In essay on anti-Semitism, Sanders says Trump inspired synagogue shooting
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In essay on anti-Semitism, Sanders says Trump inspired synagogue shooting

Democratic presidential hopeful warns of Jewish hatred on right and left, says no contradiction in his support for Israel and Palestinians, in rare article on Jewish identity

Screen capture from video of presidential candidate and US Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont) speaking to the New York Times. (New York Times)
Screen capture from video of presidential candidate and US Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont) speaking to the New York Times. (New York Times)

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Monday accused US President Donald Trump of helping inspire 2018’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, the deadliest attack on Jews in US history.

In the article for the left-wing magazine Jewish Currents, the Vermont Senator said he is firmly proud to be Jewish and to support Israel. He also argued that denying the right of Jews to self-determination is anti-Semitic.

Noting that part of his family had perished in the Holocaust, Sanders wrote that “I know very well where white supremacist politics leads, and what can happen when people do not speak up against it.”

He warned of statistics pointing to rising hate in the country, and blamed “a dangerous political ideology that targets Jews and anyone who does not fit a narrow vision of a whites-only America.”

Trump’s “own words helped inspire the worst act of antisemitic violence in American history,” he wrote, referring to the shooting a year ago at the Tree of Life synagogue building in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, accompanied by Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, place stones and flowers on a memorial as they pay their respects at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 30, 2018. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

“We will confront this hatred, do exactly the opposite of what Trump is doing and embrace our differences to bring people together,” Sanders wrote.

The senator, among the Democratic field’s most outspoken critics of the Israeli government, also noted the existence of anti-Semitism from the left.

“I think it is very important for everyone, but particularly for progressives, to acknowledge the enormous achievement of establishing a democratic homeland for the Jewish people after centuries of displacement and persecution,” Sanders wrote about Israel. “It is true that some criticism of Israel can cross the line into antisemitism, especially when it denies the right of self-determination to Jews, or when it plays into conspiracy theories about outsized Jewish power.”

But he warned against using claims of anti-Semitism to silence criticism of Israel.

He said his “pride and admiration for Israel lives alongside my support for Palestinian freedom and independence.”

“I reject the notion that there is any contradiction there,” he said.

Democratic presidential hopeful Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota onstage at a campaign rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 3, 2019. (Kerem Yucel/AFP)

Sanders has allied with surrogates like Linda Sarsour, an activist, and Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan congresswoman, who are harshly critical of Israel — not just because of its policies, but of its status as a Jewish state.

Sanders has been critical of Israel during his campaign and said he would “absolutely” consider cutting US aid to Israel to pressure its government to change its policy, specifically on settlements.

He has said part of the $3.8 billion in annual US military assistance to Israel should instead go toward humanitarian relief in Gaza.

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