Bernie Sanders gave a glimpse at his potential foreign policy on Sunday, and his choices of BDS supporter James Zogby and left-wing J Street raise serious questions.
Sanders, the Jewish Senator from Vermont, is infamous for his avowed socialism. On foreign policy, he is more or less a blank slate, making his choice of foreign policy advisers a valuable window into his mindsight and the least-worst predictor of a President Sanders’s policy.
On Sunday, two of the three advisers Sanders chose to identify were vehemently anti-Israel. Sanders told Meet The Press he met recently with Larry Korb, Jim Zogby and J Street.
Asked from whom he’s getting foreign-policy advice, Bernie Sanders name-checks Larry Korb, James Zogby, and J Street @meetthepress
— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) February 7, 2016
Legal Insurrection readers will be well familiar with J Street – see one thorough discussion here. Self-described as “pro-Israel, pro-peace,” J Street nevertheless consistently promotes positions antithetical to Israel’s interests. It was founded with funding from George Soros and predictably pursues an agenda similar to his virulent anti-Israel views.
J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami distanced himself and the organization from Sanders’s comment.
Q’s from people on what’s up w/ @jstreetdotorg advising Bernie Sanders’ campaign. J Street neutral; happy to advise all candidates
— Jeremy Ben-Ami (@JeremyBenAmi) February 7, 2016
This is really beside the point, though. The salient issue is that Sanders sees J Street as a legitimate and valuable source of advice, whether or not J Street claims or desires a formal relationship.
James Zogby is President of the Arab American Institute. In June, 2015, he wrote an article for Huffington Post titled “BDS: A Legitimate and Moral Response to Israeli Policy.” Zogby wrote:
These actions are not only legitimate expressions of political concern, they are also a profoundly moral response to Israel’s behavior. When confronted by: Israel’s continued defiance of international law; its theft of Palestinian lands in order to construct Jewish-only settlements and roads; and its daily displays of brutality and humiliation of captive Palestinians — the desire to disassociate from and refuse to support that behavior is the right thing to do. And when confronted by an international system that has neutered itself, refusing to act decisively to put the brakes on Israeli conduct in the occupied territories, then the response of the BDS movement becomes even more supportable.
This is propagandist prattle, of course, and Zogby’s hatred for Israel is well-known.
There are three key takeaways from this episode. First, of course, is that Bernie Sanders is taking foreign policy advice from Israel’s enemies in the U.S.
Second, Sanders does not seem at all concerned admitting these people are prominent among his advisers. He either does not believe voters will care that his advisers are anti-Israel, or believes – perhaps correctly – that whatever pro-Israel, far-Left voters remain will vote Democrat no matter who is the nominee. He believes party affiliation trumps issues.
Third, the Democratic Party’s two plausible nominees both have serious anti-Israel baggage. Hilary Clinton is saddled with her own history of dubious support for Israel on top of her unremitting failure as Secretary of State. That Hillary delighted in being fed a steady stream of anti-Israel rants from Max Blumenthal, through his father Sidney, is equally troubling.
Sanders may try to walk back this apparent endorsement and adoption of the anti-Israel Left. Perhaps these were not his exclusive or even primary advisers. Maybe they just came to mind because the meetings were recent. Or it could even be he met with J Street and Zogby just to understand whatever rationale they could come up with.
But Sanders’s best attribute is that he is by all appearances quite honest and straightforward. He does not hide his socialism or anti-capitalism. Or, apparently, his willingness to take advice from anti-Israel activists.
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