November 14, 2018

Can the U.S. Congress Still Influence Israeli Policy?

Photo by Gali Tibbon/Reuters

Last week, a group of U.S. senators sent a stern letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The letter was signed by seven U.S. senators, among them Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“We fear actions like the conversion bill and the suspension of the Kotel agreement will strain the unique relationship between our two nations,” the senators warned, “particularly if the majority of American Jews see the movements to which they are committed denied equal rights in Israel.”

What was Netanyahu’s reaction? He politely ignored it. The conversion bill was shelved by Netanyahu months ago, and the Kotel agreement is unlikely to materialize.

How times have changed.

Seven years ago, in 2010, U.S. senators seemed to have more leverage over Israel. Back then, another piece of Israeli legislation — the conversion bill initiated by Knesset member David Rotem — irked Jewish Americans. They pressured the government and then used their ultimate weapon: members of Congress. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) drafted a letter to Netanyahu. Fellow Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Carl Levin of Michigan joined him. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) phoned the prime minister. The impact of their actions was clear: Netanyahu shelved the bill, never to be resurrected.

But now there is silence. Strange silence. The letters are similar; the argument similar; the prime minister is the same prime minister; all the U.S. legislators involved, still, are Jewish; and all are Democrats. And yet, we see no sign that Israel is about to change its policy. We see no sign that Netanyahu is feeling pressured by the letter.

Why? There are many reasons, but I’d like to address the reasons on the U.S. side. And they begin with the fact that the Democratic Party is not the same party it used to be. Senators such as Al Franken of Minnesota, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Brian Schatz of Hawaii do not carry the weight of a Lautenberg and a Levin. The current government of Israel does not see them as pillars of U.S.-Israel relations. It does not see how ignoring their letter is going to hurt Israel. What will they do? an Israeli senior official (who actually favors the Kotel agreement) asked me, sarcastically, “Will they vote for the Iran deal?”

The Jews of America might not realize it yet, but their tools for swaying Israel are not as compelling as they used to be. The recent senators’ letter, once the biggest stick over Israel’s head, only exposed that reality and made it public. Highly liberal Democratic senators, such as the ones who signed the letter, will not do the trick. The Democratic Party in general — being out of power and moving leftward — is less of a tool of pressure. And most Jews do not have allies other than liberal Jewish senators on these Israeli state-religion issues.

But something more significant has changed between 2010 and today. It is the U.S. — the great ally, the most important friend — that has lost some of its leverage over Israel. This should not come as a surprise. A U.S. that is less interested in world leadership; less involved in Middle East affairs; less dependable as a defender of Israel’s interests and security; more willing to let others, such as the Russians, call the shots; that was governed by a lead-from-behind President Barack Obama; and is now governed by a lead-by-Twitter President Donald Trump; will inescapably lose some of its leverage over Israel.

Usually, when we think about U.S. leverage over Israel, we think about the peace process (and how Obama failed to force concessions on Netanyahu), or about Iran (how Obama failed to deter Netanyahu from speaking before Congress, yet deterred him from attacking Iran). But U.S. leverage is also about the ability of U.S. Jews to make Israel accept their priorities and accommodate their wishes. It is about the usefulness of letters from senators concerning matters of lesser importance, such as the Kotel agreement.

In 2010, a letter proved to be useful. In 2017, another letter proved to be meaningless.

Bernie Sanders chokes up when he learns about relative who died defying the Nazis

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 13. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

In the upcoming season premiere of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots,” Bernie Sanders does more than look at a printout of his family tree: He gets emotional when he discovers a relative died while standing up to the Nazis during World War II.

In a clip released to JTA, the Jewish lawmaker is visibly moved as the show’s host, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., asks him how he feels after learning about the relative.

“I’m proud of his courage, and willingly going to his own death in order to protect innocent people,” Sanders says. “So I’m very, very proud that I have a family member who showed that type of courage and decency.”

“It’s one of the bravest acts I’ve heard of,” responds Gates, a historian who has hosted the show since it first aired in 2012.

Sanders’ father Eli grew up in Slopnice, Poland, before immigrating to the United States in 1921 at age 17. Many of Eli Sanders’ relatives perished in the Holocaust. The longtime Vermont senator’s mother Dorothy (née Glassberg) was born in New York City.

A Brooklyn native, Sanders, 76, grew up in the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Flatbush. While campaigning to be the Democratic nominee for president, and becoming the first Jewish candidate to win a primary, he rarely discussed his Jewish identity.

 

In the clip, Sanders goes on to say that he got involved in politics in part to “prevent the descent of humanity” into Nazi behavior.

“It just makes us realize how hard we have got to work to not descend into this type of barbarity and to create a world where people can love each other,” he says. “That’s what this reinforces in me.”

Tuesday’s episode kicks off the fourth season of the show, which delves into the family history of celebrities. Among the other Jews who will appear in the fourth season are Scarlett Johansson, Amy Schumer and Paul Rudd. In a previous season, Dustin Hoffman broke down in tears after learning of his family’s tragic Jewish history.

The episode also features comedian Larry David, who famously impersonated Sanders on “Saturday Night Live” throughout last year’s presidential campaign. It received some advance buzz in July when David revealed he’s a distant cousin of the senator, something he learned while filming “Finding Your Roots.”

“I was very happy about that,” David said at the time.

Bernie Sanders sponsors event supporting Palestinian village of Susiya

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 13. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is sponsoring a September 19th briefing on Capitol Hill to highlight the cause of the Palestinian village, Susiya, which is designated for demolition by the Israeli Army, a Senate staffer confirmed to Jewish Insider.

[This article originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

While the briefing marks International Peace Day which is September 21, due to the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, it has been moved to the 19th to allow those celebrating to attend, according to a copy of the invitation. The organizer Rebuilding Alliance declined to publicize Sanders’ sponsorship in its invitation.

The California-based Rebuilding Alliance is slated to fly-in children from the West Bank villages of Susiya and Al-Aqaba along with Gaza. “It is our hope that upon hearing their presentation, members of Congress will personally make calls to the Israeli Embassy to express concern, stop the demolitions, recognize Palestinian planning rights, turn on the lights, and assure due process,” the event explains.

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Susiya is an illegally constructed outpost near Hebron and “are continuing to build in defiance of a court order.” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has written multiple letters to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling on Jerusalem not to demolish the contested village.

Earlier this year, Sanders was one of four Senators to send a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson highlighting the case of Palestinian activist Issa Amro, who is charged by the Israeli military for obstructing soldiers. The Vermont lawmaker also delivered a harsh critique of Israel’s conduct in the 1948 war at the J Street conference last February. “Like our own country, the founding of Israel involved the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people already living there, the Palestinian people. Over 700,000 people were made refugees,” he said.

The September 19 briefing will be the second pro-Palestinian event on Capitol Hill this year. In June, Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) sponsored an event titled: “50 Years of Israeli Military Occupation & Life for Palestinian Children.”

Bernie Sanders deflects Hillary Clinton’s criticism over loss to Trump

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Sen. Bernie Sanders sidestepped criticism from Hillary Clinton that he paved the way to Donald Trump’s victory with his attacks against her in the Democratic primary.

Sanders, I-Vt., said he preferred to focus on countering the Trump agenda.

“My response is that right now it’s appropriate to look forward and not backward,” Sanders told The Hill, a Capitol Hill daily and website, on Wednesday. “I’m working overtime now to see we overturn Trump’s decision on DACA, pass a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and next week I’ll be offering a Medicare-for-all single-payer system.”

DACA refers to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era policy that protects illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. Trump earlier this week gave six months notice to the program, but also said he would consider congressional legislation to replicate it.

In excerpts from Clinton’s forthcoming book “What Happened,” the former secretary of state wrote that the primary season attacks by Sanders caused “lasting damage” and were instrumental in “paving the way for Trump’s Crooked Hillary campaign.” Sanders campaigned for Clinton in the general election, which Clinton said she appreciated.

She also praised Sanders in the book for engaging “a lot of young people in the political process for the first time, which is extremely important.”

Sanders was the first Jewish candidate to win major party nominating contests.

Hillary Clinton says Bernie Sanders’ attacks on her led to Trump victory

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at the CNN Presidential Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York on April 14, 2016. Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton blamed attacks against her by Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary for president on her eventual loss in the general election to Donald Trump.

In excerpts from Clinton’s forthcoming book “What Happened,” the former secretary of state wrote that the attacks by Sanders, a Vermont senator, caused “lasting damage” and were instrumental in “paving the way for Trump’s Crooked Hillary campaign.”

The book is scheduled to be released on Sept. 12, but Clinton supporters have posted photos of pages from the book on social media.

Clinton also said that she appreciated that Sanders campaigned for her in the general election.

“But he isn’t a Democrat – that’s not a smear, that’s what he says,” she wrote of the Independent. “He didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party.”

Clinton praised Sanders, a long shot for the nomination, for engaging “a lot of young people in the political process for the first time, which is extremely important.”

Clinton also wrote that President Barack Obama counseled her to “grit my teeth and lay off Bernie as much as I could,” according to the excerpts. She said that following that advice made her feel she was “in a straitjacket.”

Sanders, who will turn 76 this week, has not said whether or not he will run in the 2020 race, but did say in July that “I am not taking it off the table.”

Antifa, Nazism and the opportunistic politics that divide us

White supremacists clash with counter protesters at a rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Americans are more united than ever on issues of race and free speech.

So why the hell are we so divided?

In the aftermath of the Charlottesville, Va., white supremacist terror attack on anti-white supremacist protesters, the vast majority of Americans agreed on the following propositions: white supremacism is evil; neo-Nazism is evil; violence against peaceful protesters is evil, whether from left to right or vice versa.

Yet here we are, two weeks after the event, and the heat has not cooled.

That’s not thanks to serious disagreements among Americans. It’s thanks to political opportunism on all sides.

It’s easy to blame President Donald Trump for that reaction; his response to the Charlottesville attack was indeed deeply disturbing. It was disturbing for the president to initially blame “both sides” for the event, as though those counterprotesting white supremacism were moral equals of those protesting in its favor. It was more disturbing for the president to say there were “very fine people” at the neo-Nazi tiki torch march, and to add that he had no idea what the “alt-right” was.

Trump’s bizarre, horrifying response to the Charlottesville attacks would have justified criticism of him. I’ve been personally pointing out the president’s stubborn and unjustifiable unwillingness to condemn the alt-right for well over a year (I was the alt-right’s top journalistic target in 2016 on Twitter, according to the Anti-Defamation League). Such critiques would have been useful and welcome.

Instead, the mainstream left has politicized the situation through two particular strategies: first, labeling conservatives more broadly as neo-Nazi sympathizers; second, justifying violence from communist/anarchist antifa members.

The first strategy is old hat by now on the left. On college campuses, conservatives are regularly labeled beneficiaries of “white privilege” who merely seek to uphold their supremacy; anodyne political candidates like Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have been hit with charges of racism from the left. Democrats routinely dog Republicans with the myth of the “Southern switch” — the notion that the Republicans and Democrats changed positions on civil rights after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, leading to Republicans winning the South. (For the record, that theory is eminently untrue, and has been repeatedly debunked by election analysts ranging from Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics to Byron Shafer of the University of Wisconsin and Richard Johnston of theUniversity of Pennsylvania.)

But that false conflation found a new outlet for the left in support for antifa (anti-fascism). Antifa is a violent group that has attacked protesters in Sacramento, Berkeley, Dallas, Boston and Charlottesville; it’s dedicated to the proposition that those it labels fascists must be fought physically. It’s not anti-fascist so much as anti-right-wing — it shut down a parade in Portland last year because Republican Party members were scheduled to march in that parade. Antifa’s violence in Boston two weeks after Charlottesville wasn’t directed at Nazis or Nazi sympathizers, but at police officers and normal free-speech advocates.

Yet many on the left have justified their behavior as a necessary counter to the white supremacists and alt-righters. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) justified the violence by appealing to the evils of the neo-Nazis. Professor N.D.B. Connolly of Johns Hopkins University wrote in the pages of The Washington Post that the time for nonviolence had ended — that it was time to “throw rocks.” Dartmouth University historian Mark Bray defended antifa by stating that the group makes an “ethically consistent, historically informed argument for fighting Nazis before it’s too late.”

This is appalling stuff unless the Nazis are actually getting violent. Words aren’t violence. A free society relies on that distinction to function properly — as Max Weber stated, the purpose of civilization is to hand over the role of protection of rights to a state that has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. Breaking that pact destroys the social fabric.

Now, most liberals — as opposed to leftists — don’t support antifa. Even Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) denounced antifa’s tactics in Berkeley, for example. But in response to some on the left’s defense of antifa and their attempt to broaden the Nazi label to include large swaths of conservatives, too many people on the right have fallen into the trap of defending bad behavior of its own. Instead of disassociating clearly and universally from President Trump’s comments, the right has glommed onto the grain of truth embedded in them —  that antifa is violent — in order to shrug at the whole.

The result of all of this: the unanimity that existed regarding racism and violence has been shattered. And all so that political figures can make hay by castigating large groups of people who hate Nazism and violence.

Let’s restore the unanimity. Nazism is bad and unjustifiable. Violence against those who are not acting violently is bad and unjustifiable. That’s not whataboutism. That’s truth.

If we can’t agree on those basic principles, we’re not going to be able to share a country.


BEN SHAPIRO is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the most listened-to conservative podcast in the nation, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

Jewish leaders condemn Charlottesville violence and Trump’s reaction

A white supremacist trying to strike a counterprotestor with a white nationalist flag during clashes at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 12, 2017. Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

Jewish groups and Jewish leaders condemned the violence at a white supremacist event in Charlottesville, Virginia, and criticized President Donald Trump for saying that the hatred and violence came from “many sides.”

“The vile presence and rhetoric of the neo-Nazis who marched this weekend in Charlottesville is a reminder of the ever-present need for people of good will to stand strong, to speak loudly against hate, and act both to delegitimize those who spread such messages and to mitigate the harm done to the commonweal of our nation and to those that are the targets of hate messages,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said in statement issued on Saturday evening, adding that “once again, hate has killed.

Three people were killed as a result of the weekend neo-Nazi event. One woman was killed and 19 injured, some seriously, after a car driven by an Ohio man slammed into a crowd of counterprotesters. The driver, identified as James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, was taken into police custody and the incident is under investigation.

Two Virginia state troopers were killed when their police helicopter crashed and caught on fire while responding to clashes between white supremacist protestors and counterprotesters.

“We commend the opening of President Trump’s statement condemning the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence” but are deeply troubled by the moral equivalence evident in President Trump’s statement today. White supremacists wielding Nazi flags and spewing racist vitriol need to be specifically condemned, not only violence and hate ‘on many sides.’ If our leaders can’t call out this virulent strand of hate we will surely fail to stop it,” Jacobs also said in his statement.

Trump held a news conference from his summer vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey after posting tweets criticizing the violence in Charlottesville, including one which read: “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”

“What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society,” he also tweeted.

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, condemned the “inconceivable violence” on display in Charlottesville.

““It is utterly distressing and repugnant that such hatred and bigotry still run rampant in parts of this country. There is no place in our democratic society for such violence and intolerance. We must be vigilant and united in our opposition to such abhorrence,” he said in a statement.

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt condemned the violence in Charlottesville in a tweet posted Saturday afternoon. “Mayhem in #charlottesville. We pray for victims of #violence & condemn those who marched thru streets chanting #hate,” he tweeted.

He also praised Trump for condemning the violence but criticized him for not specifically condemning the white supremacist movement. “Glad @POTUS blasted violence but long overdue for moral ldrshp that condemns the agents of #hate: #WhiteSupremacists, #NeoNazis, #AltRight,” he tweeted.

 

In a statement later issued by ADL, Greenberg said: “This is a moment that demands moral leadership. President Trump should acknowledge that this is not a matter of equivalence between two sides with similar gripes. There is no rationalizing white supremacy and no room for this vile bigotry. It is un-American and it needs to be condemned without hesitation.”

“We call on the White House to terminate all staff with any ties to these extremists. There is no rationale for employing people who excuse hateful rhetoric and ugly incitement. They do not serve the values embodied in our Constitution nor the interests of the American people,” he also said.

The American Jewish Committee tweeted: “Appalled by white supremacists & neo-Nazis in #Charlottesville preaching #racism, spewing #antiSemitism & #homophobia & glorifying violence.”

The organization also called on Trump to find “moral clarity.”

“@POTUS Time for moral clarity. Condemning ‘hatred, bigotry & violence on many sides’ blurs truth & gives pass to neo-Nazi perpetrators,” AJC tweeted.

Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs, and Security Cabinet member Naftali Bennett, who is head of the right-wing Jewish Home party, condemned the rally and called on U.S. leaders to denounce the anti-Semitism connected to it.

“The unhindered waving of Nazi flags and symbols in the U.S. is not only offensive towards the Jewish community and other minorities, it also disrespects the millions of American soldiers who sacrificed their lives in order to protect the U.S. and entire world from the Nazis,” he said in a statement, adding: “The leaders of the U.S. must condemn and denounce the displays of anti-Semitism seen over the past few days.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who was a former candidate for president, in a tweet slammed Trump for his handling of Charlottesville. “No, Mr. President. This is a provocative effort by Neo-Nazis to foment racism and hatred and create violence. Call it out for what it is.”

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who ran for and lost his bid for a Senate seat in Louisiana, and was an early and vocal supporter of Trump’s presidential run, tweeted in response to Trump’s call for all Americans to unite against hate.

“I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists,” Duke tweeted.

Bernie Sanders says Sheldon Adelson brags about being greedy. Here’s what Adelson really said.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders may hope to be seen as the true face of the Democratic Party, but he doesn’t have to get there by playing fast and loose with the truth.

With Hillary Clinton out of the way, the Independent from Vermont is still in the Senate and pushing the grassroots fundraising offshoot from his presidential campaign, “Our Revolution.” It’s almost as if Sanders didn’t lose the primary fight against Clinton last year.

“Bernie Sanders’ campaign isn’t over,” a story this week in the New Yorker says. It describes his forays deep into country won by President Donald Trump. Rallies in Kentucky and West Virginia suggest that Sanders, 75, is making clear he can play well where Clinton did not. Might the first Jewish candidate to win major presidential primaries become the first Jewish president after all?

He may, but his message — at least in a video this week targeting Sheldon Adelson — turns out to be fact challenged.

Sanders is campaigning, as ever, on income inequality. On Sunday, he launched on his Facebook page what appears to be the first in a series of videos, “The Faces of Greed.” From its title sequence, it looks like Sanders will take aim at the super-wealthy and how they shape our politics. Trump features most prominently, but space is reserved for other right-wing millionaires, some on the outside as donors (the Koch brothers), and others in Trump’s Cabinet (Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and economic adviser Gary Cohn).

The first target is Adelson, the casino magnate, Republican donor and one of the richest men in the world. The video outlines how Adelson has profited from Republican-backed tax plans.

“So what is Sheldon Adelson going to do with all that money?” the video asks. “It doesn’t sound like he’s going to use it to help other people.”

That’s followed by a clip of Adelson saying: “A friend of mine says that he only cares about the faces he can see. So you when you think ahead. do you think in three generations from now, my children’s children’s’ children, I don’t even know who they are?”

That’s followed by what Adelson spent on the 2012 elections ($93 million) and in the last cycle ($82.5 million).

“Democracy is not about a billionaire like Sheldon Adelson,” Sanders says in the clip, “providing large sums of money to another billionaire like Donald Trump.”

It finishes by wondering whether Trump’s tax breaks would be better spent on medical coverage for children in Nevada than on a newspaper Adelson purchased to ratchet up his influence in Nevada or on a private jet.

To anyone who’s covered Adelson, the clip is jarring because of what it leaves out: Adelson has said clearly and consistently that he is politically involved primarily because he is pro-Israel. Adelson benefits from tax breaks to be sure, and his purchase of the Las Vegas Review Journal appeared to be in part a reaction to the paper’s previous muckraking coverage of his casino business. But he is quite self-conscious about the obligations that his vast wealth confers upon him, and talks up his giving quite frequently, not just to Israel, but to medical research. (His wife, Miriam, is a physician.)

So I searched for the quote above that suggests a businessman so callous that he doesn’t consider the legacy he’ll leave to descendants. I traced it to a lengthy and rare interview Adelson gave to Bloomberg TV in 2015, when the last election cycle was just getting underway.

In its full context, Adelson is explaining that he enjoys his wealth because of the good he can do. The interviewer, Betty Liu, asks him what he’s learned along the way to being one of the world’s richest men.

“I’ve learned to seek advice from other people and get more than my own viewpoint on something,” Adelson said. “I’ve learned that now that I’ve accumulated incredible amounts of money, I could do some good for humanity. I don’t necessarily want to build a dynasty because a friend of mine says that he only cares about the faces he can see. So you when you think ahead, do you think in three generations from now, my children’s children’s’ children, do I really care about them, I don’t even know who they are? They don’t exist!”

Contra the claim in Sanders’ clip, Adelson is saying he is indeed “going to use it [his wealth] to help other people.” His point was that it would be immoral to keep it strictly within the family.

Liu asks Adelson what difference it made when his net worth rose from $1 billion to $38 billion. Adelson replies, “We can philanthropically do a lot more and we can expand the scope of our philanthropy, and particularly in medical research, so instead of putting out $100 million a year in medical research we can put out several hundred million a year.”

From Sanders’ perspective, there is plenty about Adelson to criticize: Should a billionaire, even presuming the best of intentions, be able to determine political outcomes? Adelson and his businesses no doubt benefit from the policies he funds and defends. By bankrolling the free Israeli paper, Israel HaYom, Adelson has helped keep in power Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and hobbled Israel’s once lively and diverse newspaper business.

Those arguments could and often do stand on their own. But Sanders should be able to make the case that Adelson does not have the right to decide for the rest of us what’s best without turning the meaning of the billionaire’s statements upside down, and making Adelson into an archetype of unbridled greed.

How the Dems can lose 2018

Activist Linda Sarsour in New York City on June 29. Photo by Joe Penney/Reuters

Last week, the Democrats released a new bumper sticker for their 2018 Congressional campaign: “I mean, have you seen the other guys?”

It’s not a bad political notion so far as it goes — opposition in politics is an effective tool, as Democrats learned from Republicans, who campaigned against Obamacare and Democratic spending policies to the tune of 1,000 state legislature seats, 12 governorships (including in states such as Michigan and Massachusetts), 10 Senate seats and 63 House seats. Now Democrats hope to reverse the math.

But there’s something else going on here, too. Democrats hope that campaigning as #TheResistance will suffice to prevent voters from looking too hard at their own moral and political shortcomings. That’s because for all the talk by Democrats about Republican extremism, Republicans actually have moved closer to the center on policy, while Democrats have embraced an ugly combination of Bernie Sanders-style socialism and college campus-style intersectionality.

Leave aside the boorish antics of President Donald Trump and the incompetence of Congressional Republicans. Here is the fact: Trump is the most moderate Republican president since Richard Nixon. He has successfully passed almost no major policy in seven months. His foreign policy on North Korea and Syria is barely distinguishable from former President Barack Obama’s. His approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been praised by Palestinians and former Obama officials. He’s the most pro-LGBT Republican in presidential history; his stance on abortion has been vague; his White House chief strategist has openly embraced higher taxes on upper-income earners, as well as a massive infrastructure spending program; he has embraced the central premises of Obamacare. Trump may act in ridiculous ways that defy rationality — his Twitter feed is littered with stupidity and aggression, of course — but on policy, Trump is closer to Bill Clinton of 1997 than President Obama was.

Democrats, meanwhile, are moving hard to the left. When former Clinton adviser Mark Penn wrote an op-ed for The New York Times calling for Democrats to move back to the center, he was roundly excoriated by the leading thinkers in the Democratic Party. He was an emissary of the past; he had to embrace the new vision of the leftist future. That leftist future involved radical tax increases, fully nationalized health care, and — most of all — the divisive politics of intersectionality. Sens. Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) may own the policy side of the Democratic coalition, but the heart of the Democratic coalition lies in polarization by race, sex and sexual orientation. Forget a cohesive national message that appeals to Americans regardless of tribal identity: The new Democratic Party cares only about uniting disparate identity factions under the banner of opposing Republicanism.

The clearest evidence for that alliance of convenience came earlier this month, when Democratic darling and Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour was caught on tape promoting “jihad” against Trump. Sarsour said that the sort of “jihad” she liked was “a word of truth in front of a tyrant or leader.” But she deliberately used the word “jihad” because of its ambiguity, not in spite of it: Sarsour has stated that pro-Israel women cannot be feminists; she supports the imposition of “Shariah law” in Muslim countries; she has stated of dissident and female genital mutilation victim Ayaan Hirsi Ali that she wishes she could take her “vagina away”; she has long associated with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood; she opened her “jihad” speech by thanking Siraj Wajjah, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who has repeatedly advocated for a violent form of “jihad.”

Democrats hope that campaigning as #TheResistance will suffice to prevent voters from looking too hard at their own moral and political shortcomings.

Democrats rushed to her defense nonetheless, hoping to preserve the intersectional concerns that animate their base. Never mind that Sarsour is no ally to LGBT rights, or that she blames “Zionists” for her problems. She represents an important constituency for Democrats, and so she must be protected. More than that, she speaks anti-Trumpese fluently, and thus is an important figure for Democrats.

This isn’t rare on the left anymore. Much of the Democratic establishment supported Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a longtime Nation of Islam acolyte who spent years defending that group’s most extreme anti-Semitic rhetoric — a man so radical that he openly associated with the Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which recently labeled Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) an “Israel Firster.”

Even as the Democratic Party embraced Sarsour and defended her ambiguous use of the word “jihad” — after all, she was opposing Trump the Impaler — leftist spokespeople rushed to microphones to denounce President Trump’s speech in Poland, in which he called for a defense of “the West” and “our civilization.” Leftist columnist Peter Beinart labeled the speech racist. As Jonah Goldberg of National Review points out, we now have a Democratic Party that spends its time defending the use of the word “jihad” against the president but labeling the phrase “the West” a problem.

Bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see how it works out.

And so Democrats must focus on President Trump. They must hope that he smacks himself in the face with a frying pan. They must bank on some sort of Trump-Russia collusion revelation. They must pray that the focus stays on Republicans rather than turning back to Democrats. After all, Sanders-Sarsour doesn’t sound like a winning combination.


BEN SHAPIRO is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the most listened-to conservative podcast in the nation, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

Bernie Sanders and wife hire lawyers as FBI probes fraud in her $10M loan

Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane, leaving the White House following the Vermont Democrat’s meeting with President Obama after Hillary Clinton clinched the party’s presidential nomination on June 9, 2016. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane, have hired attorneys in the FBI investigation of Jane Sanders’ alleged bank fraud sought originally by the Trump campaign in Vermont.

In 2010, Jane Sanders obtained a loan of $10 million to expand Burlington College while she was its president. According to Politico, Jane Sanders is being accused of having “falsified and inflated nearly $2 million that she’d claimed donors had pledged to repay the loans.”

In January 2016, the U.S. attorney for Vermont received a Request for an Investigation into Apparent Federal Bank Fraud from Brady Toensing, chairman for the Trump campaign in Vermont. The four-page letter included six exhibits and two documents detailing how Jane Sanders managed the purchase of 33 acres of land for the college.

Prosecutors are also speculating whether Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., used his political position to urge the People’s United Bank to approve the loan. Sanders himself is not under FBI investigation, according to the Washington Post.

The financial difficulties in trying to repay the loan forced the college’s closing in 2006.

Bernie Sanders has called the investigation “nonsense,” but the couple did bring in Rich Cassidy, a well-connected Burlington attorney and Sanders supporter, and Larry Robbins, a Washington-based defense attorney who has represented high-profile political clients such as I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, to represent Jane Sanders in the matter, Politico reported.

Once the federal investigation is concluded, the Justice Department must decide whether or not to bring charges. Vermont currently has no U.S. attorney, as Trump demanded the resignation of most of the country’s federal prosecutors in March, saying it was necessary for a “uniform transition,” according to The New York Times. A replacement has not yet been nominated.

The allegations did not gain major traction as Sanders was gaining influence on the campaign trail. Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win a U.S. presidential primary, lost to Hillary Clinton in his upset bid to gain the Democratic nomination. Clinton went on to lose to Donald Trump in November.

“This was a story that just, amazingly enough, came out in the middle of my presidential campaign, initiated by Donald Trump’s campaign manager in Vermont,” Bernie Sanders told the Washington Post on Saturday night between rallies in Pennsylvania and Ohio aimed at defeating the Republicans’ health care bill.

Bernie Sanders ally trying a second time to unseat Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida speaking to a reporter before the Democratic Party presidential debate in Manchester, N.H., on Dec. 19, 2015. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

A law professor and Bernie Sanders backer will try again to unseat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s safely Democratic 23rd Congressional District.

Tim Canova announced Thursday that he will launch a primary challenge to Wasserman Schultz, the former head of the Democratic National Committee. Last August, Wasserman Schultz defeated Canova, 57-43 percent, in the primary despite the heat she faced after stepping down weeks earlier from the DNC over allegations that it unfairly favored Hillary Clinton over Sanders in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Canova pressed the issue during his campaign, saying he, like Sanders, represented the progressive grassroots, while Wasserman Schultz, a Jewish pro-Israel stalwart, represented the corrupt establishment. Sanders, a Vermont Independent, urged followers to contribute to Canova’s campaign, which raised more than $3 million.

Critics of Canova have noted his apparent support for a conspiracy theory, popular in conservative circles, suggesting that a young Jewish DNC staffer, Seth Rich, might have been murdered last year because he leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks. Rich, 27, a Nebraska native, was shot dead while walking to his home in Washington, D.C.. before dawn on July 10, 2016.

Police have speculated that he was the victim of a robbery gone awry and Rich’s family has begged proponents of the WikiLeaks theory to desist.

In January, Canova posted on Facebook that Rich “may have been the WikiLeaks source of the leaked DNC emails. He was gunned down, assassinated under suspicious circumstances just days after publication of those leaked emails.” In March, Canova called for a “nonpartisan investigation” of Rich’s murder.

Asked Thursday if he still suspects DNC involvement in Rich’s death, Canova told the Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel, “I have no idea. I wondered what the DNC under Wasserman Schultz was capable of, but I don’t know.”

He added: “What I said on Facebook was that folks had suggested it and we should find out what happened. It’s that simple.”

Trumpism, Sandersism, and the aftermath of a politically motivated shooting attack

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about the shootings in Alexandria, Virginia, from the White House in Washington U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

A.

In an accidental encounter with a former senior American official a few days ago, the conversation moved quickly from talking about Israel’s troubles to talking about America’s. This was not a surprise. In recent months, I find Americans to be much less receptive to the idea of conversation about anything other than themselves – their troubles, the state of their country, the hurdles of their political system, their crisis of leadership.

Admittedly, there is comfort in this: for the first time in a very long time, American colleagues no longer feel entitled to lecture Israelis on the faulty ways of their – our – political system. There is also something troubling about it: Americans should be the ones to worry about the rest of the world while we, the smaller countries, the non-super-powers, worry about our own problems.

So we spoke about the US, its political culture, and the current atmosphere, which the experienced American described as “something I do not remember to have seen ever before.” He shared with me some of the things that his acquaintances say about the President of the United States. And he seemed worried. He thought that the atmosphere is one of “violence.” Yesterday, as a gunman was aiming his rifle at a group of Republican congressmen, he was proved prophetic.

B.

Violence is nothing new to political life. Where there’s politics, there’s violence. Where there’s harsh political debate, there’s violence. Where there’s deepening political polarization, there’s violence. The democratic system is supposed to make violence less common – by convincing the public that politics is not a zero-sum game, and that all wins and losses are temporary – and maybe it does. But it does not make political violence disappear.

The consequences of political violence are sometimes surprising, and are sometimes counter-intuitive. But most often, there are no long-term consequences. Especially so when the violence is directed at person whose power to shape America’s policy is not substantial. There is shock, and an initial pacifying of public discourse, and promises to change course from now on, and calls for introspection. But soon people – leaders, voters, activists – go back to their old habit of battling. Wounding the House Majority Whip is not going to make the policies of the Republican Party any different from what they were before. Wounding the House Majority Whip is not going to make left-tilting voters any less angry than they have been since losing the election to the most unlikely opponent.

C.

Note that nobody seemed utterly surprised yesterday when Washington learned about the attack. Shocked – of course. Devastated – no doubt. But not surprised. It’s been clear for some time now that the magnitude of anger, frustration, and sense of powerlessness on the left is high. It’s been clear for some time now that the kooky fringes set the tone in a political discourse that’s gone wild. Trumpism is a manifestation of anger. Sandersism is a manifestation of anger. This anger will not go away because of what happened yesterday. In fact, what happened yesterday can easily ignite a chain of violent reaction and counter-reaction by the angry and the angrier.

So the mission of politicians for the next few days is set: their responsibility is to tame the instinctive tendency of their supporters to circle their imaginary wagons and return fire.

D.

Making the practical case against political violence is not as easy. Sometimes, political violence backfires – politically speaking. Sometimes, political violence changes political realities in the direction desired by the violent party. Many people in Israel still believe that the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing radical was politically beneficial for the right. Many would argue that killing Lincoln served the ideology of the group that plotted against him.

Don’t rush to come to conclusions on how the attack is going to impact the public. Don’t rush to conclude that this will delegitimize the forces of anti-Trump rage. Don’t rush to assume that this serves the Republican Party or hurts the Democratic Party.

E.

Two political narratives are already emerging to explain what happened yesterday:

The first comes from the right. In short: the anger on the left, and the rhetoric against the president, and the irresponsible allegations and investigations against the administration, and the lack of respect for the democratic process by sore losers – all these should be considered as we try to understand the motivation behind the attack.

The second comes from the left. In short: this is the price we all pay for Trump. True, the violence came from the left, but the atmosphere that made violence more likely, the nose-diving public discourse, the perpetual provocation – these are all marks of the Trump era. Those who sow the wind reap the whirlwind.

Which of these two narratives is more credible? Which of these narratives is the public going to adopt? Sadly, it is quite possible that the right will turn to the first narrative and the left will turn to the second narrative. In such case – a likely scenario – the aftershock of the attack will have very little impact on America’s worrying political atmosphere.

 

Bernie Sanders promotes his ‘revolution’ in Beverly Hills speech

Bernie Sanders speaks at the Saban Theatre on May 7. Photo by Marnie Sehayek

The line stretched around the block to see Bernie Sanders at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on May 7, and the independent senator from Vermont did not disappoint a sold-out crowd of 1,700.

The former presidential candidate combined what sounded like a stump speech with a postmortem on the 2016 election and a battle cry for progressives moving forward under a Republican presidency.

Part of the reason President Donald Trump won the election is that “Democrats and the media did not fully appreciate or feel the pain being experienced by many, many millions across the country,” Sanders said.

The speech signaled that even after losing the Democratic primary to Hillary Clinton, Sanders intends to remain active in national politics. He was the first Jewish candidate to win a state in a major party nominating contest, taking 23 in all. Clinton won 34.

The event was hosted by Writers Bloc Presents, a local nonprofit that showcases authors and books. Previous guests have included former Vice President Al Gore and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The speech promoted Sanders’ new book, “Our Revolution,” about his presidential campaign. A political organization of the same name seeks to use the momentum from his run for the White House to support progressive candidates and issues.

In his speech, Sanders took aim at the health care bill approved May 4 by the House of Representatives, calling it “one of the most disgusting pieces of legislation ever passed” and “a death sentence for thousands.”

“That legislation will never pass the United States Senate,” he said, earning some of the loudest applause of his speech.

He also referred to a number of legislative accomplishments he hopes to see through, including a $15 national minimum wage and a universal health care system.

Sanders began his speech by congratulating “our French brothers and sisters” for defeating nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen earlier that day in a landslide that elected centrist Emmanuel Macron to be president of France.

“The people of France said no to racism, no to xenophobia and no to anti-immigrant hysteria,” Sanders said.

What followed was a high-voltage speech that drew on some of Sanders’ favorite talking points from the campaign, such as the need to protect the environment, the lack of affordable housing in major cities and mounting college debt among young people.

He returned repeatedly to his signature message about the unequal distribution of wealth and the influence of big-donor money in politics.

“This country is rapidly on its way to becoming an oligarchic form of society … owned and controlled by a very small number of individuals,” he said.

Sanders’ speech came several days after he defended Israel from criticism by the United Nations and decried the idea of a “one-state” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a May 3 interview with Al Jazeera.

“I think if that happens, then that would be the end of the State of Israel, and I support Israel’s right to exist,” he told Al Jazeera. “I think if there is the political will to make it happen and if there is good faith on both sides, I do think [the two-state solution] is possible, and I think there has not been good faith, certainly by this Israeli government, and I have my doubts about parts of the Palestinian leadership, as well.”

He added, “People will do what they want to do, but I think our job as a nation is to do everything humanly possible to bring Israel and the Palestinians — and the entire Middle East, to the degree that we can — together, but, no, I’m not a supporter of [the one-state solution].

“What must be done is that the United States of America is to have a Middle East policy which is evenhanded, which does not simply supply endless amounts of money, of military support to Israel, but which treats both sides with respect and dignity, and does our best to bring them to the table.”

In the same interview, he also criticized the U.N. for singling out Israel for human rights violations when other countries in the region are guilty of similar acts.

Developer and philanthropist Stanley Black was in attendance at the speech. He said he’s active in Temple of the Arts, and that he was a fan of Sanders, but didn’t donate to his campaign because his daughter is close with Clinton.

“He should have been the [Democratic] candidate,” Black said. “He’s a knowledgeable, smart guy.”

Writers Bloc Presents will host Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on July 7 at a to-be-determined venue in West Los Angeles.

Jewish life, like college campuses, could use a little more free speech

A sign reading “Fascist Free Campus” on the University of California, Berkeley, campus in the aftermath of the cancellation of a speech there by conservative political commentator Ann Coulter on April 27. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Sunday night in Teaneck, New Jersey, Daniel Kurtzer and Ruth Wisse spoke at separate synagogues, roughly at the same time, about a quarter mile apart.

Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and a professor of Middle East studies at Princeton, supports the two-state solution and doesn’t think the Israeli government is heading in the “right direction.”

Wisse, a famed Yiddish scholar at Harvard, regards Jewish support for the peace process as “self-delusion” and planned to speak on the topic “Are American Jews their own worst enemies?”

Kurtzer spoke at a Conservative synagogue, the majority of whose members, I can say from personal experience, are essentially on board with his views of the Middle East.

Wisse spoke at a modern Orthodox synagogue whose members, it’s probably safe to say, tend to share her skepticism about the two-state solution, Democrats and liberal Zionism.

I wish they had switched places.

Efforts by protesters at the University of California, Berkeley, to shut down a speech by conservative Ann Coulter and at Auburn University to block an appearance by white nationalist Richard Spencer are being held up as examples of left-wing academia’s inability to tolerate — or even listen to — dissenting views. Right-wing sites condemn campus “snowflakes” who are willing to deny free speech to those with whom they disagree. Republicans in the Michigan state Senate have introduced a bill that would punish college students who “have converted our fundamental freedom of speech into a freedom from speech,” as a sponsor put it.

It’s not just the right who are critical of the “shut it down” left: Liberals object that attempts to silence speakers are violations of a fundamental right to free speech, a perversion of the whole idea of a university education and simply bad politics, giving the right a cudgel with which to beat the left. As Bernie Sanders said of Coulter’s opponents, “What are you afraid of — her ideas?”

In some ways the debate has become a little hysterical. As Jesse Singal noted in New York magazine, recent surveys at Yale suggest students there are about as likely as the general population to support free speech — that is, by wide margins. On the other hand, Pew reported last year that 40 percent of students say the government should be able to “prevent people from saying offensive statements about minority groups.” Singal says that’s not far off from the number of Americans who say some forms of speech should be banned by the government.

The idea that a small number of extremists can hijack an event and shut down a speaker in the name of what they deem “acceptable” speech is troubling — a point pro-Israel activists on campus have been trying to make in recent years, with far less success than supporters of Coulter or even of Spencer. From Brown University, where protesters objected to a speech by a transgender activist because it was being sponsored by the campus Hillel,  to the University of Minnesota, where hecklers disrupted a speech by the Israeli philosopher Moshe Halbertal, Israel has become a flash point in the free speech debate. J. — The Jewish News of Northern California had an important article last week on San Francisco State University and its “tepid” responses to various anti-Israel incidents, like the successful attempt by a pro-Palestinian group to shout down Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat during a Hillel-sponsored appearance in April 2016.

Not to be outdone, right-wing supporters of Israel are taking a cue from the left-wing protesters they profess to despise. Last week, a synagogue in the Detroit suburbs canceled a scheduled appearance by the Israeli singer and peace activist known as Noa after fielding threats from protesters presumably on the right. The synagogue explained it wasn’t able to guarantee security for the event, although it also pointed out, apologetically and unnecessarily, that the event was “not intended to reflect political viewpoints.”

Noa, a member of the board of the New Israel Fund, has never made a secret of her left-wing views or her support of Jewish-Arab coexistence. But her concerts aren’t peace rallies, and even if they were it is depressing to see how easily one side in a political argument is willing to support threats — not arguments, not rival events, but physical threats  — to shut down the other. Take a look at the comment section in an article about the Noa cancellation in The Times of Israel and see how giddy her opponents are in seeing a synagogue event canceled for fear of a violent reprisal.

The pro-Israel right also celebrated last month when Fordham University denied a request by Students for Justice in Palestine to form a club there on the grounds that its goals “clearly conflict with and run contrary to the mission and values” of the New York City school. SJP chapters are harsh and often dishonest in their attacks on Israel, and Fordham is a private university, but are we really comfortable with administrators deciding which causes are acceptable and which aren’t? And if we are, can we really say we value the right to free speech?

But what about speech that is so reprehensible that it truly doesn’t deserve a hearing? (The First Amendment, by the way, doesn’t say anything about “deserving” the right to free speech.) One option is to ignore it and not give awful speakers the attention they crave. Another is to fight back with more speech, which is what the Founders evidently intended.

The very worst option is to criminalize it or try to shut it down with a real or implied threat of violence.

It’s easy to blame “kids these days” for a climate of political correctness or a narrowing of what is and isn’t acceptable thought on campus. But the university is merely reflecting a broader culture in which people are less inclined to listen to or tolerate opposing views. Thanks to technology and an explosion of narrow ideological media channels, they don’t have to. The presidential campaign of 2016 was in part a reflection of the failure of each side of the political divide to hear the other.

I wish Kurtzer and Wisse had crossed over to presumably less friendly venues precisely because of the possibility that one side might have something to learn from the other. Both are incisive intellects whose arguments cannot be dismissed as thoughtless or delusional. They may not have changed any minds, but they may have made each side more thoughtful in its own views and perhaps have established a small sliver of common ground.

Bernie Sanders just defended Israel on Al Jazeera. Here’s why that’s a big deal.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) on April 21. Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

In an appearance on Al Jazeera, Bernie Sanders defended Israel’s right to exist, rejected BDS as a tactic and assailed the United Nations for singling out the country for condemnation.

The Vermont senator’s interview Wednesday on the Qatar-based network, known for its often hypercritical coverage of Israel, was consistent with a style that Americans came to know last year during his run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination: Sanders does not modify his messaging for his audience.

Sanders, despite his defeat in the primaries to Hillary Clinton, who went on to lose to Donald Trump, remains the standard-bearer of the American left. His robust rejection of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is evidence that a firewall remains on the American left against more radical expressions of Israel criticism that have gained traction overseas.

The interviewer, Dena Takruri, challenged Sanders for joining every other U.S. senator last month in signing a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging him to remedy the body’s “anti-Israel agenda.”

Takruri asked why Sanders was “effectively trying to shield [Israel] from criticism.” Sanders interrupted, “No, no, no, no, no, I don’t accept that,” saying “there are many problems with Israel” and he would continue to “be critical of a lot of what Israel does.”

“On the other hand, to see Israel attacked over and over again for human rights violations which may be true, when you have countries like Saudi Arabia or Syria, Saudi Arabia – I’m not quite sure if a woman can even drive a car today,” Sanders said.

“So I think the thrust of that letter is not to say that Israel does not have human rights issues — it does — but to say how come it’s only Israel when you have other countries where women are treated as third-class citizens, where in Egypt, I don’t know how many thousands of people now lingering in jail, so that’s the point of that, not to defend Israel but to say why only Israel, you want to talk about human rights, let’s talk about human rights,” he said.

Asked by Takruri whether he “respected” BDS as a legitimate nonviolent protest movement, Sanders said, “No, I don’t.” The senator suggested in his reply that the tactic was counterproductive as a means of bringing the sides to peace talks.

“People will do what they want to do, but I think our job as a nation is to do everything humanly possible to bring Israel and the Palestinians and the entire Middle East to the degree that we can together, but no, I’m not a supporter of that,” he said.

“What must be done is that the United States of America is to have a Middle East policy which is even-handed, which does not simply supply endless amounts of money, of military support to Israel, but which treats both sides with respect and dignity and does our best to bring them to the table.”

Sanders also rejected Takruri’s assertion that the two-state solution is almost dead and said he would not embrace a one-state solution.

“I think if that happens, then that would be the end of the State of Israel and I support Israel’s right to exist,” he said. “I think if there is the political will to make it happen and if there is good faith on both sides I do think it’s possible, and I think there has not been good faith, certainly on this Israeli government and I have my doubts about parts of the Palestinian leadership as well.”

Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win major party nominating contests, was critical of conventional pro-Israel postures during the campaign, but also defended the state.

He told MSNBC last year that anti-Semitism was a factor driving the BDS movement, yet in a debate in the New York primary – with its critical mass of Jewish voters – Sanders chided Clinton for barely mentioning Palestinians in her speech earlier the same year to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

During the campaign, he hired as his Jewish outreach staffer Simone Zimmerman, who founded IfNotNow, which protests mainstream U.S. Jewish silence on Israel’s occupation. Although Sanders fired Zimmerman after her vulgar postings on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to light, the very hiring was a signal that there was now a political home for young Jews who embraced the idea of Israel but were willing to robustly protest its government’s actions.

Sanders also named prominent Israel critics to the Democrats platform-drafting committee, yet when their Israel-critical language was rejected, he nonetheless robustly endorsed the platform because it met his other demands on economic inequality. He described himself at a meeting in New York’s Harlem neighborhood as a “strong defender of Israel” and for the first time spoke warmly about the time he spent in Israel in the 1960s on a kibbutz.

Democrats in recent years have grown increasingly critical of Israel, a result in part of the parlous relationship between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, and the fraught tone of the debate in 2015 over the Iran nuclear agreement.

But the tense tone of the Al Jazeera interview and Sanders’ refusal to accept anti-Israel pieties commonplace among progressives here and overseas suggests the resistance among Democrats to more radical expressions of Israel criticism. Democratic lawmakers, for instance, continue to join Republicans in overwhelmingly approving anti-BDS legislation on the state and federal levels.

Bernie Sanders asks envoy nominee David Friedman whether some funds for Israel should go to Gaza

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Sen. Bernie Sanders asked David Friedman, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Israel, whether he would back using funds earmarked for assistance to Israel to help rebuild the Gaza Strip.

Sanders in a letter he handed Friedman after they met Wednesday also asked whether he thinks the tax-exempt status of groups that fundraise for settlers should be reviewed. JTA obtained a copy of the letter on Thursday.

The questions in the letter are significant as they suggest the path forward for Israel policy among progressive Democrats.

Sanders has emerged as a de facto leader of progressives following his insurgent but unsuccessful campaign last year for the Democratic presidential nomination. In perhaps the best-received speech over the weekend at the annual conference of J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group, Sanders pushed the theme that pro-Israel Jews need not hesitate to criticize Israeli government policies.

His letter outlines three questions for Friedman: whether he supports a two-state outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the appropriateness of an ambassador having deep involvement in the settler movement as a fundraiser and advocate, as Friedman does; and regarding Israeli assistance.

Two states has long been Democratic policy and for 15 years was official U.S. policy until Trump retreated into agnosticism on the issue when he met last month with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The second two points, however, venture into areas that Democrats have yet to embrace.

“As ambassador, would you take steps to end the flow of donations to illegal settlements, perhaps by supporting the re-examination [of] their tax-exempt status?” Sanders asked.

David Friedman. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

David Friedman. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

J Street has advocated for withdrawing tax-exempt status for groups that fundraise for settlements. Other pro-Israel groups – including some of J Street’s allies on the left – oppose the position, in part because it could trigger far-reaching consequences for all nonprofits on the left and right while turning tax-exempt status into a political battlefield.

Sanders also asked Friedman whether “a portion” of the $38 billion in defense aid to Israel over the next 10 years under an agreement signed last year by former President Barack Obama “should be directed toward measures that would facilitate a much greater flow of humanitarian and reconstruction materials” to Gaza.

Aid to Israel in Congress and the pro-Israel community has been sacrosanct, and no president has seriously proposed cutting it since Gerald Ford in the mid-1970s. Subsequent presidents used short delays in delivery of assistance and the amount that the United States guarantees Israel’s loans as means of leveraging pressure on Israel, but assistance has been untouched.

Sanders cast the proposal in part as one that would help secure Gaza by stabilizing the strip. But it comes at a time that Republicans in Congress are proposing cutting assistance to the Palestinians as a means of pressuring them into direct talks with Israel and pushing the Palestinian Authority to end subsidies for the families of jailed or killed terrorists.

Friedman, a longtime lawyer to Trump, did not reply to a request for comment. His ambassadorship is controversial in Congress and in the Jewish community because of his past involvement with settlers, and because of the rhetoric he has used to describe Jews who disagree with him.

Bernie Sanders at J Street: One can be pro-Israel and rap its government

Bernie Sanders speaking at the J Street 2017 National Conference in Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, 2017. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, speaking with affection of his life in Israel decades ago, told a rapturous J Street conference that one could sharply criticize the Israeli government’s policies and be pro-Israel.

Sanders, I-Vt., speaking Monday in his first Middle East policy speech since ending his bid last June for the Democratic presidential nomination, also blasted President Donald Trump for retreating from a commitment to a two-state solution and not speaking out forcefully against anti-Semitism and bigotry.

Sanders’ recollection of his time in Israel was rare – he barely addressed it during his presidential run, and indeed has not been as expansive about his life on kibbutz since he first ran for Congress in 1990.

He laced his call to urge Israel to adopt more progressive policies with appeals to progressives to embrace Israel as a Jewish homeland.

“Now, as many of you know, I have a connection to the State of Israel going back many years,” Sanders said, addressing the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group’s annual conference.

“In 1963, I lived on a kibbutz near Haifa,” he said. “It was there that I saw and experienced for myself many of the progressive values upon which the State of Israel was founded. I think it is very important for everyone, but particularly for progressives, to acknowledge the enormous achievement of establishing a democratic homeland for the Jewish people after centuries of displacement and persecution, and particularly after the horror of the Holocaust.”

Sanders said that recognizing the ensuing Palestinian suffering should not diminish support for Israel.

“But as you all know, there was another side to the story of Israel’s creation, a more painful side,” he said. “Like our own country, the founding of Israel involved the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people already living there, the Palestinian people. Over 700,000 people were made refugees. To acknowledge this painful historical fact does not ‘delegitimize’ Israel, any more than acknowledging the Trail of Tears delegitimizes the United States of America.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made combating “delegitimization” of Israel a central plank of Israeli diplomacy, and Sanders said opposing Netanyahu did not amount to being anti-Israel.

“We can oppose the policies of President Trump without being anti-American,” he said. “We can oppose the policies of Netanyahu without being anti-Israel. We can oppose the policies of Islamic extremism without being anti-Muslim.”

Explicitly citing a need to oppose Islamic extremism also sets Sanders apart from some other progressives, who fear singling out Muslim extremism fuels anti-Muslim bigotry.

Sanders began his speech by slamming Trump for what he said was his failure to address the spike in anti-Semitic and other bias incidents since his election.

“When we see violent and verbal racist attacks against minorities – whether they are African-Americans, Jews, Muslims in this country, immigrants in this country, or the LGBT community, these attacks must be condemned at the highest levels of our government,” he said.

“It was rather extraordinary that in the White House’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, the murder of 6 million Jews was not mentioned by the Trump administration,” Sanders said, referring to a controversy still brewing. “I hope very much that President Trump and his political adviser Mr. [Stephen] Bannon understand that the world is watching. It is imperative that their voices be loud and clear in condemning anti-Semitism, violent attacks against immigrants in this country, including the murder of two young men from India, and all forms of bigotry here and around the world.”

He also faulted Trump for retreating earlier this month in a meeting with Netanyahu from the U.S. commitment since 2002 to a two-state solution.

Bernie Sanders calls on Trump to withdraw appointment of ‘racist’ Bannon

Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called on President-elect Donald Trump to withdraw his appointment of Stephen Bannon to a major White House advisory post.

Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont, in a statement issued Wednesday decried Bannon’s appointment earlier this week as chief strategist, calling him a “racist individual.” In urging Trump to cut Bannon loose, Sanders joins a number of Jewish organizations and other lawmakers.

Bannon is the former chairman of Breitbart News, a website that Bannon himself called “the platform for the alt-right,” a loose movement of the far right whose followers traffic variously in white nationalism, anti-immigration sentiment, anti-Semitism and a disdain for “political correctness.”

Sanders said in his statement: “This country, since its inception, has struggled to overcome discrimination of all forms: racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia. Over the years we have made progress in becoming a less discriminatory and more tolerant society – and we are not going backward.

“The appointment by President-elect Trump of a racist individual like Mr. Bannon to a position of authority is totally unacceptable. In a democratic society we can disagree all we want over issues, but racism and bigotry cannot be part of any public policy. The appointment of Mr. Bannon by Mr. Trump must be rescinded.”

Sanders lost in the Democratic presidential primary to Hillary Clinton and supported her during the campaign against Trump, including making several appearances for the former secretary of state just prior to Election Day. He was the first Jewish candidate to win major nominating contests.

Sanders announced on Thursday morning that he would not officially join Democratic Party, despite being appointed to a Senate Democratic caucus leadership position the previous day.

Sanders was named chair of outreach for the party, a newly created position, during a closed-door caucus session. In his new position, he will be in charge of reaching out to blue-collar voters who supported Trump, a Republican, in last week’s election, The Hill reported.

“I was elected as an Independent and I will finish this term as an Independent,” Sanders, who has long caucused with the Democrats, said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, The Hill reported.

Bernie Sanders’ new movement endorses candidates with a range of Israel views

A Florida state senator caught up in a boycott-Israel controversy. A Wisconsin state representative who combated anti-Israel bias on his campus.

The diversity of Israel-related outlooks among the 63 candidates endorsed by Our Revolution underscores the eclecticism of the left-leaning movement launched last week by Bernie Sanders.

The endorsed candidates represent an opening salvo by Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont. to build on the progressive following he earned in his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win major nominating contests, has said that he wants to transform the party from the bottom up. Of the endorsed candidates, just 13 are running for Congress. Most are running for state legislatures, and some are running for local office.

That, coupled with Sanders’ longtime focus on economic reform, means that the group’s organic emphasis is on domestic issues.

Still, Our Revolution’s issues pages list foreign policy postures close to those Sanders touted during the campaign, including a call on Israel to end settlement activity and end its blockade of the Gaza Strip, and on the Palestinians to “unequivocally” recognize Israel’s right to exist. The group also calls for the United States to remain alert to the threat Iran poses to Israel and backs the two-state solution.

When it comes to Israel issues, Our Revolution’s endorsees run the gamut.

In a fundraising appeal on Wednesday, the group counted as one of its successes Dwight Bullard’s victory the day before in the Democratic primary for a Miami-Dade area state senate seat.

Bullard was the target of a pro-Israel protest over the weekend because of his participation in a tour of the West Bank earlier this year sponsored by a group that backs the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement targeting Israel. Bullard has said he is “agnostic” about BDS, but one of his opponents, Andrew Korge, said the trip was “disturbing.”

By contrast, Jonathan Brostoff, a Wisconsin state representative running for reelection, has been to Israel on the Birthright-Taglit program and led a pro-Israel group at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“I was exposed to knee-jerk leftist anti-Israel stuff,” Brostoff told the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle in 2008, describing how the trip converted him to pro-Israel activism. “I had a narrow range of false information regarding Israel before I went.” Jewish officials in Milwaukee said Brostoff remains strongly pro-Israel.

Another Our Revolution endorsee, Ilhan Omar, is a onetime refugee from Somalia running for Minnesota state representative. She reportedly told the Twin Cities Daily Planet earlier this year that she favored divesting the University of Minnesota of its Israel bonds. (The newspaper did not directly quote her, and JTA has asked Omar’s campaign to clarify her stance.) In the Aug. 9 primary, Omar defeated Phyllis Kahn, who is Jewish and who has held the Minneapolis-area seat for 44 years. Omar, running unopposed, will become the first Somali-born representative in the legislature.

In its appeal to donors, Our Revolution said Bullard’s victory in Florida alleviated the disappointment of its most prominent loss in backing Tim Canova, a law professor who sought to unseat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.

Canova, who is not Jewish but who lived in Israel for a period, attacked her for backing last year’s Iran nuclear deal, which was opposed by much of the pro-Israel community. Ironically, his campaign pitted a pro-Sanders gentile against one of the most prominent Jews in the party, premised on the accusation that she was insufficiently pro-Israel — even though Sanders also backed the Iran deal.

Sanders opposed Wasserman Schultz because he believed she thwarted him in her capacity as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Wasserman Schultz  insisted she was neutral in the race, but on the eve of last month’s Democratic National Convention, a release of hacked emails showed her speaking of Sanders and the campaign in harsh terms, and she quit the party chairmanship.

Another one of Our Revolution’s losses on Tuesday was Aaron Baumann, the scion of a Jewish Arizona family, the Capins, with roots in the Tucson and Nogales area that date back more than a century.

Baumann failed to oust the incumbent state representative, Rosanna Gabaldon. (Also losing to Gabaldon was Daniel Hernandez, the congressional intern whose quick first aid helped save the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., the Jewish congresswoman who was shot in a 2011 spree that left six people dead.)

Other Jewish candidates endorsed by the group include Russell Feingold, attempting to wrest back Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate seat from Ron Johnson, who defeated him in the 2010 Tea Party sweep of Congress; David Zuckerman, a Vermont state senator and farmer who belongs to the state’s Progressive Party and who is running for lieutenant governor; and Jamie Raskin, a state lawmaker running for Congress in Maryland’s Washington suburbs. Altogether, at least five of the 63 endorsees are Jewish.

Our Revolution’s 11-member board, announced this week, is chaired by Larry Cohen, until recently the president of the Communications Workers of America, and Huck Gutman, a University of Vermont literature professor who is one of Sanders’ oldest friends.

Also on the board is James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute and a Sanders appointee to this year’s DNC platform-drafting committee who led an unsuccessful effort to include language critical of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

Bernie Sanders’ movement names Jewish members to board

A prominent Jewish union leader and one of Bernie Sanders’ oldest friends and advisers are on the board of a movement launched by Sanders to drive the Democratic Party toward more progressive values.

Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont and the first Jewish candidate to win major party nominating contests, launched “Our Revolution” last week after conceding the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton last month.

Larry Cohen, who will be chairman of the 11-person board, according to a release sent to reporters on Monday, was until recently the president of the Communication Workers of America. Cohen also has appeared at a Jewish Labor Committee event.

Huck Gutman, an English professor at the University of Vermont, was for a period Sanders’ chief of staff in his Senate office. He and another Jewish professor at the university, Richard Sugarman, are Sanders’ closest friends in his home state. Gutman has written about the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai.

Also on the board is Jim Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute and a Sanders appointee to the committee that drafted this year’s Democratic Party platform. Zogby led an unsuccessful effort to include criticism of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in the platform.

“Our Revolution” will mobilize “progressives across the country to transform American politics,” the release said.

Also included on the board are leaders from the African-American, Native American and Latino communities, as well as Shailene Woodley, an actor and an environmental activist.

 

Hillary Clinton, accepting nomination, lays out progressive agenda, assertive foreign policy

Hillary Clinton laid out a broadly progressive domestic agenda as she accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, adopting rhetoric and policies championed by her primary rival, Bernie Sanders.

Clinton also celebrated her achievement as the first woman to receive a major party’s presidential nomination. And she talked tough on foreign policy, pledging to destroy terrorists and safeguard the United States’ traditional allies, including Israel.

She took pride in helping the United States reach a deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program. And she said her administration would enforce it.

“You want a leader who understands we are stronger when we work with our allies around the world and care for our veterans here at home,” she said. “I’m proud that we put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program without firing a single shot – now we have to enforce it, and keep supporting Israel’s security.”

Near the beginning of her speech, Clinton made an extended appeal to Sanders supporters, some of whom had expressed hesitation about supporting her. She promised to fight for progressive issues and to pay attention to their concerns.

“You’ve put economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong,” she said to Sanders. “And to all of your supporters here and around the country: I want you to know, I’ve heard you. Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion. That’s the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America.”

She pushed many key elements of Sanders’ platform in her speech, from eliminating public college tuition for most Americans to attacking free trade deals. Multiple times, she attacked Wall Street and corporations that ship jobs overseas.

“I’ve heard from so many of you who feel like the economy just isn’t working,” she said. “Some of you are frustrated – even furious. And you know what? You’re right. It’s not yet working the way it should. Americans are willing to work – and work hard. But right now, an awful lot of people feel there is less and less respect for the work they do.”

She also pledged to fight what she called “systemic racism” and work on reforming the criminal justice system. She said she would advocate for a range of minorities, particularly groups she accused the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, of unfairly attacking. She also promised to fight for gun control.

“We will reform our criminal justice system from end-to-end, and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” she said. “We will defend all our rights – civil rights, human rights and voting rights, women’s rights and workers’ rights, LGBT rights and the rights of people with disabilities.”

She also promised to fight for a range of women’s and family issues — from paid family leave to abortion rights and equal pay for women. She couched that battle in her becoming the first woman to become a major party’s presidential nominee.

“Tonight, we’ve reached a milestone in our nation’s march toward a more perfect union: the first time that a major party has nominated a woman for president,” she said to cheers. “When any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone. When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.”

Clinton acknowledged her sometimes stiff public image, as well as her intense focus on policy. But while speakers and videos before her speech revolved around humanizing her by telling her personal story, she admitted that “some people just don’t know what to make of me.” But she painted her wonkishness as a sign of caring rather than aloofness.

“The truth is, through all these years of public service, the ‘service’ part has always come easier to me than the ‘public’ part,” she said. She said she focuses on the details of policy “because it’s not just a detail if it’s your kid —  if it’s your family. It’s a big deal.”

She also recognized that Americans were anxious because of a string of terror attacks around the world, in the United States, Europe and the Middle East. But she said the best way to respond to those threats is through cool-headed leadership.

“America’s strength doesn’t come from lashing out,” she said. “Strength relies on smarts, judgment, cool resolve, and the precise and strategic application of power. That’s the kind of Commander-in-Chief I pledge to be.”

She attacked Trump as unstable, immature and bigoted. Echoing a theme speakers have touched on throughout the convention, she said he lacks the temperament to run the country.

“He loses his cool at the slightest provocation,” she said. “When he’s gotten a tough question from a reporter. When he’s challenged in a debate. When he sees a protester at a rally. Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

Clinton is running close to Trump in the polls, and referred to divisions in the country. But if elected, she promised to serve her supporters as well as her detractors.

“I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and independents,” she said. “For the struggling, the striving and the successful. For those who vote for me and those who don’t.”

5 Jewish things to expect from Hillary Clinton tonight

After Tim Kaine, Biden, Bloomberg, Bernie, Bill and both Obamas, it’s finally Hillary’s turn.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, will close out a Democratic National Convention centered on highlighting America’s diversity, touting her qualifications and bashing her Republican opponent, Donald Trump. Clinton’s address will be historic: She is the first woman presidential nominee of a major political party.

Stylistically, Clinton is Trump’s opposite. Where he is bombastic, she is restrained. Where he extemporizes, she stays on script. Where he makes broad promises, she talks specific policy.

But like the Donald, Hillary has Jewish connections, from her family to her political allies. Here are five Jewish things to expect from the Democratic nominee.

She will talk about children and mention her Jewish grandkids.

If there’s one constant trope in this election, it’s that Hillary Clinton fights for children. Saying that she worked at the Children’s Defense Fund out of law school has become the Democratic version of mentioning Ronald Reagan at the Republican convention. First Lady Michelle Obama made her entire speech about Clinton being good for kids. Speakers have touted her legislation for children’s health insurance.

Expect Clinton to emphasize this issue. Like previous speakers, she will paint herself as the candidate for our children, an image that at once aims to humanize her and show her policy experience. And she will throw in a shout-out to her favorite kids — grandchildren Charlotte and Aiden Clinton Mezvinsky — whose father, Marc Mezvinsky, is Jewish.

She will focus on women’s rights — and may just name-drop a Jewish feminist

This convention, in fact Clinton’s entire campaign, has not shied away from talking about shattering a glass ceiling. Nearly every speaker has noted Clinton being the first woman to be the presidential nominee of a major party, and many have told the crowd that electing the first woman president is a good reason to vote for her.

Expect Clinton to own this. Women’s issues — from equal pay to paid family leave — are a centerpiece of her campaign, and she sees herself as a symbol of that fight. And just as her campaign is historic, she has placed herself in history. Expect her to do that here by mentioning some of the pioneering women who came before her. She might even mention some of the Jewish trailblazers of recent decades — from Gloria Steinem to Barbara Boxer or Madeleine Albright (and could earn easy points with Jewish voters by tossing in Bella Abzug or Golda Meir).

She will throw red meat to Bernie Sanders supporters.

In the race for the nomination, Clinton bested the first Jewish candidate to win a major party primary. But Bernie Sanders’ left-wing delegates have not gone quietly, lambasting Clinton at news conferences and in protests for what they see as her hawkish foreign policy, previous support for free trade deals and ties to Wall Street.

To placate the Sanders wing of the party, Clinton yielded to some of his demands in the Democratic platform and has endorsed some of his issues. Earlier in the convention, some speakers — including President Barack Obama — talked about “feeling the Bern.” Expect her to include some lines about central Sanders policies like raising the minimum wage or making college more affordable in an effort to woo his voters come November.

She will back the Iran deal.

One of Clinton’s most controversial stances among Jewish organizations — and the Israeli government — is her support for the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program. While the Israeli government has lambasted the deal as a gift of billions of dollars to a sponsor of terror against Israel, Democrats defend it as the best way to keep Iran from acquiring the bomb.

Expect Clinton to echo this defense. She has taken a more cautious posture on the issue than some other Democrats, but intends to stand by the agreement once in office. Attempting to placate pro-Israel skeptics, she has promised to hold Iran accountable for potential violations. And she has made overtures to the pro-Israel crowd in other ways, pledging to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu soon after taking office and ensuring the Democratic platform remained unequivocally pro-Israel.

She will defend religious freedom.

Trump’s critics have accused him of impinging on religious freedom — like his proposed ban on Muslim immigration — and eroding the separation of church and state, like his pledge to allow houses of worship to endorse political candidates. Praising American religious and ethnic inclusiveness has been a theme of the convention and one Clinton will likely talk up. Whether calling American diversity a source of its strength or impugning Trump as a bigot, expect her speech to emphasize religious tolerance.

How Sarah Silverman delivered the Democratic convention’s defining one-liner

Corey Booker delivered an uplifting message. The first lady invoked the future of America’s children. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton’s once-bitter rival, endorsed her with vigor.

But it was a raunchy comedian, Sarah Silverman, who summed up the night’s implicit message in nine ad-libbed words.

“To the ‘Bernie or Bust’ people,” she said from the podium at the Wells Fargo Center here in Philadelphia, “you’re being ridiculous.”

That’s what most of the other speakers at the Democratic National Convention were trying to say. In fact, it’s what many Clinton supporters have been saying since she wrapped up the nomination in early June.

Sanders himself put it this way:

“If you don’t believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country.”

The idea: If you support Sanders’ unapologetic progressivism, Clinton’s moderated version is far closer to what you want than Donald Trump’s platform, which is based in a mix of conservative positions.

The message took on added urgency on Monday after Sanders delegates voiced outrage over leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee that showed favoritism toward Clinton during the primary race. The emails led to the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Sanders delegates vowed to protest on the convention floor.

A few speakers tried to send the unity message in friendly terms, quelling the boos and chants of “Bernie, Bernie” by explaining the importance of getting out the vote. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, a former and sometimes current comedian, reassured parents that an “8-year-old kid can teach a 4-year-old kid how to use a microwave oven” — reason enough for parents to neglect their kids and canvass for Clinton.

Silverman — who put her stamp on the 2008 election by urging fellow Jews to convince their Florida grandparents to vote for Obama — also has oodles of sympathy for Bernie. She supported his campaign and said Monday that she was proud of what he had achieved. But her blunt sentence shut the protesters up, at least for a minute, making them reflect on their pledge to sit this election out or vote for a third party.

And months after this convention ends, that one sentence may be the one we still remember from Monday night — when a comedian did what the politicians could not.

Bernie Sanders urges unity behind Hillary Clinton, thanks supporters

Sen. Bernie Sanders urged his supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton on a night at the Democratic National Convention centered on restoring unity in the party.

Sanders spoke Monday on the opening night of the convention in Philadelphia following two days of discord in the party. His supporters have voiced anger at Clinton for choosing Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a centrist, as a running mate, and are upset with the Democratic National Committee over leaked emails that show the body favored Clinton during the primary race.

But Sanders urged his followers, despite their disappointment, to coalesce behind Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee. He said, to loud applause, that electing Clinton is the only way to ensure the defeat of Republican nominee Donald Trump and to push the enactment of a progressive agenda.

“We need leadership which brings our people together and makes us stronger – not leadership which insults Latinos and Mexicans, insults Muslims, women, African-Americans and veterans – and seeks to divide us up,” he said. “By these measures, any objective observer will conclude that based on her ideas and her leadership, Hillary Clinton must become the next president of the United States.”

Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win major party primaries, outlined a series of domestic issues — from climate change to income inequality to health care to college tuition — on which he said Clinton would be far superior to Trump. He called on his supporters not to abstain from voting in particular because the next president may appoint several Supreme Court justices. His message echoed several other speakers that night who pushed party unity and get-out-the-vote efforts.

“If you don’t believe this election is important, if you think you can sit it out, take a moment to think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump would nominate and what that would mean to civil liberties, equal rights and the future of our country,”  he said.

Before he took the stage, a modified version of a popular Sanders campaign ad played on screen featuring the song “America” by Simon and Garfunkel. (Paul Simon performed at the convention earlier Monday night.)

Sanders began the speech by thanking supporters and showing the impact of his campaign through a list of statistics — from the 13 million people who voted for him to the 8 million individual campaign contributions he received. He also hailed the passing of what he called “by far the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party.”

“I think it’s fair to say that no one is more disappointed than I am,” he said regarding the primary result. “But to all of our supporters – here and around the country – I hope you take enormous pride in the historical accomplishments we have achieved. Together, my friends, we have begun a political revolution to transform America and that revolution – our revolution – continues.”

Some Sanders delegates continued to chant for him from the crowd, while others cried as he spoke. But there were no widespread protests during his or any other speech.

Earlier Monday night, a range of other Jewish public figures, including Simon and comedian Sarah Silverman, appeared on stage. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken addressed the crowd with a mixture of his trademark humor and seriousness. He focused his speech on criticizing Trump as a dishonest businessman while also sneaking in a jab at disgraced Jewish fraudster Bernie Madoff.

“Did you know that Trump University’s School of Ripping People Off is ranked second in the nation?” Franken joked. “Right behind Bernie Madoff University? That’s no mean feat.”

Bernie Sanders wants his delegates to back Clinton. They’re not listening.

Bernie Sanders’ delegates are going to raise hell on the floor of the Democratic National Convention, his own wishes be damned.

“Change that’s worth a damn always comes from the bottom up, not from the top,” said Norman Solomon, coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network, an unofficial group, at a news conference Monday morning. “He’s not running the show. He’s not running the social movement.”

That’s the message a coalition of Sanders delegates has sent on the first day of the convention, which began here Monday afternoon.

When presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton takes the podium on Thursday, unless things change, she can expect cheers from most of the crowd, but stonewalling from a vocal minority.

Sanders delegates say they feel lied to by the party. Leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee showing favoritism to Clinton, they say, show that the party was fighting Sanders all along. And they’re irked that instead of acknowledging their voices by choosing a more progressive running mate, Clinton tacked to the center and chose Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.

Solomon told reporters Sunday and Monday that his network is planning at least three separate actions at the convention this week. It’s going to protest the speeches by Kaine and Clinton either by having delegates walk out, turn their backs or simply remain silent. And on Wednesday, the group is planning to protest the Kaine nomination by officially submitting an alternative candidate for vice president.

Solomon is aware that the vice presidential fight is symbolic.

“We understand Tim Kaine will be the vice president,” he said. But on Sunday, he told reporters that Sanders delegates would have preferred Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a progressive firebrand, or Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Sanders, for his part, has encouraged his supporters to throw their weight behind Clinton. He has criticized Kaine in the days since his selection Friday, saying “his politics are not my politics,” but in a speech Monday to delegates, he earned boos by telling them to vote for Clinton and Kaine in order to defeat Donald Trump, the Republican nominee.

“Immediately, right now, we have got to defeat Donald Trump,” he said. “And we have got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. Brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters, this is the real world that we live in. Trump is a bully and a demagogue. Trump has made bigotry and hatred the cornerstone of his campaign.”

But as much as it’s a protest against what Solomon has called the “corporate” Democratic establishment, the Bernie Delegates Network’s plans are an explicit rebuke to the idea that delegates need to line up behind whatever their candidate says. The message of Sanders’ campaign, say some delegates, is that citizens and activists should fight for the causes they believe in, and that the grass roots should determine the direction of movements, not leaders.

At the convention, many Sanders delegates wore shirts reading “Bernie for president” more than a month after he dropped out — a sight not seen at the Republican National Convention among backers of Sen. Ted Cruz, that party’s runner-up. Several Sanders supporters wore green felt pointed hats, meant to show that Sanders was the Robin Hood of the United States.

“My job is to make sure the wishes of my delegates are heard and that their opinions are heard,” said California delegate Karen Bernal. “They have never been a group to take marching orders. They’re extremely independently minded.”

Sanders delegates in their objection to the Kaine selection say he pulls Clinton further from their positions due to his support for free trade and a stance on unions they deem unfriendly. Warren or Brown, by contrast, could have been seen as a validation of Sanders’ platform.

And Sanders supporters in particular take umbrage at the leaked emails, which describe strategies to throw off Sanders’ candidacy. One email chain suggests that Sanders avoided acknowledging his Judaism and that perhaps the DNC could hurt his campaign by stressing that he doesn’t believe in God (he does).

“They have no clue about what Judaism means,” said Kansas delegate Andy Sandler, who is Jewish. “We’re not a monolithic bloc. They’re copying riffs from the Republicans. They love subterfuge.”

That’s why some Sanders delegates plan to vote against Clinton in November, whatever the consequences. Solomon, a Californian who will not vote for Clinton, said that Sanders supporters in solidly “blue” states that will almost certainly vote Democrat don’t need to worry about closing ranks around Clinton.

“This political process wasn’t impartial from the beginning,” said North Carolina delegate Vonnie Brown, 27. “The president box will be left unchecked come November.”

But other delegates oppose protests on the convention floor and say a vote for Clinton is necessary, either out of party loyalty or because the specter of Trump is so unthinkable to them. While Sanders will not be on the ballot, they believe that his principles and the movement he created will continue after this election.

“The Democrats, we have to come together,” said Connecticut delegate Beverley Brakeman. “People who are Bernie people who may not like Hillary need to figure it out. To me, [Trump] is a far scarier option.”

There are also concerns that protests on the floor will make the Democratic convention look like the Republican confab in Cleveland last week, where fissures showed throughout the week. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz spoke from the podium but did not endorse Trump, drawing boos. Cruz delegates also mounted an abortive protest from the convention floor to change the party rules so Trump would not be nominated.

“I think we should look better than the Republicans at their convention,” said delegate Denise Gladue, also from Connecticut. “We should respect Bernie’s decision to step down. He told us to vote for Hillary. We should vote for Hillary.”

Memphis Jewish congressman: DNC staffers behind Sanders emails should be fired

A Jewish congressman from Tennessee said the Democratic National Committee staffers whose leaked emails questioned Bernie Sanders’ religiosity should be fired.

“For a party to question his religion, or lack thereof, as a way to defeat that person, those people should resign and if they don’t resign they should be fired,” Rep. Steve Cohen, a Memphis Democrat, told his state’s delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

“Some people will think, ‘Oh well, politically we shouldn’t do it and those people have done X, Y and Z for the party,’” he added. “But they crossed the Rubicon. They crossed the line.”

At issue is a May 5 email leaked Friday by WikiLeaks in which Brad Marshall, the DNC’s chief financial officer, suggested that the party should “get someone to ask” about “his” religious beliefs, meaning Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was waging a surprisingly strong challenge in the Democratic presidential primaries against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“It might [make] no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief,” the message says, presumably referring to Kentucky and West Virginia. “Does he believe in a God? He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”

The email was sent to several top DNC officials — CEO Amy Dacey, communications director Luis Miranda and deputy communications director Mark Paustenbach.

DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who like Cohen and Sanders is a Jewish member of Congress, resigned Monday from the party post as a result of the leaks.

Interviewed by The Tennessean, Cohen said the email about Sanders’ alleged atheism “really turned my stomach and I don’t want that type of mentality.”

“I find that politics despicable, and I say it as an American but also as a politician who has had race and religion used against me,” he added.

Cohen, who is white, has represented Tennessee’s predominantly African-American 9th District since 2007. He served in the Tennessee Senate for 24 years, where he was the first Jewish member since 1958, according to the New Republic.

Despite his concerns about the DNC’s treatment of Sanders, Cohen, a superdelegate, called on Sanders supporters to back Clinton as the party’s nominee.

Bernie Sanders booed for urging delegates to support Hillary Clinton

Delegates for Bernie Sanders booed the one-time presidential candidate for telling them to support the presumptive Democratic ticket of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.

In a speech to supporters Monday ahead of the Democratic National Convention, Sanders thanked them for helping create a “political revolution” and advance progressive causes. And despite the selection of a centrist vice president, and recent leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee showing favoritism toward Clinton during the primary process, Sanders told supporters that electing Clinton and Kaine was the only way to defeat Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“Immediately, right now, we have got to defeat Donald Trump,” he said. “And we have got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. Brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters, this is the real world that we live in. Trump is a bully and a demagogue. Trump has made bigotry and hatred the cornerstone of his campaign.”

Delegates in response booed and shouted “no.” Norman Solomon, coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network, an unofficial group, said that delegates may protest the convention speeches by Kaine and Clinton this week regardless of what Sanders asks.

“Change that’s worth a damn always comes from the bottom up, not from the top,” Solomon said at a news conference Monday morning. “He’s not running the show. He’s not running the social movement.”

Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, did not explicitly refer in his speech to email leaks revealed over the weekend that showed DNC staffers discussing possible ways to undermine his campaign, though he did praise the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. He spent the bulk of the speech restating the main points of his campaign and lauding his supporters.

“As I think all of you know, Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned yesterday as chair of the DNC,” he said to cheers. “Her resignation opens up the possibility of new leadership at the top of the Democratic Party that will stand with working people and that will open the doors of the party to those people who want real change.”

5 things to expect from Bernie Sanders’ speech at the Democratic convention

It’s been perhaps the second-most surprising presidential campaign this year.

When Sen. Bernie Sanders, the 74-year-old Jewish democratic socialist from Vermont, began his campaign last year, no one expected him to take a strong insurgency all the way through the primary season. Now he’ll take his message of economic reform to a packed arena at the Democratic National Convention, where he’ll be a headline speaker on Monday’s opening night.

Sanders will be walking into a divided convention hall. Clinton supporters are urging the party to coalesce around the presumptive nominee. But Sanders’ delegates are angry. They’re upset that Clinton tacked to the political center in selecting Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. And they’re fuming about leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee that showed favoritism toward Clinton.

Here are five things to expect from Sanders’ speech — and his supporters.

1. He’ll call for party unity.

Bernie Sanders, to put it lightly, has issues with the Democratic Party. He has criticized the primary system. He accused the Democratic National Committee of favoring Clinton. He called for a “political revolution” to change the party and bring in new voices. And he has issues with Clinton, from her links to Wall Street to her hawkish foreign policy.

But when it comes down to it, he’ll support Hillary Clinton and call on his followers to do the same. Sanders has made clear throughout the campaign that a Democratic president — even Clinton — is far preferable to Donald Trump. He has stayed on that message even after news came of the leaked DNC emails. Expect him to play down his criticism and encourage supporters to close ranks.

2. He’ll call for economic equality — and a more dovish foreign policy.

The core of Sanders’ message has always been about fighting for a fair economy that isn’t dominated by the very rich. Expect him to press that message again — from breaking up large banks to raising taxes on the wealthy to raising the minimum wage and making college tuition free. This is one of Sanders’ best chances to attack the “rigged economy” he says needs to change.

But Sanders’ dissent from the political mainstream extends to foreign policy. One of his main critiques of Clinton is about her perceived willingness to use military force abroad — from her vote for the Iraq War in 2002 to her support for airstrikes in Libya in 2011 as secretary of state. Sanders is less of an interventionist and has called for increasing diplomacy — even normalizing relations with Iran.

Sanders’ foreign policy agenda extends to Israel, where he’s taken a more pro-Palestinian tack than his one-time opponent. While Clinton is viewed as a traditional Democratic supporter of Israel, Sanders has been much more critical. He has admonished Israel for its actions in the 2014 Gaza War, called for Israel to dismantle settlements and spoken about Palestinian suffering. While he many not mention Israel in his speech, expect him to demand a change in how the U.S. engages with the world.

3. His supporters will protest.

Just because Sanders asks his supporters to back Clinton doesn’t mean they will listen. Sanders delegates have emphasized, especially following the email leaks, that they plan to protest on the convention floor — during vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine’s speech as well as Clinton’s.

There will likely be more cheers than indignation from Sanders delegates during his speech, but some anger will probably bubble over. Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, Sanders delegates made clear that their candidate can’t order them around. “He’s not running the show,” said Norman Solomon, chairman of the Bernie Delegates Network, an unofficial organization. Expect the party’s cracks to bare themselves tonight.

4. He’ll bash Donald Trump.

Sanders is supporting Clinton to deny Donald Trump the White House. He said that in his speech endorsing Clinton, and he’ll say that tonight. While he will offer praise for his former Senate colleague from New York, the bulk of his words will take aim at Trump’s rhetoric against minorities and immigrants, as well as against the Republican nominee’s economic policies. While Sanders shares some of Trump’s skepticism over trade deals, he is also a champion of government programs that benefit the lower and middle classes and sufficient taxes to pay for them.

The first night of the Republican National Convention last week saw an unending stream of vitriol against Clinton, including multiple speakers — bolstered by a chanting crowd — saying she should go to prison. And while Sanders probably won’t say Trump should be behind bars, expect him to go negative.

5. He’ll call himself an outsider — but may not mention his Judaism.

Sanders has often spoken of himself as an outsider, but hasn’t always painted that outsider status in Jewish terms. He has said he is “very proud to be Jewish” and has invoked the Holocaust in advocating social justice. But he has also described himself as the “son of a Polish immigrant” and attributed his difference more to economic qualities than his religious heritage.

Sanders will own his outsider status in his speech, demanding that the Democratic Party give voice to the issues he and his supporters have raised. And it’s possible that because one of the leaked emails questioned his Jewish identity, he will reaffirm his pride in his heritage. But Sanders has never explicitly placed his Judaism at the center of his message. Don’t expect him to now.

Leaked Democratic email indicates potential effort to smear Sanders as atheist

A top Democratic National Committee official reportedly suggested in May that “someone” should draw attention to Bernie Sanders’ atheist beliefs.

In an email leaked Friday by Wikileaks Brad Marshall, the DNC’s chief financial officer suggested that the party should “get someone to ask” about “his” religious beliefs, The Intercept reported.

“It might [make] no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief,” the message says, presumably referring to Kentucky and West Virginia. “Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”

The email does not mention Sanders, who was running against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, by name. However, he was the only Jewish candidate from either major party at the time and has repeatedly skirted questions about whether or not he believes in God.

Responding to a request for comment, Marshall said in an email to The Intercept, “I do not recall this. I can say it would not have been Sanders. It would probably be about a surrogate.”

The email was sent to DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda and Deputy Communications Director Mark Paustenbach.

It is not clear why a DNC staffer would be seeking to draw attention to a Democratic candidate’s quality that voters might find off-putting, particularly since the group is supposed to remain neutral until a candidate has been nominated.

Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win a major-party presidential primary, officially dropped out of the race and endorsed Clinton earlier this month.

Bernie Sanders picked as a headlining speaker at Democratic convention

Bernie Sanders will be a headlining speaker at the Democratic convention.

Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont and the first Jewish candidate to win major party nominating contests, will speak the first night, July 25, as will Michelle Obama, the first lady.

Last week, Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton, who won the Democrats’ presidential nomination. A prime speaking slot was one of his conditions for the endorsement, as well as the inclusion in the platform of some of his campaign planks, including a $15 minimum wage, Wall Street regulatory reforms and an overhaul of campaign finance.

Also speaking, according to the convention press office, are President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton. Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of the presumptive and former president, will speak on July 28, the last night of the convention, prior to Hillary Clinton.