Fairly late into this primary season, the now Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders posted a section on his campaign website about his Jewishness and his views on the Israel-Arab conflict. But that website does not reveal that Sanders’ Middle East advisers include a vitriolic critic of Israel and an organization whose driving goal for the Arab-Israel conflict is to immediately create a Palestinian State and Israel’s security be damned.
Sanders forthrightly considers himself Jewish, although he is not religious and he is married to a Catholic woman, whose children he considers his own. Much of Sanders’ father’s family was murdered in the Holocaust.
According to a partially animated video on Sanders’ website, the Arab-Israel conflict is not about ideology, it is about land.
Sanders states he is firmly in favor of a two state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, he believes that both the Israeli and the Palestinian people want to live together in peace, and that “Israel has a right to exist in security,” and at the same time the “Palestinians should have a land of their own.”
Sanders was an early supporter of the Nuclear Iran Deal, calling it a “victory for diplomacy over saber-rattling and could keep the United States from being drawn into another never-ending war in the Middle East.”
Sanders distinguishes between Hamas’ tactics and the Palestinians, and has supported U.S. legislation that provides aid for Palestinians. Similarly, Bernie distinguishes between Israel and its government. Although he is supportive of the State of Israel, he is “not a great fan” of the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his tactics to address issues in the Middle East region.
Sanders has condemned “— and sees as a barrier to peace — the terrorist actions of Hamas, including their practice of firing rockets into houses and urban centers.” He has also called Israel’s attacks on Palestinians “reprehensible,” particularly in the context of “Israel being the occupying power in the conflict.”
In what was clearly a deeply uncomfortable moment for Sanders, a reporter asserted that he had “dual citizenship with Israel.” Sanders emphatically stated that although he visited Israel several times, he was only a citizen of the U.S.
Sanders spent some time in the 1960s on a socialist kibbutz in northern Israel with his first wife. According to the New York Times, Sanders lived at Kibbutz Sha’ar Ha’amakim, a Hashomer Hatzair youth movement kibbutz, established in pre-state Israel in 1935. The kibbutz “saw the Soviet Union as a model, and often flew the red flag at outdoor events.”
SANDERS’ PROBLEMATIC MIDDLE EAST ADVISORS
Sanders’ website certainly aims to give the impression that the presidential candidate evenly supports the rights of Palestinian Arabs and Israelis, a recent report in the Washington Free Beacon revealed a troubling fact.
When asked who are Sanders’ advisors on the Middle East, the answer was Arabist James Zogby, the faux pro-Israel organization J Street, and former assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence J. Korb, a strong proponent of the Nuclear Iran Deal.
J Street consistently favors candidates and positions which denigrate Israel, and its primary goal for the Middle East is the immediate creation of a Palestinian State.
Zogby is the president of the Arab American Institute, who just days ago posted a column on Washington Watch, entitled “Silencing Critics of Israel.” The First line of that piece reads:
Israel doesn’t accept criticism. In fact, whether from friend or foe, even mild criticism is viewed as an existential threat prompting Israeli officials to unleash a torrent of abuse in an effort to silence and/or punish critics. And given new initiatives being rolled out in Israel and here is the US, by Congress and some state legislatures, this effort to silence critics is endangering free speech and the search for peace.
Later in this column, Zogby actually attacks the Obama administration for bending over backwards to appease Jews, by adopting what he considers an aggressively broad definition of anti-Semitism, which he charges amounts to an assault on free speech and will deny people the right “to peacefully organize and act to affect change in Israel’s policies in the occupied Palestinian lands.”
Zogby then slams Israelis for whining about a “double standard” against Israel, when, he claims, they attempt to create a world in which it is only “Israel which would be singled out as the only country that cannot be criticized.”
Sounds like Sanders might give Israel heartburn.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus