Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
Why won’t Bernie Sanders stop attacking Israel? That’s the question some Jewish supporters are asking as the troubled campaign continues alienating Jews while pandering to haters of the Jewish State.
For the longest time it was all but impossible to get Bernie to even admit he was Jewish. His campaign conducted no outreach to Jewish groups while aggressively pursuing outreach to Muslim groups such as CAIR. CAIR is an anti-Semitic Islamist group with known ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
In New York, the Sanders campaign seemingly had to bow to reality and actually reach out to Jews.
But instead the Sanders campaign set out to offend and alienate Jews in New York, as it had done to Jews all over the country, by selecting an anti-Israel activist who had defended Muslim anti-Semitism.
Simone Zimmerman, formerly of J Street, had made a name for herself by harassing Jewish charities that help people in Israel. Zimmerman had defended BDS and opposed Israel’s campaign against Hamas, saying, “We think it’s important to understand the context of occupation".
Zimmerman’s first attempt at outreach to Jewish supporters ended in disaster with a shouting match at a Jews for Bernie event. But Jews for Bernie is run by Daniel Sieradski, another opponent of Israel, who distributed a meme during the last war with Hamas which asserted that "That's why Palestinians are fighting back." Sieradski had claimed in the past that the real threat wasn’t Hamas whose leaders “just want to make life better for their people”, but Jewish “ethnic exclusivity”.
Why would any serious presidential campaign think that putting anti-Israel activists like Simone Zimmermanand Daniel Sieradski out front is a good idea? Coming on the heels of Bernie Sanders’ lie that Israel had killed “10,000 innocent people” in Gaza while fighting Hamas, this looks like a deliberate plan to alienate Jews.
And it just might be.
The New York State Director of the Bernie Sanders campaign is Robert Becker. Becker had previously overseen the Sanders campaign in the Midwest. He’s the sort of hipster activist who wears a keffiyah on a professional basis. His Twitter account features his name in both Arabic and English.
Scroll through his social media and you find extensive stories of Sanders outreach to Muslims, vastly out of proportion to their numbers in the voting population, but no mention of outreach to Jews. The only mentions here are negative. Becker prominently features the Sanders attacks on Israel. He links to a JTA post whitewashing Simone Zimmerman’s hatred for the Jewish State. And it is highly likely that picking a rabid anti-Israel activist and BDS supporter to do Jewish outreach was Becker’s decision.
In the war between Israel and the terrorists, there was little doubt which side Becker was on.
Robert Becker repeatedly attacked Israel for its campaign against Hamas during Operation Pillar of Defense retweeting #GazaUnderAttack hashtagged messages, including one in support of a propagandist for Hamas’ Al Aqsa TV. He retweeted a defense of Hamas and suggested that Israel had only won in the past because Arab countries were American “puppets”.
Does the hatred for the Jewish State in the Sanders campaign in New York trickle down from the top?
Before Bernie, Robert Becker had trained members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party while working for the National Democratic Institute in Egypt and is the founder of the Tanzeem Group. In the aftermath of the coup against Mubarak, Becker had even ominously warned that there would be violence if the totalitarian Islamist thugs of the Muslim Brotherhood were not elected.
The Muslim Brotherhood is the parent organization of Al Qaeda and Hamas.
Robert Becker went on trial in Egypt for illegally operating organizations with illicit money. Such organizations were instrumental in the original coup against the Egyptian government which led to the Islamist takeover of Egypt. This in turn gave Hamas and ISIS in the Sinai a shot in the arm while terrorizing Christians. The National Democratic Institute parted ways with Becker. The court convicted him and he fled Egyptian justice only to turn up again working for Bernie Sanders.
While Becker whined incessantly about his trial in Egypt, he cheered the arrest of a filmmaker in the US who had uploaded The Innocence of Muslims video to YouTube. Rather than a supporter of human rights and free speech, Robert Becker revealed himself to be a proponent of Islamist agendas.
While Becker eventually came out against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, after the damage was done, his role in the Sanders campaign appears to be an extension of his work in Egypt. Becker’s social media shows an emphasis on anti-Israel activists like Mona Eltahawy and Linda Sarsour. Sarsour had described Muslim stone throwing at Jews as “the definition of courage”. It comes as no surprise that Simone Zimmerman and other elements of the Sanders campaign are also big fans of Linda Sarsour.
With Becker, Bernie Sanders has an operation for reaching out to Muslims, but not to Jews.
Becker is a veteran by now when it comes to political campaigns in the Muslim world. And he’s trying to build up a reputation for being able to apply his expertise with Muslims to American political campaigns. The narrative that Bernie Sanders is doing well with Muslims is based on iffy data, but is less about Sanders than about building up Robert Becker’s specialized political resume for future political campaigns.
Bernie Sanders might need Jewish votes, but Robert Becker doesn’t. And so Bernie Sanders is tanking with Jewish voters while Robert Becker maximizes his appeal to Muslims by turning even the campaign’s weak Jewish outreach into an opportunity to attack Israel and to pander to haters of the Jewish State.
Campaigns are routinely undermined by political operatives pursuing their own agendas. It’s where most of the leaks and insider narratives come from. And yet the buck stops with Bernie Sanders.
Bernie Sanders may choose not to know what his disastrous campaign has become in New York, but no one is forcing him to constantly attack Israel or defend Hamas in Gaza.
The Sanders campaign has been curiously hostile to Jews all along. While Bernie Sanders is ethnically Jewish, his campaign is dominated by members of the radical left who may find individual Jews on the left to be acceptable, but who possess an active dislike for the Jewish community as a whole.
The alienation of even Jewish Sanders supporters is the outcome of that ugly and bigoted attitude.
Bernie Sanders outsourced his presidential campaign to people who hate Jews and Israel. And rather than standing up to them, he has gone along with their hatred, counting on his mannerisms and accent to deflect concern about the rising wave of ugliness within his own ranks. And it isn’t working anymore.
Pandering to Muslim hostility toward Israel is a bigoted tactic that has lost him the Jewish vote. The Sanders campaign has provided yet another platform to opponents of Israel like Simone Zimmerman while distancing the Democratic Party even further from the mainstream Jewish community.
Just two days into her new job as national Jewish outreach coordinator for the Bernie Sanders campaign, Simone Zimmerman has been suspended for writing profane Facebook posts about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Zimmerman, an outspoken critic of the Israeli government, was a somewhat controversial choice from the start. The New York Times reported late Thursday that “a chorus of Jewish figures” had called on the Sanders campaign to dismiss the 25-year-old, but that “the final straw was a report on Wednesday in the Washington Free Beacon,” highlighting a March 3, 2015, Facebook post in which Zimmerman called Netanyahu “an arrogant, deceptive, cynical, manipulative a**hole.”
“F*** you, Bibi,” read the original post, which Zimmerman later edited with less crude language. “You sanctioned the murder of over 2,000 people this summer.”
“She has been suspended while we investigate the matter,” Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs told the Times via email.
The news comes just days before the primary election in New York — home to the country’s largest concentration of Jewish voters, a population Sanders has struggled to court.
In fact, recent polls have found that more than 60 percent of Jewish Democrats in New York support Hillary Clinton over Sanders, a Brooklyn native who has already made it further in this presidential campaign than any other Jewish candidate in history.
While his campaign’s decision to suspend Zimmerman may reflect an attempt to appeal to more mainline Jewish voters ahead of Tuesday’s primary, for some voters Zinmerman’s comments may underscore suspicions about how strong a supporter of Israel, sanders is—suspicions that may be reinforced by statements he made during Thursday night’s debate.
“As somebody who is 100 percent pro-Israel … in the long run, if we are ever going to bring peace to that region, which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity,” Sanders said at the Democratic debate in his native Brooklyn Thursday. “I believe the United States and the rest of the world have got to work together to help the Palestinian people. That does not make me anti-Israel. That paves the way, I think, to an approach that works in the Middle East.”