Bernie Sanders Is the Wrong Choice for Democrats and Jews
On Tuesday, I will be voting in the Massachusetts Democratic presidential primary. As a young American Jew whose family emigrated from the Soviet Union, one of my top priorities in the 2020 election is that the next president fights the rising scourge of antisemitism in the United States and supports Israel, the sole Jewish state. I strongly believe that the current national and Massachusetts front-runner in the race, Senator Bernie Sanders, is bad news for American Jewry.
Sanders has a history of apologizing for and tacitly supporting antisemitic regimes. My family emigrated from the Soviet Union to the United States as refugees, fleeing pervasive, state-sponsored antisemitism that was often expressed as anti-Zionism. Hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews were not as lucky as my family, and became known as refuseniks because the Soviet regime denied them exit permits.
In 1987, a quarter of a million American Jews marched on Washington to demand freedom for Soviet Jewry. Bernie Sanders was nowhere to be found. Instead, in 1988, Sanders decided to honeymoon in the Soviet Union and buddy-up to the autocratic regime that discriminated against Soviet Jews, and caused endless suffering in the USSR and across the world.
Sanders has also lavished praised on the repressive and authoritarian Castro regime in Cuba, which was certainly anti-Zionist, if not antisemitic. Sanders also supported the Marxist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, and attended a rally at which people chanted “here and there the Yankee will die.” The Sandinista regime faced accusations of antisemitism, including allegations of the involvement of Sandinistas in the 1978 firebombing of a synagogue in the capital, Managua. Most recently, Sanders has refused to acknowledge that the Maduro regime in Venezuela is dictatorial and should step aside. The Venezuelan regime has engaged in state-sponsored antisemitism and actively supports the terror-sponsoring Iranian government.
True, Sanders has claimed that he is proud of his Jewish heritage and even released a video ad pushing this message. But if one is to judge Sanders by his past words and deeds, then he has not once truly stood up for American Jews. Instead, he has supported and defended antisemitic leaders and regimes.
And then there are Sanders’ surrogates, comprising a who’s who of antisemites and ardent anti-Zionists. Linda Sarsour has praised the antisemitic, homophobic, and misogynist Louis Farrakhan — who, among dozens of horrible things, has called Jews “termites.” There’s also Amer Zahr, who has accused Israel of waging “Jewish jihad” against Palestinians.
And Sanders’ campaign is replete with supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, such as Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). And when Rep. Omar came under fire for antisemitic remarks insinuating Jews are bribing the American government to support Israel, Sanders defended criticism of Omar as “outrageous” and “racist.”
Recently, Sanders boycotted the annual bipartisan and pro-Israel AIPAC conference, explaining that he was “concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.” Some criticism of AIPAC is certainly legitimate, including for the organization’s decision to invite Aleksandar Vucic, the Serbian president who previously justified the Srebrenica Massacre of 8,000 Muslims, and proclaimed “you kill one Serb and we will kill 100 Muslims” after the massacre. AIPAC’s decision to invite Vucic was unquestionably wrong.
Interestingly, however, Sanders reserves his criticism almost exclusively for the Israeli government and pro-Israel groups, and defends bigots who align with his worldview. Indeed, the Sanders foreign policy doctrine would further isolate Israel and push the country to ally with undemocratic regimes and leaders solely out of necessity, in effect leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy and allowing the anti-Israel Sanders surrogates to further justify their rhetoric.
On Super Tuesday, I will be voting for a candidate who represents my ideals, who reflects my support for the sole Jewish state, and who aims to address the problem of growing antisemitism in the United States on both the political right and left. That candidate will certainly not be Bernie Sanders.
Josh Eibelman is a student at Cornell University, where he studies biology and psychology. @JoshEibelman