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Zioness Statement on Bernie Sanders Campaign

Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders released a video proclaiming his pride in being Jewish. Indeed, it is an extraordinary moment to see so many Jews in civic, social, and political leadership in this country. Zioness is proud to see a Jewish candidate advance so far in the race for the White House.

But his Jewishness does not erase our deep concern that Senator Sanders’ statements, surrogates, staff, and supporters have demonized and marginalized large swaths of the Jewish community, including the many progressive Jews who are members of, or ideologically represented by, Zioness. American Jews have repeatedly expressed fear that the language coming out of Senator Sanders’ campaign makes them feel less safe and less represented in the political left––their natural ideological home. Polls confirm that, despite his Jewish roots, he does not have Jewish support––and that in fact, Jews are feeling more and more disenfranchised across the political spectrum.

This feeling of political homelessness is frightening for a persecuted community suffering from deep intergenerational trauma that relates in large part to the same breakdown of democratic institutions that we are seeing in America today. Jews are one of many marginalized communities in this country feeling profoundly afraid, yet legitimate Jewish concerns seem to be disregarded and even compounded by the Sanders campaign.

Senator Sanders has himself made several troubling decisions over the past year. Instead of recognizing Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s past antisemitic statements and using them as an opportunity to educate his supporters on contemporary antisemitism, he instead continues to elevate her unequivocally. Just this past weekend, Senator Sanders grossly described AIPAC––the largest and most Jewishly associated organization in the American political establishment, which is comprised in large part of liberal and progressive Jews––as a “platform for bigotry.”

Some of Senator Sanders’ most high-profile campaign surrogates are individuals known for using inflammatory rhetoric targeting the Jewish community and employing antisemitic stereotypes, including Linda Sarsour and Amer Zahr—who just recently deleted a tweet, with no apology or remorse, which equated Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, with ISIS, a murderous terrorist organization.

Senator Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, and foreign policy adviser, Matt Duss, were forced to resign from the Center for American Progress, after they were accused of trafficking in antisemitic conspiracy theories.

His supporters have repeatedly targeted and smeared Zioness members, organizers, and leaders online in a way that categorizes the “good” and “bad” Jews––largely based on their Zionism. Their goal is simple: force American Jews, who identify overwhelmingly as both progressive and Zionist, to choose between those inextricable pieces of their identities. Under this formula, the very vast majority of American Jews are “bad”.

We will not submit to a destructive false choice applied specifically to our community.

We appreciate Senator Sanders’ recent celebration of his Jewishness, and are inspired by his commitment to combating income inequality in a country where everyone should have access to the American dream. We hope to engage in dialogue with Senator Sanders, his staff, and his supporters in the weeks ahead about how they can run an inclusive campaign––one that is more attentive to the unabashedly progressive, unapologetically Zionist pride of the American Jewish community.

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