Just how does one prove their pro-Israel credentials these days, especially if you are a politician looking for the Jewish vote?
Well, if you are Bernie Sanders you might be expected to have an easier time than most.
During the Bernie Sanders interview with The Daily News Editorial Board, he certainly did seem to hit all the right notes, and then some:
- “Here’s the main point that I want to make. I lived in Israel. I have family in Israel. I believe 100% not only in Israel’s right to exist, a right to exist in peace and security without having to face terrorist attacks..."
- "Israel will make their own decisions. They are a government, an independent nation..."
- “There are going to be demands being made of the Palestinian folks as well...for a start, the absolute condemnation of all terrorist attacks. The idea that in Gaza there were buildings being used to construct missiles and bombs and tunnels, that is not where foreign aid should go. Foreign aid should go to housing and schools, not the development of bombs and missiles.”
|Anthony Delmundo / New York Daily News Speaking with Sanders
One could question how much weight having family in Israel should carry -- after all, Hamas terrorist leader Ismail Haniyeh has three sisters secretly living in Israel as full citizens -- and 35 years ago, he used to visit his sisters in Israel as well. Of course, Haniyeh does not go around bragging about this. That's probably because Ismail does travel in different political circles than Bernie.
Then again, during that same interview, Sanders found another way to outdo Hamas, saying that
my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza. Does that sound right? I don't have it in my number...but I think it's over 10,000. My understanding is that a whole lot of apartment houses were leveled. Hospitals, I think, were bombed. So yeah, I do believe and I don't think I'm alone in believing that Israel's force was more indiscriminate than it should have been.The Sanders number of "over 10,000" civilians killed exceeds the Hamas figure of 1,617 civilians killed. According to the UN the number was 1,462 civilians killed, and Israel estimates the number of Gazan civilians killed as 762.
As Varda Epstein writes, If You Love Israel You Don’t Exaggerate Civilian Deaths by a Factor of Ten. Nor do you allow yourself to be ignorant of what was happening at those schools and hospitals in Gaza and what Israel did to minimize casualties there.
And if you love Israel, you generally don't hire people to be in charge of Jewish outreach who hate Israel.
It turns out that the Sanders campaign’s newly hired Jewish outreach director condemned Israeli PM Netanyahu as a mass-murderer:
Zimmerman later cleaned up her post, substituting the words "politician" and "Shame on you" where appropriate.
In her favor, when she rounded up the number of Gazans killed, Zimmerman did not exaggerate as much as Sanders did.
Sanders does seem a bit tone deaf when it comes to Israel. Take for example the incident at the Apollo Theater when Bernie Sanders was challenged with an antisemitic statement:
“As you know,” opened the questioner, “the Zionist Jews–and I don’t mean to offend anybody–they run the Federal Reserve, they run Wall Street, they run every campaign.” As this unfolded, Sanders began wagging his finger in dissent, and interjected to deem “Zionist Jews” a “bad phrase.” His interlocutor, pressed to articulate a question, concluded by saying, “What is your affiliation to your Jewish community? That’s all I’m asking.”While there may be valid reasons to try to explain his reluctance to address this antisemitic slander head on, the fact remains that Sanders did not address the comment and failed to take advantage of the moment. Instead, he changed the topic to Israel in order to push his claim of balance by blaming both Israel and the Palestinians equally.
“No, no, no, that’s not what you’re asking,” Sanders quickly replied, in a nod to the question’s underlying prejudice. “I am proud to be Jewish,” he declared, to cheers from the audience. But then Sanders did something odd. Rather than using the question as a teaching moment to address and rebuke its anti-Semitic underpinnings, Sanders instead immediately pivoted to his stump speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Talking about Zionism and Israel,” he said, “I am a strong defender of Israel, but I also believe that we have got to pay attention to the needs of the Palestinian people.” He never challenged the actual contents of the question, let alone labeled it anti-Semitic.
Bernie Sanders does not make an issue of his Jewishness, and that is fine. Nor is he the most outspoken defender of Israel -- and that is OK too. But when he addresses Israel as a political issue in his run for for presidential nomination, Sanders should not be given a pass on his stands and statements on Israel. The fact he lived on a kibbutz for a few months in 1963 or that he has family there is not relevant.
But what Bernie Sanders says about Israel, that he hires people who accuse Israel of mass murder and how he hides behind the issue of Israel rather than address antisemitic slanders -- that is relevant.
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