Bernie Sanders’ Guardian op-ed on antisemitism has one big blind spot

Though we should be careful not to overstate the political commonality between the two politicians, both Sanders and Corbyn certainly do seem to share the astonishingly dense and self-serving view that since those on the left are, by definition, anti-racist, those who identify as such should - regardless of what they actually say or do - often be granted moral impunity against charges of antisemitism.

In his recent Guardian op-ed, US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (“Fighting antisemitism is at the heart of the left’s struggle against oppression”, Nov. 12) aptly defines antisemitism thusly:

“it is important to understand that that is what antisemitism is: a conspiracy theory that a secretly powerful minority exercises control over society”.

Whilst Sanders, whose father left Poland at age 17 due to antisemitism, and who lost family in the Holocaust, clearly has a personal connection to the subject, he also seems to have a big blind spot, as he appears convinced that those who peddle Jewish conspiracy theories come entirely from the political right.

Like other forms of bigotry – racism, sexism, homophobia – antisemitism is used by the right to divide people from one another and prevent us from fighting together for a shared future of equality, peace, prosperity and environmental justice.

Conversely, he sees the left (progressiveness) as, by definition, in opposition to antisemitism.

Opposing antisemitism is a core value of progressivism. So it’s very troubling to me that we are also seeing accusations of antisemitism used as a cynical political weapon against progressives.

He entirely ignores Muslim and left-wing antisemitism, focusing his fury almost entirely on “the right”, the “right-wing media” and “intolerant, authoritarian” right-wing political leaders who “exploit people’s fears by “promoting constant paranoia about foreign plots”.

Yes, we agree completely. Stoking “paranoia about foreign plots” does often evoke antisemitism.

A gratuitous shot at Jeremy Corbyn, you say? No, not at all. This clip is quite relevant, as the Labour leader represents a perfect illustration of the left-wing antisemitism that the Vermont Senator seems so blind to. 

In fact, Sanders has been quite open about his support for Corbyn.

And, this:

Whilst Sanders can’t be held responsible for who endorses him, it’s certainly fair to hold him accountable for who he chose to endorse: a man running for British prime minister who 85% of Jews in the country believe is personally antisemitic due to his long and well-documented record of expressing support for anti-Semites – including Islamist terrorists who openly call for the mass murder of Jews.

Though we should be careful not to overstate the political commonality between the two politicians, both Sanders and Corbyn certainly do seem to share the astonishingly dense and self-serving view that since those on the left are, by definition, anti-racist, those who identify as such should – regardless of what they actually say or do – often be granted moral impunity against charges of antisemitism.

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