December 7, 2019

Sanders Says Fighting Anti-Semitism Is Just Like ‘The Struggle for Palestinian Freedom’

DES MOINES, IA - NOVEMBER 09: Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during the Climate Crisis Summit at Drake University on November 9, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Sanders spoke about the current state of climate change in relation to U.S. policy. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in a Nov. 11 piece for the Jewish Current magazine titled “How to Fight Anti-Semitism” and in it, he equated the fight to “the struggle for Palestinian freedom.”

The sentence, which Jewish Insider reporter Jacob Kornbluh highlighted on Twitter, reads: “The forces fomenting anti-Semitism are the forces arrayed against oppressed people around the world, including Palestinians; the struggle against anti-Semitism is also the struggle for Palestinian freedom.”

Sanders highlighted at the beginning of the piece how the Nazis murdered his ancestors in Poland during World War II; his father had escaped from the country to the United States in 1921. It is therefore important for leaders to speak out against white supremacy, Sanders argued.

“We have to be clear that while antisemitism is a threat to Jews everywhere, it is also a threat to democratic governance itself,” Sanders wrote. “The anti-Semites who marched in Charlottesville don’t just hate Jews. They hate the idea of multiracial democracy. They hate the idea of political equality. They hate immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ people, women, and anyone else who stands in the way of a whites-only America. They accuse Jews of coordinating a massive attack on white people worldwide, using people of color and other marginalized groups to do their dirty work.”

He went on to state that criticizing the Israeli government’s policies isn’t anti-Semitic and he was irked “that we are also seeing accusations of antisemitism used as a cynical political weapon against progressives.” Sanders did acknowledge that certain criticisms of Israel can be anti-Semitic, but argued that the pro-Israel crowd must understand that “the founding of Israel is understood by another people in the land of Palestine as the cause of their painful displacement.”

Sanders urged the Israeli government to end the “military occupation now over a half-century old, creating a daily reality of pain, humiliation, and resentment.” He also pledged that as president, he would fight anti-Semitism through returning the U.S. to the United Nations Human Rights Council and appointing a new Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that Sanders’ piece “can be interpreted as a free pass for Palestinian hatred of Israel… there’s nothing in there by him stating that, despite the fact that the Jewish people traces its roots back in this land for over 3,000 years, there is another people that is part of the land – the Palestinians – and the majority of Israelis understand that.”

Cooper added that the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Hezbollah “are not negotiating partners. These are entities that want to do away with the only Jewish state in the world that’s home to over six million people. So, I think he could have stated the Palestinian explanation in one sentence; instead, it goes into great detail about what Israelis and everyone else has to understand at that is at the root [of the conflict], and that would seem to say that it’s justified. With the greatest respect, it’s not justified, and there will be no peace as long as people like Senator Sanders imply that it is.”

Cooper also said he was disappointed that Sanders didn’t go after anti-Semitism emanating from Islamic extremists and anti-Semitism from progressive circles.

Former New York Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who heads the Americans Against Anti-Semitism watchdog, echoed Cooper’s criticisms in a couple of tweets.

“So when Palestinians are engaged in violent antisemitism, when they chant “death to Jews”, it’s really because they’re also victims of anti-Semitism?” Hikind wrote. 

Jerusalem Post Senior Editor Lahav Harkov tweeted, “You might think this is the often-heard argument that if Palestinians have a state and better quality of life, they’ll have more to lose and will be less likely to attack Israel, but if you read the article, this is just all-lives-matter-ing anti-Semitism.”

Forward Opinions Editor Batya-Ungar Sargon tweeted, “The essay has just one graph on his plan to fight anti-Semitism, [with] much of the rest arguing it’s ok to criticize Israel.” She added in a subsequent tweet, “This essay won’t do much to allay Jewish fears about Senator Sanders. But I’m truly glad he wrote it. I’m glad he wants to fight anti-Semitism and it’s a really good encapsulation of how the far left sees the problem: only from the right, bound up in the need to protect others.”