The term “racist,” which the senator from Vermont applied to Israel by an irresponsible flap of the tongue, will take root in the public consciousness, and every time Israel is mentioned, the word will be associated with it. That is how propaganda works, and Sanders knows that very well.
An analysis of Sanders’s previous comments about Israel demonstrates that insulting the Jewish state is not a one-time slip-up by a demagogue senator trying to gather votes from the fringes of the Democratic Party. In Sanders’s case, this is his approach in everything having to do with Israel. He isn’t deterred by half-truths or even outright lies that reference the worst antisemitic stereotypes. There are plenty of examples.
When Sanders wanted to win the Democratic nomination in 2016, he claimed that Israel had killed over 10,000 innocent Palestinians, launched indiscriminate attacks in the Gaza Strip, and shelled hospitals during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The senator not only inflated the numbers by several orders of magnitude, he even outdid Hamas spokespeople in creating a false narrative that the IDF was intentionally attacking the civilian population.
A year ago, when Hamas launched a serious of riotous protests along the Gaza border, calling them “the march of return,” Sanders again piped up with statements that were perfectly aligned with the terrorist organization’s position. In a TV interview, he called them peaceful protesters. What about the explosives devices thrown at the fence, the shots fired at Israeli soldiers, the vandalism to the fence itself, the kibbutz fields that were being set on fire by arson balloons and kites, and the violation of Israeli sovereignty? Sanders hadn’t heard about any of this, and if he had, he refused to believe it.
But he does believe that Israel is a “racist” state, even though it grants freedom and equality to all its citizens, even those who openly declare that they aspire to see an end to the Jewish state. Not surprisingly, as the American public sphere was being truly polluted by racist comments about Jews by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Sanders rushed to lend her a hand. In that case, like when he backed up Hamas’s claims, the fact that Sanders is Jewish was a great boon for those who slander Israel. When a Jew hurls accusations at his own people or the Jewish state, it always sounds more convincing. That is nothing new, either — for antisemites, Jews who turned on their own or made up stories about them were always especially valuable.
Ariel Bolstein is the founder of the Israel advocacy organization Faces of Israel. This column first appeared on Israel Hayom.