Sanders: The US’s Corbyn test

To paraphrase Corbyn, under a Sanders presidency, the US’s warm relationship with Israel could come to an end. It remains to be seen if the US passes its Corbyn test.

Sanders: The US’s Corbyn test (photo credit: REUTERS)
Sanders: The US’s Corbyn test
(photo credit: REUTERS)
When Sen. Bernie Sanders rose to prominence in the Democratic primaries for the 2020 US elections it was his second attempt at leading the Democratic Party and becoming the next US president.
Many in Israel see a potential Sanders presidency as troubling as the 2019 threat of a Jeremy Corbyn-led Britain.
Sanders and Corbyn share many similarities. They are both old-school hardened Socialists with more than a little shot of Marxism in their veins. They share the Marxist belief that the three evils of mankind are imperialism, colonialism and capitalism.
In their mindset, America and Britain represent all three and they have roped in Israel as encapsulating the three evils that must be excoriated as part of their hard socialist vision for the world.
Corbyn developed a disdain for Jews during his formative political years. He stereotyped Jews as sweatshop owners growing wealthy at the expense of downtrodden workers. This appeared in his early writing and came to the forefront when he was criticized for not seeing the antisemitism in an infamous London wall mural he praised, which depicted stereotypical Jews playing monopoly on a board supported by crouching naked workers.
Corbyn’s Labour Party was denounced as being “institutionally antisemitic,” to the extent that former Labour prime minister Tony Blair said in Tel Aviv in 2019, “If you told me... that the party I led for 13 years would have a problem with antisemitism, I would literally not have credited it, or believed it, and yet it is, and it’s there today.”
Sanders is an atheistic Jew. Both he and Corbyn have transmuted the political stereotyping of the universal Jew onto the Jewish state. Both freely use negative imagery accusing Israel of abusing downtrodden Palestinians. Both have threatened Israel.
Before Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party he planned vindictive punishment against Israel. At an anti-Israel rally in Trafalgar Square on June 23, 2014, he said, “The UK has a warm relationship with Israel. It is time that relationship is brought to an end.”
Corbyn’s policy included banning British arms sales to Israel. Palestine took preference over Israel to the extent that “Palestine” was the only foreign policy issue listed in the top 10 priority policies at subsequent Labour Party Annual Conferences.
A couple of months prior to the 2019 UK general election, Corbyn was caught up in a scandal when the Telegraph newspaper revealed he had signed a 2002 Cairo Declaration document accusing Israel of “systematically administrating ‘apartheid’ against Palestinian citizens.” It also called for armed resistance against “the Jewish state.”
Labour Friends of Israel Director Jennifer Gerber said at the time, “This declaration shows not an ounce of sympathy for the hundreds of innocent Israelis who were being brutally murdered at the time by Palestinian terrorists... No wonder the Jewish community fears Corbyn becoming prime minister.”
There is little sympathy for Israel and no public condemnation of Palestinian terror against Israeli civilians from Corbyn and Sanders. Rather they blame Israelis for the onslaught of the terror attacks. To them, it is Israeli oppression that makes Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad launch rockets, not the Palestinian rejection of a Jewish presence in the region.
The Labour Party had traditionally been the political home for British Jews. But the antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric in the Corbyn-led party drove away Jews and non-Jews alike, leading to a resounding defeat for Corbyn.
The same can be said for American Jews who are concerned about the emergence of an antisemitic, anti-Israel core in the Democratic party.
A Sanders presidency could be tougher on Israel than all his predecessors. Despite his Jewish DNA, Sanders has followed his British counterpart in threatening Israel saying he would declare Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria illegal. He refers to Israel as an “occupying power.”
With a growing anti-Israel wing in the Democratic Party, it is likely that, as a Foreign Policy report stated on February 25, “Sanders will undermine America’s relations with its closest ally in the Middle East and jeopardize Israel’s security.”
To paraphrase Corbyn, under a Sanders presidency with Rep. Ilhan Omar on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the US’s warm relationship with Israel could come to an end.
Echoing Corbyn, Sanders has said, as president, he would make military aid to Israel – including missile defense – conditional on how Israel “treats” Palestinians.
At a J Street event in October 2019, Sanders told his audience that part of the US $3.8 billion aid package should go to Hamas-controlled Gaza. Sanders slandered Israel’s prime minister when he said, “It is not antisemitism to say that Netanyahu’s government has been racist.” Yet he has never accused the Palestinian leadership in Gaza and in Ramallah as being racist for their antisemitic rhetoric.
Sanders and Corbyn have been incapable of encouraging ideological regimes they support to work for dialogue and offer their own people better lives by way of peace because they are incapable of embracing the principles of free market economics that lift people out of poverty. It remains to be seen if the US passes its Corbyn test.
The writer is the International Public Diplomacy director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies and author of Fighting Hamas, BDS and Anti-Semitism