(November 12, 2019 / Jewish Journal) In a Nov. 11 piece for the Jewish Current titled “How to Fight Anti-Semitism,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) links the struggle against anti-Semitism 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.”
To underscore the importance of speaking out against white supremacy, Sanders highlights at the beginning of the piece how the Nazis murdered his ancestors in Poland during World War II; his father had escaped to the United States in 1921.
“We have to be clear that while antisemitism is a threat to Jews everywhere, it is also a threat to democratic governance itself,” Sanders writes. “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.”
Opposing anti-Semitism, writes Sanders, is a “core value of progressivism.” He stresses that criticizing Israeli government policies is not anti-Semitic, while noting that there are critiques that stray into anti-Semitic territory. “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,” he writes.
However, he also accuses the Trump administration of using accusations of anti-Semitism “as a cynical political weapon against progressives,” and says that th 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 urges 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 pledges that as president, he will fight anti-Semitism through returning the United States to the U.N. Human Rights Council and appointing a new Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of global social-action agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Jewish Journal in a phone interview that Sanders’s piece “can be interpreted as a free pass for Palestinian hatred of Israel.”
Cooper also said he was disappointed that Sanders had failed to go after the anti-Semitism emanating from Islamic extremists and progressive circles.
Former New York Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who heads the Americans Against Anti-Semitism watchdog group, echoed Cooper’s criticisms.
“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 on Twitter.
Forward opinion editor Batya-Ungar Sargon tweeted: “The essay has just one [paragraph] on [Sanders’] 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.”
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