(CNSNews.com) – The Republican Jewish Coalition on Tuesday accused Democrat presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont of seeking to score points with the party’s “energized” left wing by describing the Israeli government as “racist.”
Reacting to Sanders’ use of the epithet to describe Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's recently-reelected government, and comments indicating that as president he would be more sympathetic towards the Palestinians, RJC executive director Matt Brooks called them the “latest signal that the Democratic party is moving away from being a pro-Israel party.”
“Bernie Sanders and his Democratic Party are calling Israel racist in hopes that the American people will buy their lies,” he said in a statement. “The RJC won’t let this happen. We won’t let Israel become a punching bag for Democrats to score points with their radical base.”
At a CNN town hall in Manchester, N.H. on Monday night, Sanders was asked how he as president would maintain the strong U.S.-Israel relationship despite his outspoken criticism of Netanyahu.
“I am not anti-Israel,” said Sanders, who is Jewish. “But the fact of the matter is that Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who I think is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly.”
He pointed out that the U.S. gives billions of dollars in military aid to Israel.
“What I believe is not radical. I just believe that the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level-playing-field basis. In other words, the goal must be to try to bring people together and not just support one country, which is now run by a right-wing – you know, dare I say, racist – government.”
“I am 100 percent pro-Israel,” Sanders added. “Israel has every right in the world to exist, and to exist in peace and security, and not be subjected to terrorist attacks. But the United States needs to deal not just with Israel, but with the Palestinian people as well.”
In the RJC response, Brooks linked the Sanders’ comments to the emergence in the congressional Democratic caucus of new voices sharply critical of Israel.
Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), both sharp critics of Israel, have voiced public support for the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Fellow freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has said reducing U.S. aid to Israel should be up for discussion.
“Democrats are at it again,” said Brooks. “They don’t like the results of a free and democratic election; therefore, they call the victors racist and, by extension, call their supporters racist. It’s an absurd and offensive claim.”
He said Sanders was ignoring the reality that Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy the same rights as all its citizens, including the right to vote in free and democratic elections.
But Sanders and the Democratic leadership, Brooks charged, “don’t care about these facts.”
“They care about appealing to the apparent, new voting base that has been energized by Ilhan Omar, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and [Palestinian-American activist and Women’s March co-leader] Linda Sarsour.”
“These left-wing radicals preach intersectionality as a way to rally disparate groups, even if that means attacking a close ally that happens to be the only country in the Middle East that protects the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, and religious minorities,” he said.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), without mentioning Sanders by name, tweeted Tuesday, “Name-calling by political leaders against the democratically elected government of Israel is counterproductive to maintaining close ties and advancing peace.”
In response, left-wing journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted that the AIPAC’s chiding of Sanders “for the supreme crime of speaking ill of Israel’s leader is one his best endorsements yet.”
“Sanders is running for President of the US and is thus allowed to criticize the leader of this foreign country & question these ‘close ties.’”
Sanders is not the only Democratic presidential hopeful to have called Netanyahu or his government racist.
After Netanyahu during the recent election campaign pledged to annex parts of the disputed West Bank where Jewish communities are located, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke said the U.S.-Israel relationship “must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist.”