Now they’re gunning for Bernie…

JVL Introduction

In a shabby piece of political partisanship, Deborah E. Lipstadt, distinguished scholar of the Holocaust, turns her guns on Bernie Sanders for being – wait for it – blind to antisemitism on the left.

Her attack is full of distortion and vindictive misreading and her occasional “evidence” is, bizarrely, largely from Britain and is presented as revealed truth: Jeremy Corbyn and co “have not only cavorted with antisemites and Holocaust deniers but have adamantly refused to take antisemitism seriously and have outrageously blamed the victims for their own travail”; Corbyn is “openly supporting violencewhen he  “welcomes Hamas and Hezbollah leaders” (ignoring his decades long and repeatedly stated conviction that you have to talk to enemies as well as friends if you want to make peace). BDS’s founders also get it in the neck, “supporting violence” with their “call for the destruction of the state of Israel”.

And Sanders is then accused of using “antisemitism as a cudgel to score political points”!

There is a Yiddish word for it  – chutzpah.


Addition: Bernie Sanders’  statement on antisemitism follows the Lipstadt article below

This article was originally published by Forward on Tue 12 Nov 2019. Read the original here.

Bernie Sanders Is Blind To The Anti-Semitism On His Own Side

Bernie Sanders reminds me of Moshe Dayan. (Read on please.) He’s got a patch on one eye. Dayan wore his patch because of military injury. Sanders wears his for ideological purposes. It’s on his left eye and it prevents him from seeing what’s going on next to him. However, it leaves him eagle eyed for correctly seeing events across the political transom.

In a recent essay in Jewish Currents, a magazine that describes itself as “a magazine committed to… thought, activism, and culture of the left,” Sanders expressed his concerns about the rising tide of antisemitism. He correctly analyzed the expressions of antisemitism on the far right: “They accuse Jews of coordinating a massive attack on white people worldwide, using people of color and other marginalized groups to do their dirty work.”

He also correctly identified antisemitism for what it is: an absurd “conspiracy theory that a secretly powerful minority exercises control over society.” It serves, Sanders correctly observes, “to divide people from one another and prevent us from fighting together for a shared future of equality, peace, prosperity, and environmental justice.” It is, Sanders notes, “what drove the Pittsburgh murderer — that Jews are conspiring to bring immigrants into the country to ‘replace’ Americans.”

Reading the essay, I was pleased at his accurate analysis of the situation. I even allowed myself to think that maybe he used my recent book, Antisemitism Here and Now, as a resource.

But, as I read on, I realized that if he had actually relied on my book, he had read selectively. His selective view of the situation became clear when I read his statement that “opposing antisemitism is a core value of progressivism.”

That may have once been an accurate assessment. Today it is no longer the case.

The sentence should read, “Opposing antisemitism should be a core value of progressivism.” It should be. But today, it is not.

And it is here that Sanders’s eye patch comes into play. He, like so many others on both the right and the left, only sees the antisemitism on the other side of the political transom. If they are on the left, they are very adept at seeing it on the right. And if they are on the right they are adept at seeing it on the left. In neither case do they see it what is adjacent to them.

Anyone who has followed the exploits of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom and the way in which Jeremy Corbyn and those around him have not only cavorted with antisemites and Holocaust deniers but have adamantly refused to take antisemitism seriously and have outrageously blamed the victims for their own travail, knows that this is not soley a problem of the right.

Though the antisemitism of the right and the left rely on the same tropes and stereotypes, they constitute different threats. The right has become overtly violent. Pittsburgh, Poway, and Halle. The names come rolling off our tongues easily and with an eerie familiarity. There are, of course, so many other places where similar tragedies have been prevented by good police work.

Some people, particularly those on the right, dismiss these assailants are representing a fringe element. But this fringe has been motivated by others who do not commit such violence but know how to stir it up.

On the left, the antisemitism is more structural in nature. It expresses itself in institutions and organizations, such as the UK Labour party. But it, too, can lead to violence.

When Jeremy Corbyn welcomes Hamas and Hezbollah leaders to the Parliament and describes them as “our friends,” he is openly supporting violence. When Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory embrace Louis Farrakhan, whose words drip with antisemitic incitement, they are helping fuel the violence that is so evident in places such as Crown Heights, where some African Americans have declared it open season on Jews. When the founders of the BDS movement call for the destruction of the state of Israel, they are supporting violence.

It was good to see Sanders identify himself as a Jew. (He often describes himself as the son of “Polish immigrants”. Though I did not know them, I have little doubt that his parents did not think of themselves as Poles. As Polish Jews? Yes. Poles? No way. And even more so, Polish non-Jewish immigrants certainly did not think of them as Poles.)

It was good to see him come out in favor of a two-state solution — though, according to him, the only thing necessary for such a solution is for Israel to make concessions; the other side is free from any wrong.

But for him to take this myopic view of such a pernicious problem leads to only one conclusion: He is more interested in scoring points against the right than he is in helping alleviate the results of this longest hatred.

Sanders, of course, is not alone. He has many compatriots on the right who do not see the hatred brewing right next to them. Nor do they acknowledge the role President Trump, who I have no reason to believe is an antisemite, plays in dividing Americans into “us” and “them.”

For the moment, Jews are among the “us.” But history teaches us not to expect that to last.

It is time to stop the use of antisemitism as a cudgel to score political points. Politically weaponizing this longest hatred does, at its best, nothing to stop it. At its worst, it gives comfort and cover to the very antisemites people like Sanders, on the left, and those on the right claim they want to stop.

Both sides should take off their eyepatch and see — however painful it may be — what is happening right next to them.

Deborah E. Lipstadt is Dorot Professor of Holocaust History at Emory University and the author of Antisemitism Here and Now. She is currently serving as Ina Levine Invitational Scholar at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Fighting antisemitism is at the heart of the left’s struggle against oppression

The antisemites threatening us don’t just hate Jews. They hate the idea of multiracial democracy and political equality

Bernie Sanders
Guardian, 12 Nov 2019

On 27 October, we marked one year since the worst antisemitic attack in American history, when a white nationalist walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdered 11 people and injured six others. He acted on a twisted belief that Jews were part of a nefarious plot to undermine white America – a plot to assist in the “invasion” of the United States by a caravan of migrants from Latin America. This vicious lie about an “invasion” had been repeated endlessly in rightwing media, on Fox News, across the internet and, most disgracefully, by the president of the United States.

Yes, Donald Trump’s own words helped to inspire the worst act of antisemitic violence in American history.

The threat of antisemitism is not some abstract idea to me. It is very personal. It destroyed a large part of my family. I am not someone who spends a lot of time talking about my personal background because I believe political leaders should focus their attention on a vision and agenda for others, rather than themselves. But I also appreciate that it’s important to talk about how our backgrounds have informed our ideas, our principles and our values. I am a proud Jewish American. My father emigrated from Poland to the United States in 1921 at the age of 17 to escape the poverty and widespread antisemitism of his home country. Those in his family who remained in Poland after Hitler came to power were murdered by the Nazis. I know very well where white supremacist politics leads, and what can happen when people do not speak up against it.

My pride and admiration for Israel lives alongside my support for Palestinian freedom and independence. I reject the notion that there is any contradiction there

Antisemitism is rising in this country. According to the FBI, hate crimes against Jews rose by more than a third in 2017 and accounted for 58% of all religion-based hate crimes in America. A total of 938 hate crimes were committed against Jews in 2017, up from 684 in 2016. Just last week, on 4 November, we learned that federal authorities had arrested a man in Colorado they believe was involved in a plot to bomb one of the state’s oldest synagogues.

This wave of violence is the result of a dangerous political ideology that targets Jews and anyone who does not fit a narrow vision of a whites-only America. We have to be clear that while antisemitism is a threat to Jews everywhere, it is also a threat to democratic governance itself. The antisemites who marched in Charlottesville don’t just hate Jews. They hate the idea of multiracial democracy. They hate the idea of political equality. They hate immigrants, people of colour, LGBTQ people, women, and anyone else who stands in the way of a whites-only America. They accuse Jews of coordinating a massive attack on white people worldwide, using people of colour and other marginalised groups to do their dirty work.

This is the conspiracy theory that drove the Pittsburgh murderer – that Jews are conspiring to bring immigrants into the country to “replace” Americans. And it is important to understand that that is what antisemitism is: a conspiracy theory that a secretly powerful minority exercises control over society.

Like other forms of bigotry – racism, sexism, homophobia – antisemitism is used by the right to divide people from one another and prevent us from fighting together for a shared future of equality, peace, prosperity and environmental justice.

Opposing antisemitism is a core value of progressivism. So it’s very troubling to me that we are also seeing accusations of antisemitism used as a cynical political weapon against progressives. One of the most dangerous things Trump has done is divide Americans by using false allegations of antisemitism, mostly regarding the US–Israel relationship. We should be very clear that it is not antisemitic to criticise the policies of the Israeli government.

I have a connection to Israel going back many years. In 1963, I lived on a kibbutz near Haifa. It was there that I saw and experienced for myself many of the progressive values upon which Israel was founded. I think it is very important for everyone, but particularly for progressives, to acknowledge the enormous achievement of establishing a democratic homeland for the Jewish people after centuries of displacement and persecution.

We must also be honest about this: the founding of Israel is understood by another people in the land of Palestine as the cause of their painful displacement. And just as Palestinians should recognise the just claims of Israeli Jews, supporters of Israel must understand why Palestinians view Israel’s creation as they do. Acknowledging these realities does not “delegitimise” Israel any more than acknowledging the sober facts of America’s own founding delegitimises the United States.

It is true that some criticism of Israel can cross the line into antisemitism, especially when it denies the right of self-determination to Jews, or when it plays into conspiracy theories about outsized Jewish power. I will always call out antisemitism when I see it. My ancestors would expect no less of me. As president, I will strengthen both domestic and international efforts to combat this hatred. I will direct the Justice Department to prioritise the fight against white nationalist violence. I will not wait two years to appoint a special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, as Trump did; I will appoint one immediately.

When I look at the Middle East, I see Israel as having the capacity to contribute to peace and prosperity for the entire region, yet unable to achieve this in part because of its unresolved conflict with the Palestinians. And I see a Palestinian people yearning to make their contribution – and with so much to offer – yet crushed beneath a military occupation that is now over a half-century old, creating a daily reality of pain, humiliation and resentment.

Ending that occupation and enabling the Palestinians to have self-determination in an independent, democratic, economically viable state of their own is in the best interests of the United States, Israel, the Palestinians and the region. My pride and admiration for Israel lives alongside my support for Palestinian freedom and independence.

I reject the notion that there is any contradiction there. The forces fomenting antisemitism are the forces arrayed against oppressed people around the world, including Palestinians; the struggle against antisemitism is also the struggle for Palestinian freedom. I stand in solidarity with my friends in Israel, in Palestine and around the world who are trying to resolve conflict, diminish hatred, and promote dialogue, cooperation and understanding.

We need this solidarity desperately now. All over the world – in Russia, in India, in Brazil, in Hungary, in Israel and elsewhere – we see the rise of a divisive and destructive form of politics. We see intolerant, authoritarian political leaders attacking the very foundations of democratic societies. These leaders exploit people’s fears by amplifying resentments, stoking intolerance and inciting hatred against ethnic and religious minorities, fanning hostility toward democratic norms and a free press, and promoting constant paranoia about foreign plots. We see this very clearly in our own country. It is coming from the highest level of our government. It is coming from Donald Trump’s tweets, and from his own mouth.

As a people who have experienced oppression and persecution for hundreds of years, Jews understand the danger. But we also have a tradition that points the way forward. I am a proud member of the tradition of Jewish social justice. And I am so inspired when I see so many Jewish people picking up this banner, especially the younger generation of Jews, who are helping to lead a revival of progressive values in the US. They see the fight against antisemitism and for Jewish liberation as connected to the fight for the liberation of oppressed people around the world. They are part of a broad coalition of activists from many different backgrounds who believe very deeply, as I always have, that we are all in this together.

  • Bernie Sanders is a United States senator from Vermont and a candidate in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. This article originally appeared in Jewish Currents, an award-winning publication of politics, arts and culture