An older clip of leftist activist Linda Sarsour is re-circulating from September from 2018, where the Palestinian-American woman warns attendees of the Islamic Society of North America Convention in Houston not to “humanize” or develop friendly relations with Israelis.
“But in my opinion, on an issue like Palestine, you’ve got to choose the side of the oppressed.” Sarsour explained. “And if you’re on the side of the oppressor or you’re defending the oppressor, or you’re actually trying to humanize the oppressor, then that’s a problem, sisters and brothers, and we’ve got to be able to say that is not the position of the Muslim-American community.”
For the past three years, Sarsour has faced increased (and substantiated) accusations of antisemitism, embroiling her home organization of the Women’s March in scandal after scandal. Sarsour eventually resigned from the board of the group in September of 2019 with little more than a grimace. But if it weren’t for 2020 Democratic frontrunner Bernie Sanders, she likely would have trotted off into leftist activist oblivion.
Predictably, the media has done little to question Sanders on the decision. He allows the infamous Sarsour to serve as a campaign surrogate, despite her lengthy history of supporting the antisemitic BDS movement against Israel and cavorting with antisemitic, anti-white, homophobic Nation of Islam preacher Louis Farrakhan.
But Sarsour resembles teflon. As noted by Jonathan Tobin of National Review, it’s probable that Sarsour’s defenders will use her support for potentially the first Jewish president as evidence she is not an anti-Semite. Conversely, by allowing someone of Sarsour’s antisemitic tendencies to represent his campaign, Sanders assigns a valence of legitimacy to her rhetoric and undermines the concerns of those genuinely disturbed by Sarsour’s bombast. Bernie is Jewish – he can’t possibly support antisemites. Wrong. He can and is.
For much of last year, I traced the rise of Jeremy Corbyn among the British left, watching with increased alarm as the antisemitic rhetoric of “Corbynistas” infected the entirety of the party with disquieting alacrity. While there is sizable gap between Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator seems to be doing his utmost to close this gap, which for many, has provided some strange comfort.
As Yossi Klein Halevi of Times of Israel remarked, “More than any other leading politician, Sanders is responsible for mainstreaming the Corbynist wing of the Democratic Party,” Halevi explained. “The party’s anti-Zionists, like Linda Sarsour, have gathered around Sanders. And Sanders himself supported Corbyn — ignoring the fears of British Jews, who overwhelmingly saw Corbyn as an anti-Semite.”
It’s not that Bernie Sanders is necessarily Corbyn – he is just coalescing around himself the very forces that allowed the UK Labour Party to rot from within. Antisemitism cannibalized Labour, as those within the party rushed reflexively to defend and rationalize Jew hatred. A leaked report submitted to the British Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) by the Jewish Labour Movement revealed the stunning breadth and depth of the anti-Semitism accusations lodged at the UK Labour Party.
One respondent in the report claimed nearly two dozen incidents of anti-Semitic abuse at local Labour party meetings, including being referred to as “a Tory Jew,” “child killer,” and “Zio scum” and being informed that he’s “good with money,” “to shut the f*ck up, Jew,” and that “Hitler was right.” He also stated he was threatened with physical violence.
What made the report particularly damning was that it laid bare the level to which party officials sank in order to minimize, dismiss, and hide accusations of antisemitism within the party. A round of defections from party members last year were attributed to the toxicity of Labour’s culture.
The American left’s continuous denial of antisemitism within their ranks, much like that of UK Labour, not only mainstreams antisemitism but results in violence against Jews that receives little to no response until it reaches a horrific breaking point. The Chanukah stabbing in the New York City suburb of Monsey followed several years of rising violence against visible Jews in New York City, but the average reader would not have gleaned that from reporting back in December.
By allowing Linda Sarsour to remain a campaign surrogate, as well as accepting an endorsement from Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Bernie Sanders normalizes and even elevates opinions that are dangerous not only to the lives of Jews, but also to the larger American project. And true to form, our mainstream media likely will grant Sanders an adoring pass. Maybe if Sarsour were wearing a MAGA hat, the notion of forbidding people from “humanizing” the world’s largest Jewish population would get more press. Maybe.