Bernie Sanders’ Turn against Israel, and What It Means for the Democrats

June 18, 2018 | Jonathan Tobin
About the author:

After making a surprisingly good showing in his bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders has become a leading figure in his party’s left wing—which has always been the segment least supportive of Israel. Jonathan Tobin notes that Sanders’ recent public statements and videos posted on his official Twitter account suggest Sanders himself is moving from a tepid sympathy toward the Jewish state to outright hostility:

[Sanders’] support [for Israel] was never enthusiastic and often deeply critical. But in the last several weeks, he hasn’t merely revisited his opposition to Israel’s measures of self-defense [that he articulated in] 2014. Last month, in addition to condemning Israel for using “disproportionate” force to defend itself, Sanders . . . authored a letter signed by twelve other Senate Democrats that demanded the lifting of the blockade of Gaza. . . .

But with last week’s Twitter videos, Sanders took another step away from even nominal support for the Jewish state. He has adopted the Palestinian narrative about the “Great March of Return” in total. He not only accepts the blatantly false claim that it is “non-violent,” thereby ignoring the use of Molotov cocktails, stones, firearms, and incendiary [kites and balloons] that have laid waste to swaths of Israeli fields. He also claims that Hamas wasn’t involved despite the fact that it has already claimed responsibility and admitted that most of those killed while attempting to breach Israel’s border fence were members of the terror group. . . .

In doing so, Sanders isn’t merely taking another step away from the Democrats’ former position as a pro-Israel party. He’s laying down a marker that other liberal contenders in 2020 will either have to match or to oppose as they compete for the presidency. What this means is that unlike 2016—when the argument among Democrats was one about how supportive to be of Israel—in 2020 the question may be whether you agree with Hamas about destroying the Jewish nation, in essence rendering the position of the left-wing J Street lobby that, at least officially, sees itself as “pro-Israel and pro-peace” even more irrelevant. Pro-Israel Democrats . . . are going to need to find their voices—and a candidate—if they don’t want their party to become a stronghold of hate against Israel in the coming years.

Read more on JNS: