Bernie Sanders understands what real antisemitism is. That’s why he supports Ilhan Omar.

Ilhan Omar and Bernie Sanders
Bryan Wall

Bernie Sanders has come out in support of progressive congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Sanders has been quiet up until now about false accusations that Omar is antisemitic. She previously criticised how some people “push for allegiance to a foreign country”. When discussing Palestinian rights, this means she and others like her “get to be labeled, and that’s the end of the discussion”. For saying this, she has been accused of antisemitism. But now, Sanders has announced his support of her.

Understanding real antisemitism

In his statement released on 6 March, he said:

Anti-Semitism is a hateful and dangerous ideology which must be vigorously opposed in the United States and around the world.

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But he went on, saying:

We must not, however, equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel. Rather, we must develop an even-handed Middle East policy which brings Israelis and Palestinians together for a lasting peace.

As a result, he insisted:

What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate. That’s wrong.

Further support

Omar has also received encouragement from other sources. Journalist Jeremy Scahill, for example, tweeted:

He followed on, saying:

And Scahill was not alone. Author Naomi Klein also tweeted about Omar, calling her a “powerful moral voice”:

Omar herself has explained why she thinks Democrats and Republicans are attacking her:

An anti-progressive assault

Journalist Rania Khalek, meanwhile, has pointed out that political elites and the media are:

Attacking the progressive wing of the Democratic party.

She went further, explaining that Sanders is being attacked in the same way:

The establishment is getting so desperate they’re even starting to Russia-gate anyone to the left of the Democratic party.

Progressives and 2020

In spite of attempts to undermine Sanders’ current run to be a presidential candidate, he is still ahead of his competitors. According to a poll carried out for the Intercept:

The only potential candidate who polled better with African-Americans than Sanders, according to the poll by Morning Consult, is former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not announced a campaign.

Omar is right to question blind US support of Israel. This is not antisemitic. And Bernie Sanders should not have to point this out.

Political elites still seem intent on attacking Omar. But bullying progressives like Omar and Sanders will not win them the election in 2020.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons – Lorie Shaull/ Flickr – Gage Skidmore

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