In an interview with Democratic Party presidential candidate and America’s foremost socialist Bernie Sanders, longtime NPR host Diane Rehm brought this up:
Diane Rehm: Senator, you have dual citizenship with Israel.
Bernie Sanders: Well, no, I do not have dual citizenship with Israel. I’m an American. I don’t know where that question came from. I am an American citizen, and I have visited Israel on a couple of occasions. No, I’m an American citizen, period.
Rehm: I understand from a list we have gotten that you were on that list.
Rehm: Forgive me if that is—
Sanders: That’s some of the nonsense that goes on in the Internet. But that is absolutely not true.
Rehm: Interesting. Are there members of Congress who do have dual citizenship or is that part of the fable?
Sanders: I honestly don’t know but I have read that on the Internet. You know, my dad came to this country from Poland at the age of 17 without a nickel in his pocket. He loved this country. I am, you know, I got offended a little bit by that comment, and I know it’s been on the Internet. I am obviously an American citizen and I do not have any dual citizenship.
Rehm, by the way, is no stranger to anti-Israel rhetoric. But I’d categorize her past framing of the issue as run-of-the-mill progressive fare. The question is: how could a mainstream media personality, one that has interviewed basically every political personality in the past 30 years, so casually level such a silly conspiratorial assertion?
Much like the “Israel-firster” attack, assuming that people who support Israel must be in possession of dual citizenship is a longstanding smear used by anti-Semites and other anti-Israel advocates to chill speech and question the allegiance of American Jews. Jews do often have a special affection or concern for Israel for obvious reasons. But since this support comports well with American interests and values there is no genuine conflict. And even those with dual citizenship—completely legitimate under U.S. laws—have absolutely no reason to undermine the United States.
But Rehm believed she had her hands on a list. And it featured, not only Sanders, a leftist who holds moderate views regarding Israel, but other elected officials who, I imagine, she believes have infiltrated the government. Notice that Rehm doesn’t ask Sanders about his citizenship, she asserts it as fact. Perhaps she so willingly believes this intrigue exists because it’s far more predominate in left-wing circles (though, not exclusively) than many people might imagine. You might remember that the Jerusalem Post obtained e-mails from the Center For American Progress, the “think tank” that provides intellectual sustenance for the administration, and uncovered a gaggle of Israel-hating bloggers at ThinkProgress casually throwing around anti-Semitic language. They were drummed out of the organization, but continue to pop up at other sites.
So the question is: what list is Rehm talking about? Where did she obtain this list? Did an intern just copy it from some conspiracy-theorish site and hand it to her? And, if that’s the case, why did she so easily believe it to be true?
Update: Here is a statement from Rehm via Politico:
“On today’s show I made a mistake. Rather than asking Senator and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders whether he had dual U.S./Israeli citizenship, as I had read in a comment on Facebook, I stated it as fact. He corrected me, saying he did not know where the question came from. I apologized immediately,” Rehm said. “I want to apologize as well to all our listeners for having made an erroneous statement. I am sorry for the mistake. However, I am glad to play a role in putting this rumor to rest.”