I support Bernie Sanders for president.
CNN pundit Paul Begala, it’s safe to say, does not.
The closely watched Iowa caucuses on Monday will mark the first time American voters cast ballots in the 2020 presidential race. Iowans will be choosing who they want as the Democratic Party’s nominee to face Donald Trump in November’s general election.
Following questions about an obvious conflict of interest, Begala announced that “to avoid confusion, I will be taking a leave of absence from the DMFI board until the primary season is over.”
The 30-second ad – which can be viewed here – takes aim at Sanders’ election viability, socialism and health following a heart attack last year:
It says nothing about Israel and refers only to “DMFI PAC” without spelling out that this stands for the political action committee of Democratic Majority for Israel.
That unwillingness to mention Israel signals a sea change among Democratic voters who are moving away from Israel’s brand of apartheid and anti-Palestinian discrimination and gravitating toward a candidate willing to say, as Sanders has, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “a racist” and that Israel’s actions are unacceptable.
Good, not perfect
That said, and though he surpasses the other candidates on Palestinian rights, Sanders and his foreign policy adviser Matt Duss still do not support and show solidarity with the nonviolent Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for freedom and equality.
Sanders also joined with 11 other US Senators this week in signing a letter to President Trump that continues to support “the vision of a democratic Jewish state.”
As has been frequently noted, this vision is only possible at the expense of fundamental Palestinian rights.
This is akin to trying to convince Americans that a white supremacist Jim Crow Christian South would be a good idea. Indeed, it is like saying that such official racism would provide the “solution” to Black Americans being denied civil rights, because they could have their own separate bantustans.
When apartheid is being foisted on a people it is imperative to speak out for equal rights and not for supremacy of one people over another, or for political and physical separation of peoples based on race, ethnicity or religion.
The senators are smart enough to reject a “fragmented, disconnected and deeply unequal system of Palestinian islets surrounded by Israeli territory” but not brave enough to call it apartheid or bantustans – though Sanders adviser Duss did so from his personal Twitter account.
And Duss also indicated that he is researching how to put conditions on US aid to Israel.
These are positive signs and Sanders and his team – notwithstanding noted shortcomings – have been outspoken enough to upset Democratic Majority for Israel, an organization which is desperate to maintain bipartisan support for Israel at a time when grassroots Democrats are increasingly rejecting Israel’s brutality toward Palestinians.
Begala’s claim not to have known about the ad seems unlikely, but in any case DMFI already had a clear record of attacking Sanders.
The organization made a broader attack against Sanders and Sarsour as well as other unnamed surrogates and endorsers in October.
The group also criticized congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the first two Muslim women elected to the US Congress, over their plans for a trip to the occupied West Bank. Both congresswomen support Sanders.
Begala has no excuse for not knowing about all these attacks and smears as he sat on the board of Democratic Majority for Israel. It is also notable that he did not disavow the ad as he stepped aside from DMFI.
If the Sanders campaign is victorious in Iowa, or highly competitive, more such attacks can be expected.
Strikingly, however, such efforts may backfire as supporters of Sanders become more determined to back their candidate.