’s $1.4 million effort against Sanders in its report that Democratic megadonors had been planning to start a PAC to defeat Sanders but aren’t doing so now because they’re satisfied by Sanders’s stumbles.
Joe Biden’s recent string of primary victories appears to have satisfied wealthy donors who were discussing the creation of a super PAC aimed at pushing Sen. Bernie Sanders out of the race.
Instead, it appears they will hold off on engaging in an all-out assault on Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who shuns wealthy donors.
CNBC cites Bernard Schwartz, “a vocal opponent of Sanders since the start of the election.” Schwartz has given to many establishment liberal causes, as well as to an Israeli university.
In contrast to Sanders, Biden has a record of sometimes-fawning support for Israel. “Send a message to Bibi, I love him,” he once said at an Israel lobby event. He describes himself as a Zionist, brags that he went to Israel on his first trip as a senator in 1973 when he studied regional politics at the knee of Golda Meir, and so on.
Ahead of the Florida primary, Dan Shapiro, Obama’s former ambassador to Israel (who now heads an Israel lobby group), penned an article for the Sun-Sentinel reminding voters of Biden’s support for Israel. The headline of the article could have been: Biden won’t be like Obama! Obama never felt deep love for Israel, it was said at the time, but Shapiro says, “No issue brings out Biden’s passion” more than Israel.
No issue brings out Biden’s passion more than his commitment to the U.S. partnership with Israel. He has worked with every Israeli prime minister from Golda Meir to Benjamin Netanyahu, establishing real, personal, decades-long friendships. He sees in Israel an essential security partner to the United States, frequently stating that “if we did not have an Israel in the Middle East, we would need to invent one, for all the ways it serves U.S. interests.”
As U.S. Ambassador to Israel, I saw the depth and breadth of Biden’s commitment. He visited the county repeatedly, exuding warmth and care. Together with President Obama, he fought to ensure that Israel always had the means to defend itself from the wide range of threats it faces, from terrorism to ballistic missiles, including funds to deploy the lifesaving Iron Dome missile defense system and a 10-year, $38 billion agreement on U.S. military assistance.
Shapiro promises that Israel won’t get politicized under Biden’s watch:
For Biden, Israel is personal. He has spent his entire career speaking out against every attempt to delegitimize Israel or question its right of self-defense, whether in international institutions or from those who advocate boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) on American campuses. He has worked with Democrats and Republicans to keep support for Israel bipartisan and prevent it from becoming a political football.
Though Biden is committed to taking steps “toward a two-state solution,” Shapiro assures us, Israelis “know they are talking to a man who would put everything on the line to ensure Israel will always be a strong, secure, Jewish, and democratic state.”
Sanders has made gestures to placate Israel supporters, including speaking of his own time on a kibbutz in the 1960s. Sanders has a very mainstream Democratic Jewish liaison aide in Joel Rubin, and Rebecca Pierce’s article at the JTA saying that Sanders’s social justice agenda fulfils a Jewish tradition of “social action” tries to keep pro-Israel voters on board.
While some Jewish voters may be concerned about Sanders’ criticism of Israel, which falls pretty squarely into a Liberal Zionist framework, it’s important to understand it as part of his broader anti-war foreign policy…
As Trump paves the way for the annexation of settlements and threatening to further destabilize the Middle East by instigating conflict with Iran, we need a candidate whose foreign policy is built on pursuing peace and justice for all, even when we find that challenging. And while many Jewish voters may not share his critique of Israel or AIPAC, he represents a growing share of our community, especially among young people, who see the only path to peace as one of justice.
She says that Jews line up with Sanders on many social issues:
[H]e opposed the Iraq War, fought to protect social security, advocated environmental protection and refused to be beholden to the corporate interests that have destroyed American working communities. While he’s often branded a radical, many Americans, including many U.S. Jews, support these policies on paper even if they don’t personally subscribe to his democratic socialist ideology.