Soon after declaring his second run for president, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hired two senior advisers with anti-Israel backgrounds.
Campaign manager Faiz Shakir and foreign-policy adviser Matthew Duss have been accused of furthering anti-Semitic conspiracy theories during their tenure at the left-wing think-tank Center for American Progress (CAP), reported The Washington Free Beacon.
They allegedly were part of CAP’s 2012 anti-Semitic incident where several staffers at the center’s ThinkProgress website, which Shakir served as editor-in-chief, were condemned for using anti-Semitic tropes of Jews dominating politics and money.
The staffers alleged “pro-Israel Jews and members of Congress of being ‘Israel firsters,’ a term implying that those who support the Jewish state have dual loyalties,” according to the Free Beacon.
The row caused the firing and departure of several ThinkProgress writers.
At the time, Duss was CAP’s Middle East director, which has been known to be a stronghold for anti-Israel propaganda.
Duss faced backlash for publicizing Nazi-era propaganda posters in 2013.
“The scandal rocked CAP for several months and drew condemnation across the board, including from the Obama administration, which distanced itself from Duss, Shakir, and the rest of Think Progress’s former staff,” according to the Free Beacon.
Moreover, Shakir, as the American Civil Liberties Union’s national political director, led the charge to challenge anti-BDS legislation, citing a violation of the First Amendment—a notion that has been debunked by many, including the courts.
“Current law allows governments to not do business with people who boycott various groups including gays,” Eugene Kontorovich, a legal expert with the Kohelet Policy Forum and George Mason Law School, told JNS. “Boycotting Israel is no different.”
Shakir, Duss and the Sanders campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
‘A sad epoch in the American-Jewish experience’
“Anti-Semitism is becoming a major faction within the Democrat Party, as we have seen with Rep. Omar recently,” Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak told JNS. “The fact that a leading presidential candidate like Bernie Sanders would employ two anti-Semites in senior roles on his presidential campaign is appalling. This is no coincidence. It’s intentional.”
“It is profoundly tragic that these two individuals with clear and definite histories of trucking in anti-Semitic rhetoric, even to the point of having been chastised for their ugly viewpoints have found a welcome home within Senator Sanders’s presidential campaign,” Sarah Stern, Endowment for Middle East Truth founder and president, told JNS. “This clearly demonstrates that within the progressive wing of the democratic party the taboo against anti-Semitism has been eroded.”
“It is deeply distressing that these two individuals, who even were censured in the past for their deeply anti-Semitic, Judeophobic and anti-Israel views, are taking a leading role in a major presidential campaign,” she continued. “Senator Sanders’s decision to elevate them to positions of prominence within his campaign sends a deeply troubling message.”
Stern added, “Would he appoint anyone who had those sorts of blatant biases against blacks, Muslims, Hispanics or gays? Why has anti-Semitism become palatable, while other prejudices are not? This signals that we have entered into a sad epoch in the American-Jewish experience.”
Republican Jewish Coalition spokesperson Neil Strauss told JNS that the hires exemplifies a bigger issue.
“We see this time and again with progressive Democrats, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are OK in their ranks,” he said. “It is squarely the responsibility of the Democratic Party and Jewish Democratic groups to police this. America’s Jews are watching, and so far, Democrats are failing them.”
“The RJC believes Israel is strongest when both parties are pro-Israel, we pray that Democrats can get their house in order,” he added.
Democratic Majority for Israel declined to comment.
“In a climate of escalating Jew-hate, particularly coming from self-described progressives, it is especially alarming that Bernie Sanders would put in charge of his presidential campaign and foreign-policy portfolio two people so deeply at the heart of an anti-Semitism scandal and cancer that had to be cut out from the Center for American Progrjachess for engaging in vile Jew-baiting, including attacking pro-Israel Democratic members of Congress as ‘Likudniks’ and American Jews as ‘Israel firsters,’ ” former Clinton aide Josh Block told JNS.
Whether the hires mean anything to voters likely depends on their priorities, according to prominent electoral analyst Charlie Cook.
“I think candidates for their party’s nomination run in one or more specific lanes or niches, at least in the early stages,” he told JNS. “There are one or two segments of that party’s electorate that they are focusing on.”
“For the lane that Bernie Sanders is running in, having advisers who are considered anti-Israel is not the problem that it would be for many other Democrats who are running in different lanes,” continued Cook. “Most of the voters who would put support for Israel as an important factor in their decision-making aren’t likely to be in Bernie’s lane.”