Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who takes to the debate stage Wednesday night with other Democratic presidential hopefuls, recently said: “I am very proud to be Jewish and look forward to being the first Jewish president.” But many of Sanders’ fellow Jewish Americans don’t look forward to what they see as that frightening possibility.
According to a Morning Consult poll released in May, only 11 percent of Jewish Democrats supported Sanders. One reason for this low level of Jewish support is Sanders’ record of strongly opposing many Israeli actions and polices, along with his threats to reduce vital U.S. aid to Israel.
This is combined with Sanders’ failure to take a strong stand opposing the global rise of anti-Semitism, along with his warm embrace of anti-Semites and forces hostile to Israel here at home.
Sanders’ weak support among his fellow Jews is a sharp contrast to the strong support then-Sen. Barack Obama enjoyed from his fellow African-Americans (about 95 percent) when he successfully ran and became our nation’s first black president. When then-Sen. John F. Kennedy ran and became America’s first Catholic president he had the support of more than 70 percent of Catholic voters.
Sanders joined some other Democratic presidential candidates Monday in criticizing the announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the U.S. will no longer consider Israel’s West Bank settlements illegal under international law – reversing the position of past U.S. administrations.
“Israeli settlements in occupied territory are illegal,” said Sanders. “This is clear from international law and multiple United Nations resolutions. Once again, Mr. Trump is isolating the United States and undermining diplomacy by pandering to his extremist base.”
Sanders earlier criticized President Trump’s bold and courageous decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and even said he would be willing to overturn that decision and move the U.S. Embassy back to Tel Aviv if that would bring about a peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.
Sanders said last month that Israel would have to “fundamentally change” its policies dealing with the Gaza Strip to continue receiving U.S. aid. This is a position that would pose a grave threat to Israel should Sanders become president.
The Gaza Strip is controlled by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and also harbors other terrorist groups, including the even more extreme Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Israel captured Gaza in the Six-Day War in 1967, but withdrew in 2005 in a goodwill gesture to promote peace.
Instead of living in peace with Israelis, Palestinians backed by Iran regularly use Gaza as a launching pad for rocket attacks into Israeli towns and cities – including hundreds just in the past few days.
The Palestinians build terror tunnels to allow murderers to sneak into Israel to launch deadly attacks on civilians and kidnap Israelis and hold them for ransom. And they hold weekly demonstrations – often putting youngsters in harm’s way – that many times turn into violent riots and armed attacks on the international border with Israel.
But in Sanders’ warped view that is disconnected from reality, Israel is at fault for the attacks against it from Palestinians and its other Arab neighbors.
In a blast at Israel last month, Sanders said: “What is going on in Gaza right now is absolutely inhumane, it is unacceptable, it is unsustainable.”
Sanders won’t say a negative word about the terrorist rulers of Gaza or the non-democratic and corrupt Palestinian Authority that governs much of the West Bank, and rewards imprisoned Palestinian terrorists and the families of dead terrorists with monthly payments for murdering Jewish Israeli civilians.
Like too many other progressive leaders around the world, Sanders lowers the boom on Israelis while silently patronizing Palestinians like children who don’t have to take responsibility for “acting out” – even when the Palestinians commit horrific murders.
Sanders seeks to use his own family’s history of fleeing anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe as armor to protect him from criticism. But it doesn’t work.
For the thousands of years anti-Semitism has existed, anti-Semites have blamed Jews for being responsible for provoking Jew-hatred – just as Sanders does today when it comes to the Holy Land. The fact that a Jew embraces these noxious views makes them no less acceptable than if expressed by someone of another faith.
Sanders absurdly equates anti-Semitism with “white supremacist politics,” a bizarre and historically inaccurate claim – ignoring anti-Semitism by the left, among African-Americans and Muslims.
The senator from Vermont hasn’t offered one word of criticism of the organizers of the Women’s March that was held the day after President Trump was inaugurated to protest the new president. The protest morphed into an anti-Semitic platform by key leaders who claimed Jews in general support white supremacy and that the Jewish state of Israel is racist.
This led to protests from many progressive Jewish women who were forced to withdraw from the Women’s March, but we heard not a peep from Sanders. Why?
The leader of the Women’s March – notorious anti-Semite Linda Sarsour – is a strong supporter of Sanders and is working to help him win the Democratic presidential nomination.
Sanders has also been endorsed by anti-Semitic Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. 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.
Voters who wish to do harm to the Jewish state couldn’t find a better candidate than Sanders.
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.
Tlaib has questioned the loyalty of Jewish Americans to the U.S. because they also want to see Israel continue to exist and prosper as a Jewish state. She and other anti-Semites ignore the fact that Israel has been a staunch American ally since the creation of the modern state in 1948 and that America and Israel share common values.
On top of all this, Sanders equates the “sober facts of America’s own founding” – by which he means crimes against Native Americans and the horrific enslavement of Africans – with the ingathering of Jews from around the world to reestablish the ancient Jewish homeland of Israel as a modern state.
Far from being “colonizers,” the Jewish people have miraculously succeeded in reconstituting Jewish life in the Holy Land that dates back over 3,000 years. This was long before the founding of Islam at the beginning of the 7th century.
Israel has sought from its founding to live in peace with its Araba neighbors, but was attacked by five Arab armies that defied the United Nations and invaded the nascent Jewish state to destroy it in 1948. It was attacked again in subsequent wars and since then by terrorists, and has had no choice but to defend itself.
While Sanders now demands that U.S. military aid to Israel be leveraged to force the Jewish state to pursue policies in “the occupied Palestinian territories” to his liking, he makes no such demand on any other American allies whose human rights policies deserve far harsher criticism. Why the double standard? Expediency or ideology?
The Jewish people are today facing a tsunami of anti-Semitism around the world not seen since Nazi leader Adolf Hitler murdered 6 million Jews in the Holocaust in an effort wipe Jews off the face of the Earth.
Jewish institutions – including our synagogues here in the U.S. – are under attack, and have had to take unprecedented security measures to protect innocent men, women and children from being murdered by anti-Semites.
As the multi-headed hydra of Jew-hatred – including neo-Nazis, other white supremacists, Islamist extremists, and far-left ideologues – threaten Jews, American Jews seek leaders who will reconstruct the traditional bipartisan alliance against anti-Semitism.
Despite his own Jewish heritage and the terrible deaths of members of his own family who were among the 6 million who perished in the Holocaust, Sen. Sanders has shown us he is not ready to lead America in the fight against anti-Semitism today.
Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.