A United States plagued by inequality, corruption, racism, and war is gearing up for a polarizing and potentially explosive election season in 2020.
Most likely, President Trump will be the Republican nominee, while Sen. Bernie Sanders leads the pack of (declared) contenders with his democratic socialist challenge to the status quo.
Senator Sanders, however, is facing an opposition coalition that has found common cause in his destruction: Republicans, liberal Democrats and their common ally — Zionists.
Trump is in trouble. His term bursts at the seams with controversy, beleaguered with the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, a transparent and so-far failed coup attempt in Venezuela, a long list of more than two-dozen White House officials who were either fired or quit, hush payments to porn stars, major breaches in national security, support for unsavory racists and authoritarians, Mafioso-style appointments, and questionable security clearances for friends and family members. What’s more, recent polling show he has the lowest approval rating for this period of his presidency of any U.S. president in recent history. Yet in spite of Trump’s failed presidency and record of gross dishonesty, Republicans continue to back him. His is the true face of the capitalism they seek — unapologetically white supremacist, misogynistic, imperialist, corporate-friendly and xenophobic.
With nearly two-dozen declared and potential challengers to Trump, Democratic hopefuls are attempting to present themselves as alternatives to the president’s divisive, reactionary agenda.
Yet many of the centrist, neoliberal Democratic contenders are struggling to muster a real threat. Considering the current top six candidates: Sen. Kamala Harris has a dire history as a prosecutor; former Vice President Joe Biden (undeclared) has an abysmal track record of racism, warmongering and disregard for student debtors; Sen. Elizabeth Warren has yet to inspire mass support with her reforms and is plagued by controversies over her past declarations of Native American identity; Sen. Cory Booker has close ties to Silicon Valley, Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry; and Rep. Beto O’Rourke is described by many critics as much ado about no change.
The Democratic Contenders on Palestine
While most of the Democratic candidates purport some progressive ideas, on the whole, they subscribe to an imperialist foreign policy and an unquestioning allegiance to Israel as an ethno-nationalist, apartheid state. In other words, they can be considered “progressives except on Palestine.”
Senator Sanders breaks from the pack on foreign policy in general and especially in his views on Israel/Palestine. Though far from ideal with respect to Israeli apartheid and Palestinian rights, he is the most progressive candidate on this issue.
In fact, a new ad by the Sanders campaign explicitly adopts the “apartheid” terminology when referencing Palestine/Israel — an exceptional turn of events in U.S. political discourse.
Sanders skipped the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in 2016, another unprecedented move for a presidential hopeful in recent years, in order to deliver a Middle East policy address which outlined a kinship to Israel while acknowledging Palestinian rights. He condemned Israeli aggression against Palestinians during the “Great March of Return” protests on the Gaza fence and accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump of sharing a reactionary agenda promoted by their mutual donor: billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
Sanders’s important precedent in 2016 was recently picked up by MoveOn.org, a progressive advocacy group, calling on presidential candidates to skip the AIPAC meeting this year.
Rep. Ilhan Omar Breaks a Taboo
The appeal of Sanders-style democratic socialist policies is on the rise, as demonstrated by the meteoric success of three new Congresswomen — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota).
Recently, Representative Omar reignited an important conversation in the United States and the world. By questioning the influence of AIPAC on U.S. foreign policy, Omar rattled decades-old taboos and exposed Israeli propaganda points, which serve to maintain and further entrench the oppression and disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people.
The congresswoman’s statements and their ensuing fiasco laid bared the common hypocrisies, deep-seated racism and reactionary motives of all Zionists, ranging from individuals on the far right to those of a more “liberal” flavor.
However, in an unfortunate move following pressure from Zionists and their allies, Omar apologized, and far-right elements sought to hijack the conversation, focusing fallaciously and duplicitously on Jews to thwart Omar’s original intention of exposing a corrupt and destructive collaboration between the U.S. empire/benefactor and its settler colonial protégé: Israel.
Such a transition serves an imperialist and Zionist anti-Semitic agenda, which conflates Zionism with Judaism. The focus on Jews provides a smokescreen for a dynamic of resource acquisition by a ruling class in the U.S. and Israel at the expense of Palestinians and other victims of white supremacy, including Jews.
Fake accusations of “anti-Semitism,” reminiscent of those lobbed across the pond at British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, are intended to distract from ongoing corruptions within the ruling class, marginalize anti-racist dissidents and critics, fragment cohesive anti-colonial resistance, and promote real anti-Semitism and right-wing politics.
Accordingly, since this smear campaign began, Representative Omar has been subject to a barrage of hate, including threats to her safety, and the conversation has shifted from a discussion of the relationship between the U.S. and Israel to “anti-Semitism,” with Palestinians excluded from the public debate in the mainstream media. Some Minnesota Democrats, along with support from mainstream media and Trump himself, are already working to replace Omar in Congress.
The smear campaign patently achieved its purpose: Representative Omar has since published an op-ed in which she parroted liberal Zionist propaganda and reiterated her support for the washed-up “two-state solution” — a recipe for entrenched inequality, apartheid and injustice for Palestinians. Despite this capitulation to liberal standards, the smear campaign against Omar and her fellow pro-Palestinian progressives will likely continue and even accelerate.
That said, the debate Omar initiated surrounding AIPAC’s influence on U.S. policy surely played a role in the decision of seven (so far) Democratic presidential candidates to skip this year’s meeting.
Will Sanders Be the Next Target?
Omar was a natural target for Zionists and their allies on the white supremacist right; she is a rookie politician, Black, Muslim and a supporter of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Members of the Women’s March were similarly targeted.
The smear campaign against Omar is the sort of manufactured fiasco that can likewise be expected against Senator Sanders as he gains steam, potentially winning the Democratic Party nomination and facing Trump in the presidential elections.
In fact, it has already begun, with Zionists, liberal/centrist Democrats and Republicans joining forces.
In contrast to Omar, Sanders is Jewish, has direct ties to Israel and is a seasoned politician with substantial support for his campaign for president. As such, he may be seen as a greater threat than Omar because he has the capacity to undermine the central Zionist propaganda point that postulates that Zionism represents all Jews, and thus critiques of Israel are anti-Semitic.
Once Sanders or those close to him cross Israeli propaganda “red lines” — i.e., vocalize support for Palestinian rights or question the systemic oppression of Palestinians by Israel — the media will jump to accusations of “delegitimizing Israel” and supposed anti-Semitism in the Sanders camp. This form of manufactured controversy and rhetorical scapegoating produces a displacement of the conversation away from the crimes of Zionists to the victimhood of Jews and Israelis, marginalizing Palestinian voices in an attempt to tar Sanders’s candidacy and fragment his support.
Republicans have recognized the utility of this fallacious narrative and joined the chorus of smear artists. These include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump himself, who is now framing support for Zionism and Israel as a partisan issue, claiming the Democratic Party has become “anti-Jewish.”
A new Republican Zionist movement called “Jexodus,” whose far-right cre
Yet Omar’s detractors also included prominent liberal Democrats such as Chelsea Clinton. In fact, Clinton was recently confronted by two women — a Jewish Israeli and a Muslim Palestinian — for her role in the smear campaign against Omar at a vigil for the victims of the Islamophobic massacre in New Zealand. In this context, it is not surprising that a hardcore Zionist such as Alan Dershowitz would rush to Clinton’s defense.
In response to this campaign, Sanders defended Omar against her detractors, a positive sign that he may not buckle to pressure or apologize for factual claims regarding Israeli criminality and apartheid.
However, it did not take long for accusations of employing an “anti-Semitic” trope — “dual allegiance” — to surface against one of Sanders’s aides. Further, the primary instigator of the campaign against Omar — Batya Ungar-Sargon, the liberal Zionist editor at The Forward — admitted on Twitter that her focus was primarily on Sanders, not the aide:
This is not this aide's fault. Recall that @BernieSanders's own statement failed to call Congresswoman Omar's statements problematic in any way. He said the criticism was stifling debate about Israel. So OF COURSE his aides think he thinks it's ok to accuse Jews of dual loyalty.
— Batya Ungar-Sargon (@bungarsargon) March 13, 2019
Challenging the Conflation of Zionism and Judaism
Meanwhile, with Trump’s support on the campaign trail, Netanyahu has abandoned all pretenses about Israel caring for human rights, equality and justice for Palestinians, and has been exposing the fiction of “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Netanyahu passed the controversial “nation state law,” normalizing an explicitly racist, white-supremacist party (“Jewish Power”) which openly supports the genocide of Palestinians, and recently reaffirmed his pledge to sustain Israel as the “nation state of the Jewish people … alone,” from the river to the sea.
Sanders should prepare himself for an escalation in smears from Zionists, liberals and the Trump camp as the nomination approaches. Yet Sanders’s background and progressive values can serve to challenge the deceptive narrative that conflates Zionism and the state Israel with Judaism.
Sanders must not throw Palestinians under the bus; it is vital that he insist on the veracity of his factual claims about Israeli criminality, no matter what smear campaigns he faces.
People of conscience will follow principled logic, encouraging Sanders’s continued critiques of Israeli/Zionist apartheid policies and push him to embrace an agenda which uncompromisingly rejects normalization until full rights, equality and justice are afforded to Palestinians and Jews alike in a single state of all its citizens.
With the potential impending downfall of Netanyahu and Trump due to the various corruption cases against them, Sanders has a historic opportunity to marginalize Zionists and their white-supremacist allies in the U.S. and elsewhere, advancing the cause of Palestinian freedom, rights and justice.