A spokeswoman for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign was forced to apologize Tuesday after posting “insensitive” comments on social media suggesting that American Jews have dual loyalty to Israel, POLITICO reported.
Belén Sisa, the senator’s national deputy press secretary, had taken part Sunday in a conversation on Facebook discussing the recent controversy around Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic remarks. “Do you not think that the American government and American Jewish community has a dual allegiance to the State of Israel?” Sisa asked on a thread, stating that, like Sanders, she stood with the Democratic freshman from Minnesota.
“In a conversation on Facebook, I used some language that I see now was insensitive. Issues of allegiance and loyalty to one’s country come with painful history,” Sisa told POLITICO when confronted with her comments. “At a time when so many communities in our country feel under attack by the president and his allies, I absolutely recognize that we need to address these issues with greater care and sensitivity to their historical resonance, and I’m committed to doing that in the future,” she added.
Sisa’s remarks defending Omar reflect a split in the Democratic Party over what constitutes legitimate criticism of Israel as opposed to stoking anti-Semitism.
“I would totally disagree with that. It’s ridiculous. … She’s wrong,” Rep. Lois Frankel, a Jewish Democrat from Florida, told POLITICO. “That’s just a terrible statement to make.” The comments are an example of why “Bernie Sanders is not my candidate,” Frankel added.
Omar has sparked condemnation from lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle, as well as several Jewish organizations, for a series of anti-Semitic comments. The Congresswoman once famously claimed that “Israel has hypnotized the world.”
However, a group of Democratic presidential candidates – Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren – have all come out in support of Omar. “What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate,” said Sanders, suggesting that critics of the congresswoman were trying to get Omar taken off the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “That’s wrong,” Sanders added.
In 2016, Sanders suspended his Jewish outreach coordinator, Simone Zimmerman, after she referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in vulgar terms.
In response to Omar’s recent anti-Semitic remarks, TIP CEO and President Josh Block, said, “The rhetoric employed by Rep. Omar is blatantly anti-Semitic and must be condemned. The insinuation that Jewish money is used to buy and sell influence in Congress is one of the oldest and most insidious anti-Semitic tropes in history.
“We join the many progressive and Democratic leaders in denouncing Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitism. Moreover, it is an insult to both her colleagues and constituents to suggest their support of the U.S.-Israel relationship is somehow based on money.
“the U.S.-Israel relationship is based on shared values, mutual respect, and cooperation. To claim otherwise is not only false but dangerous, particularly in a time of rising anti-Semitism around the world.”
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