Last month, Michelle Boorstein -- religion reporter for The Washington Post -- did a profile of Joel Rubin, Bernie Sanders's Jewish outreach coordinator: In Bernie Sanders was on a path to become the first Jewish president. That was everything to Joel Rubin, Boorstein touches upon the issue of Bernie Sanders as a Jewish candidate and his policy of welcoming Linda Sarsour, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
Rubin approves of that policy and encourages it -- which is not all that surprising.
After all, welcoming and endorsing opponents of Israel is a policy followed by J Street too, an organization that Joel Rubin helped found.
According to Rubin, the significance of the Bernie Sanders campaign is
the way the independent senator from Vermont forcefully rejected that his more left-leaning views — backing diplomacy with Iran and being willing to withhold aid to Israel among them — conflicted with his Jewish identity.The question of Bernie Sander's "Jewish identity" is a topic all by itself, a question that revolves around a Jewish identity that Sanders only seems to address every four years. It is also an identity that is unclear not merely in light of his attack on AIPAC and his having never appeared at pro-Israel rallies -- but also in light of his praise for the Soviet regime while ignoring the plight of Soviet Jews at the time.
This contrasts with Rubin's claim about the Sanders story:
This is the most quintessential Jewish American story if ever there was one, to have him out there for the American Jewish community, which is attacked and under siege. It is so valuable to have a politician and a leader running who gets it in his kishkes. [emphasis added]One can only hope that Rubin was not referring to indigestion, using a phrase that Sanders himself is unlikely to use.
But it is also odd that Rubin stresses the importance of Bernie Sanders for the sake of the Jewish community when it is being attacked, considering that Sanders himself embraces the attackers.
This apparent contradiction does not faze Rubin, who claims that Sanders welcoming of Sarsour, Omar and Tlaib is not only a positive thing, but that it actually highlights Sanders's Jewish identity.
By welcoming even strong Israel critics into his campaign, Sanders had shown the way to fight anti-Semitism is to engage everyone. The senator had expanded the idea of what it means to be a good Jew. That’s how it seemed to Rubin...Later in the article, Boorstein expands on Rubin's point:
Rubin believes American Jews need to keep their eyes on what he sees as the ball, instead of focusing so much on statements by Omar and Tlaib.Are Sarsour, Omar and Tlaib really "people who are part of rejecting hate in our society"? Welcoming people who accuse Israel of white supremacy, are fans of Louis Farrakhan, toss around accusations of dual citizenship and focus their criticism solely at boycotting Israel -- this raises the question of which 'ball' Rubin has his eye on -- other than how to gain votes.
“They are not the primary threat to the U.S. Jewish community. They are not walking into Tree of Life and shooting it up,” he said, referring to the 2018 massacre at a synagogue in his native Pittsburgh. “If we’re going to defeat hate as a country, we need to find allies in this fight, and these are people who are part of rejecting hate in our society. ... And I’m willing to give more leeway to people of color who are critical of Israel who are in our coalition and are willing to engage and to accept errors.”
And what is all this about Sanders engaging antisemites in order to fight it and people joining his coalition who are willing to engage?
Is Bernie Sanders even qualified to engage critics of Israel?
o Sanders made the outlandish claim that Israel killed 10,000 Gazans during Operation Protective EdgeSanders is not engaging the critics, he is accepting their propaganda whole.
o Sanders accepts at face value that Israel shoots unarmed "protesting" Gazans
o Now Sanders it claiming that Israel is withholding humanitarian aid from Gaza during the coronavirus crisis
When Ilhan Omar claims supporters of Israel have dual loyalty -- Sanders jumps in to defend her and
claims that Omar is “one of the most extraordinary people in American politics." -- that is not engaging either.
In another Washington Post article, journalist Aaron Blake writes about knowing a politician's true religious beliefs:
"It's worth noting here that religious definitions are malleable. And it's impossible to know what someone's true beliefs are, beyond what they say. Skepticism about a president's declared religious beliefs has hardly been limited to the many Americans who believe President Obama is secretly a Muslim. Some presidents who have claimed the Christian faith have been suspected of not actually being religious."That same may be said for a politician's claiming to be pro-Israel.
Take J Street, for example -- of which Joel Rubin was one of the founders.
The way that Sanders endorses and welcomes some of the most outspoken critics of Israel, many of whom who have allied themselves with antisemites such as Farrakhan and have been accused of antisemitic statements themselves -- is reminiscent of J Street's own approach.
As we have pointed out in other posts:
J Street endorses 3 congressmen who are also supported by Jewish Voice for Peace:
o Mark PocanPocan tried to anonymously set up an anti-Israel event, "50 Years of Israeli Military Occupation & Life for Palestinian Children."
o Pramila Jayapal
o Betty McCollum
McCollum publicly accused Israel of being an apartheid state, and introduced a bill in 2017, and a revised version in 2019, which claims Israel utilizes military detention, interrogation, and "ill-treatment" of Palestinian children in violation of international humanitarian law.
In fact, Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers pointed out in 2017 that in addition to Betty McCollum and Mark Pocan -- Earl Blumenauer, André Carson, John Conyers, Jr., Danny K. Davis, Peter A. DeFazio, Raul Grijalva, Luis V. Gutiérrez, and Chellie Pingree were all supporters of McCollum's bill and yet were all still endorsed by J Street.
Another congressman supported by J Street, Hank Johnson, compared Israelis living in Judea and Samaria to termites.
Are we supposed to assume that J Street endorsed all of these congressmen in order to engage them?
Instead, in their endorsements, J Street refers not to their support of Israel but rather that the congressmen support the J Street agenda -- in other words, that they support a 2 state solution.
As long as a congressman supports a 2 state solution, and is a democrat, J Street appears to have a high threshold for anti-Israel politicians.
Similarly, Bernie Sanders has shown a high threshold for the anti-Israel and inflammatory statements of Sarsour, Omar and Tlaib -- among others who help him get the Arab vote.
They offer Sanders support and in return receive the kind of shield against claims of antisemitism that J Street offers those who would otherwise be immediately called out as anti-Israel.
And Joel Rubin, appointed by Bernie Sanders at the beginning of this year, is just the person to defend Sanders' disturbing choice of allies.