What is Bernie Sander's View on Abortion
Bernie Sanders would be the first Jewish US president in history. But the front runner among the Democratic presidential candidates does not only divide the minds of American Jews with statements about Israel.
To this day he speaks with the accent of the Jewish quarter of Brooklyn, spent time as a volunteer in the kibbutz in Israel and lost most of his father's family who remained in Poland in the Holocaust. He was lucky to have emigrated to the USA in 1921 at the age of 17. Over the years, Father Eliasz Gitman changed his name. Which is why Bernie is now called Sanders and not Gitman.
"I am the proud son of an immigrant," says Sanders when he talks about his origins. The Democratic leader says exactly the same thing about his beliefs. "I am very proud to be Jewish," the 77-year-old announced in a recent Democratic presidential debate. But what he then sent afterwards makes some Jews in the USA nervous.
Much criticized statements
He calls Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "reactionary racist", describes the treatment of the Palestinians as "unjust" and sees the USA in the role of an honest broker.
"The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security, just like the Palestinians," tweeted Sanders before the meeting of the Israel lobby AIPAC, which will end this Tuesday in Washington - only to announce his cancellation at the annual meeting justify. "What bothers me is that AIPAC provides a stage for leaders to express bigotry and opposition to basic Palestinian rights."
"How far can an American Jew go?"
His rejection sparked controversy within the US Jewish community about how far an American Jew can go to criticize the State of Israel and its policies. Or, with a view to Sanders, to ask a bit pointedly: Can a Jew be anti-Semitic?
Among the supporters of Netanyahu and Donald Trump among the US Jews there are some who say yes. But they do not make up the majority of the up to 7.2 million Jews in the USA by far. 70 to 80 percent of them are considered reliable Democratic voters. Which led Trump to accuse the community of voting against their own interests.
Struggle for social justice as a core value
Sanders stands in the long tradition of American Jews who regard the struggle for social justice as a core value rather than unconditional support for Israeli politics. Author Mairav Zonszein, who lives in the United States and Israel, recently spoke in the Washington Post of "a battle over what the values of Jewish Americans towards Israel are." Sanders made himself the reference point of this "civil war".
It depends who in the ward the question is about Bernie. Because the term "American Jews" is broad. Nobody can say exactly who belongs to it and who doesn't. If you only count the practicing Jews, the research institute PEW comes to 4.2 million. The rest do not practice their religion, but feel connected to the culture. A minority have Jewish parents, but do not see themselves as part of the religious community.
"It is irresponsible to describe AIPAC like that"
Certainly Sanders addresses the secular Jews more than the Orthodox, the young more than the elderly. And the progressives more than the politically conservative ones. But there are also civil rights activists like the chairman of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, who is not happy with the positioning of the frontrunner among the Democrats. "At a time when real hatred is building up in the US, it's irresponsible to describe AIPAC that way." That could explain why Sanders is the White House first choice for only 11 percent of US Jews, according to a January PEW poll.
Other Jews find it irresponsible how the once non-partisan Israel lobby is now positioning itself. AIPAC criticized Barack Obama and invited the then candidate Trump in 2016. Hundreds of conference participants marched out of the hall in protest at the time.
This year, Sanders was not alone with his criticism. Elizabeth Warren, Democratic candidate for presidential nomination, also canceled her attendance at the annual meeting. And Sanders' persecutor in the primaries, Joe Biden, just sent a video warning of the undermining of democratic values in Israel and the consequences of the settlement building.
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