Timid Democrats let Sanders, a leading Democratic presidential contender, get pummeled while remaining silent on the racism of President Donald Trump and top officials such as Stephen Miller, Ambassador David Friedman and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Anti-Semitic violence and other acts of racism have exploded during Trump’s three-year tenure.
Former Vice President and the new Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden, who backed the war against Iraq, spoke by video from South Carolina. He did note the rise in anti-Semitism in the US, but without mentioning Trump.
Biden voiced support for an exclusivist Jewish state – whitewashed as democratic and Jewish as though that was not implicitly against the rights of Palestinian citizens – and, in a dig at Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, indicated he would never boycott AIPAC.
In doing so, he normalized the hate at AIPAC that Sanders has pushed back against in recent days.
At AIPAC, however, punching Sanders proved sport for participants.
Danny Danon, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, slammed Sanders as an “ignorant fool.”
“We don’t want Bernie Sanders at AIPAC. We don’t want him in Israel,” Danon exclaimed as he pushed the split within the Democratic Party over Israel.
CNN commentator Paul Begala, who was recently compelled to take a temporary leave of absence from the board of Democratic Majority for Israel, which is closely connected to AIPAC, joked at Sanders’ expense that Israel has an excellent childhood literacy program and doesn’t put dissidents in jail (because Palestinians don’t count).
Sanders, days earlier, had come under right-wing and centrist criticism for acknowledging the benefits of Fidel Castro’s literacy campaigns in Cuba at the same time that many Americans were busy trying to uphold Jim Crow segregation in the South.
Mike Bloomberg, the only Democratic presidential aspirant to appear in person at the conference, said that Sanders is “dead wrong” for calling AIPAC a racist platform. He then added, “AIPAC doesn’t fuel hatred. AIPAC works to combat it – and the violence that it can produce.”
Bloomberg announced Wednesday he is dropping out of the race and endorsing Biden.
With Bloomberg now out, the looming question is whether Warren will stay in or leave the race with a possible endorsement of Sanders. Presidential rivals Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg both dropped out shortly after the South Carolina primary and endorsed Biden, contributing to Sanders’ campaign – which I support – taking a serious body blow on Super Tuesday.
Vice President Mike Pence accused Sanders of “smearing” Israel. In fact, Sanders recently criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “reactionary racist” and took AIPAC to task for providing a platform for bigotry of the sort plainly evident not just from Netanyahu but from speakers such as Pastor Myles Holmes.
Sanders, however, has repeatedly expressed overall pro-Israel sentiment and failed to note that racism isn’t just a problem of Netanyahu, but of much of the Israeli voting public. He’s been very cautious in an environment where the least criticism related to Israel continues to set one apart. That said, he remains stronger on Palestinian rights than Biden or Warren.
Pence also announced it is “the position of the United States government that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”
This essentially dismisses as anti-Semitic any Palestinian description of the injustice and tragedy that befell them and their relatives as a result of the founding of the Israeli state in Palestine.
It’s absurd that a Palestinian – or anyone else – speaking out against ethnic cleansing and dispossession should be considered an anti-Semite by the US government. To be Palestinian and be willing to speak out is now to be defined as a bigot by right-wing racists seeking to wordsmith Palestine-related human rights activism into oblivion.
It was striking that no Democrats came to Netanyahu’s defense in the South Carolina debate when Sanders called him a “reactionary racist.” In Democratic circles at the national level presidential candidates now realize that leaping to the Likud leader’s defense is a loser – and at odds with the facts.
But Eliot Engel, chairman of the House of Representatives’ foreign affairs committee, remains ready to defend military aid to Israel. He argued Monday that “conditioning aid to Israel has to be just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
He added, “Anybody who talks about conditioning aid doesn’t get my vote.”
Does this mean, congressman, that should Sanders or Warren get the Democratic nomination you’ll sit it out or vote for the racist Donald Trump?