In "Bernie Sanders' Jewish Problem - And Ours," James Kirchik at Tablet points out a revealing (Kirchik calls it "revolutionary") statement made by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders last week at the Brooklyn Democratic debate prior to his loss in the New York primary. “As somebody who is 100 percent pro-Israel,” Sanders declared, “we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.”
As someone who claims to be “100 percent pro-Israel,” perhaps Sanders should demand instead that the so-called Palestinian people begin to treat Israeli Jews with respect and dignity. These are the same Palestinians who overwhelmingly favor a one-state solution that includes the genocide of the Jewish people (“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”). These are the Palestinians currently targeting Jews with knives and cars in a vicious new intifada. The same Palestinians who name streets after Jew-killing martyrs and launch fireworks to celebrate the murders of Jews.
The Vermont socialist had more to say in defense of the Palestinians:
Sanders added that Israel’s response to Hamas rocket attacks in 2014 was “disproportionate,” that “we are going to have to say that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is not right all of the time,” and took a swipe at his rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, scolding her for having “barely mentioned the Palestinians” in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Let us first consider the common, ridiculous complaint Sanders is regurgitating about Israel’s supposed use of “disproportionate force” when dealing with Arab terrorists. No sovereign state in the history of the world except Israel has ever been scolded for responding to repeated attacks on its homeland with “disproportionate force.” No military would even consider such an ineffective strategy as the use of “proportionate force.” When your country is attacked – particularly if it is a tiny strip of land surrounded by enemies obsessed with wiping you from the face of the earth – you don’t respond to a measured, perfectly balanced degree; you respond with overwhelming force not only to put an end to the threat, but to make your enemy rue the day it had ever even contemplated attacking you, and to make everyone else think twice about considering it themselves. The notion that “disproportionate force” is somehow immoral (at least, when Israel is presumed guilty of it) is nothing more than a media strategy invented by the anti-Israel left to divert attention from Palestinian Jew-hatred and to keep the spotlight of the world’s disapproval focused on the Israeli military instead.
Secondly, Netanyahu may not be right all of the time, but he certainly deserves more support from the United States than he has received during Barack Obama’s tenure. Obama has repeatedly made it clear that his administration is no friend to Israel; indeed, by clearing the way for Israel’s primary threat Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, thanks to John Kerry’s disastrous nuclear agreement with the Islamic regime, Obama could reasonably be considered by Netanyahu to be an enemy of Israel as well. If Sanders is truly pro-Israel, he should be emphasizing clearly on the campaign trail that if he is elected, the tiny Middle Eastern democracy will have a friend again in the White House.
As for his jab at Hillary for not putting an emphasis on the Palestinian plight before her AIPAC audience: Sanders tellingly was the only presidential candidate who did not even address the organization’s nearly 20,000 members.
The Progressive media predictably gushed over Sanders’ remarks, as if he had bravely smashed through a wall of silence to take an unpopular stand alongside the suffering Palestinians. “In reality,” Tablet’s Kirchik wrote, denouncing Israel over its purported bullying of Palestinians “is as much a ‘taboo’ as being in favor of healthy school lunches or cleaner air and water.”
But as Kirchik points out, the significance of Sanders’ “supposedly heretical pabulum” lay not so much in what he said as in its value as “virtue-signaling” to those whom Sanders considers righteous Jews, the liberal ones who desire to distinguish themselves from their “less sophisticated co-religionists.” Despite being the most successful Jewish presidential candidate in American history, Sanders seems eager to avoid having his Jewishness highlighted in the media lest he too be considered the wrong kind of Jew.
Among the examples Kirchik adduces: earlier this month, a questioner at the Apollo Theater in Harlem repeated the old anti-Semitic chestnut that Zionist Jews “run the Federal Reserve, they run Wall Street, they run every campaign.” He asked Sanders to clarify his “affiliation to your Jewish community.” Rather than take the opportunity to slam the bigoted suggestion that greedy Jews control world finance, Sanders again steered the topic toward his banal position on the Palestinian conflict: “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.”
Then there was his eyebrow-raising interview with the Daily News in which he claimed that Israel had killed a whopping 10,000 civilians in the 2014 Gaza War. Corrected by the Anti-Defamation League, Sanders’ campaign then scaled back on that figure to align with the United Nations’ still grossly incorrect estimate of about 1,500 civilians. “But for Sanders and his ‘good Jews,’” Kirchik writes, “even one Palestinian killed unintentionally by Israeli forces in the midst of an ethically justified, defensive war provoked by its adversary—is proof of some horrible moral outrage committed not by the Palestinians but by Israel.” There is that “disproportionate force” fallacy rearing its ugly head again.
“For many left-wing Jews,” Kirchik states, distancing themselves from Israel and the American Jewish majority “has become a marker of enlightenment and urbanity,” and the Sanders campaign is becoming an arena in which “the new rules that govern Jewish participation on the progressive left” are becoming clear:
One cannot simply be a Jew: One must be a Jew who loudly and proudly declaims his distance from Israel and the American Jewish “establishment” at every possible opportunity. And unlike every other member of the progressive coalition, Judaism and Jewish peoplehood must only be expressed through a universalist vision of “social justice” that emphatically proclaims that Jewish causes and rights are no more (or usually less) worthy than those of Black Lives Matter, the Palestinians, La Raza, etc., and which sees this self-abnegation as the price of entry—for Jews alone.
Last month, in a Village Voice cover story titled, “The Heresy and Evangelism of Bernie Sanders,” Jesse Alexander Myerson argued that “Jews should embrace socialism and reject Zionism. And in Sanders, Kirchik says, “Myerson sees a candidate who, whatever his perfunctory endorsements of Israel’s right of self-defense, is an avatar of a new, post-Zionist Jewish identity.”
Bernie Sanders and his ilk may continue to attempt to distance themselves from Israel and Zionism, Kirchik concludes, “but it will make no difference to the people they are trying to please, who continue to reduce them to a single factor of their identity which in their minds has attained the totalizing force of an epithet: Jew.”
Mark Tapson is the editor of TruthRevolt.org and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.