US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently hired an adviser who makes his anti-Israel surrogate, Rep. Ilhan Omar, look like Hadassah founder Henrietta Szold.
Sanders, in an effort to woo the African-American vote, which is heavily tilted to his party rival Joe Biden, last week hired civil right activist Phillip Agnew, who gained prominence for founding Dream Defenders after the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch coordinator in Florida.
Newsweek quoted Sanders as saying, “I am excited to welcome Phillip to our team. He is a gifted organizer and one of his generation’s most critical voices on issues of race and inequity. He has and will continue to push me and this movement to deliver on what is owed to black people, who have yet to experience reciprocity in this country.”
Agnew is also a fierce anti-Zionist, who called Israel an apartheid state and said that on a visit there in January 2015, he saw “cold, calculating racism and ethnic privilege masquerading as a Jewish state.”
Last month, Sanders said that he would not attend AIPAC’s annual policy conference on the grounds that it gives a “platform for bigots.”
In an article in the African-American magazine Ebony that appeared online on June 1, 2015, Agnew bashed then president Barack Obama for saying in an Atlantic interview, “There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution, and the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law. These things are indivisible in my mind.”
“On its face, it may seem like the above statement shouldn’t warrant even the slightest iota of imagination: President Obama is merely relaying the oft-used trope of Zionist-African-American solidarity! Anyone can understand that, right? Especially the much maligned, ever-resilient African Americans. President Obama is just reminding us of the strong historical similarities that we share with the apartheid state of Israel. No imagination needed here.”
Agnew then imagined that African-Americans created a state – Israel-like – in the US South following the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“Black Americans, in addition to a substantial reparations package, were given what was once known as the states of Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama for Africans to settle,” he wrote in parody.
“Harkening to Biblical references of a miracle balm able to heal any condition the first settlers renamed the land ‘Gilead’, and set about bringing the vision of the ‘Promised Land’ from dream to reality.
“The first settlers began arriving in 1964 and embarked on the grueling task of cleansing the land of white residents and indigenous people. It wasn’t easy but after the massacre of thousands and mass evacuations of hundreds of thousands, and with millions of whites and native peoples resettled in refugee camps scattered across Mexico, Canada, and Texas, the sons and daughters of African slaves finally had a home to call their own.”
Agenw went on: “Today, ‘Gilead’ continues the dehumanization, occupation and incarceration of thousands of native peoples within and outside its ever-expanding apartheid regime. Human rights violations abound, children are bombed, while the ‘civilized’ world is split between defending ‘Gilead’s’ right to ethnic purity and looking the other way.”
Agnew wrote that “statements like Obama’s, and a chorus of others, would have you to believe that the state of Israel was founded for the safety, security and sovereignty of a ‘People without a home.’
“It is a lie. It is, like much of what we are told about Israeli history, a figment of our well-manicured imagination. It is a fact that all people deserve security and safety, but that never gives people the right to bomb indiscriminately (Gaza is, yet again, under fire), incarcerate people indeterminately, and replicate the cruel discrimination and displacement that led to the founding of your supposed “homeland”.
Agnew, Sanders new senior adviswr, said Zionism is a “racist, exploitative and exclusionary ideology; its eagerness to attack and silence detractors is only matched by its eagerness to co-opt the struggles of Blacks in this country (by a Black in this country) for its own survival.”
On Sunday Agnew apologized for tweeting disparaging comments in 2009 about Michelle Obama’s appearance, returning to the social media platform to apologize for “stupid comments” he tweeted as a 23-year-old.
“I am writing because I was wrong and I am writing to be accountable,” he tweeted.
There is little expectation he will tweet something similar about his comments about Israel.