(November 11, 2019 / JNS) Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said that “it is not anti-Semitic to criticize the policies of the Israeli government,” adding on to his prior stance that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is “racist.”
In a piece published on Monday on the left-wing site Jewish Currents, Sanders, who is Jewish, wrote that “that it is not antisemitic to criticize the policies of the Israeli government” even though it is “true that some criticism of Israel can cross the line into antisemitism, especially when it denies the right of self-determination to Jews, or when it plays into conspiracy theories about outsized Jewish power.”
In the essay, Sanders, identifying as “a proud Jewish American” whose father escaped anti-Semitism in Poland, where his remaining family was killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust; blamed U.S. President Donald Trump for the rise in anti-Semitism, including in October 2018 when 11 Jewish worshippers were shot and killed at the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh; as well as in 2017 in Charlottesville, Va., where violence between alt-right and counterprotesters resulted in a white nationalist ramming his car into a crowd of people, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring dozens of others.
Sanders did not mention the April 27 shooting at Chabad of Poway in Southern California, where a 60-year-old woman was killed in the synagogue lobby on the last day of Passover and three others injured, including the rabbi.
“This wave of violence is the result of a dangerous political ideology that targets Jews and anyone who does not fit a narrow vision of a whites-only America,” wrote Sanders. “We have to be clear that while antisemitism is a threat to Jews everywhere, it is also a threat to democratic governance itself.”
The senator also remarked that combating anti-Semitism “is a core value of progressivism,” and therefore, “it’s very troubling to me that we are also seeing accusations of antisemitism used as a cynical political weapon against progressives.”
Sanders accused Trump of “using false allegations” of anti-Semitism to make the U.S.-Israel relationship a divisive issue.
Additionally, he pledged to “always call out antisemitism when I see it” and that, if elected president, he would “strengthen both domestic and international efforts to combat this hatred”; “direct the Justice Department to prioritize the fight against white nationalist violence”; appoint a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism “immediately” as opposed to two years, as was the case under Trump until Elan Carr was appointed to the position in February; and “rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council,” which the United States withdrew from in June 2018 over its anti-Israel bias.
Moreover, Sanders called for Israel to end the “occupation” of the Palestinians, in addition to “solidarity” in fighting “the rise of a divisive and destructive form of politics” abroad “in Russia, in India, in Brazil, in Hungary, in Israel and elsewhere.”
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