Defeating Bernie is a political Mitzva

Politics and Mitzvot? Is this a dangerous mix of Kodesh Vechol? Usually it is, but extreme situations call for non-conventional solutions. This is the situation a few days ahead of the NY Democratic primary. A senior candidate, not a fringe one, declares war on the Jewish community and Israel. He speaks at the most hostile environments in order to lure supporters using blatant anti Israel messages. He nominates a virulent enemy of Israel to be his Jewish outreach coordinator. The head of his Jewish supporters organization defended Hamas during the war of 2014.

The campaign is oriented towards the most radical, anti-Semitic and anti Israel elements of the population. Simply put, this candidate, being a NY native, should know better. Either he thinks, that the Jewish vote may be in his pocket, or maybe he does not care about the Jewish vote. These are two great reasons for Jews not to vote for him. Yes, he talks about being Jewish when it suits him, but most of the times he hides it, and yes, this is ”our ” Bernie. He is NOT really ours, and even more so, who cares if he was born to Jewish parents? Bernie Sanders should be defeated in the upcoming NY primary. Our fellow Jews should overwhelmingly vote against him.

I, for one, do not hold my breath about the so-called Jewish “leadership,” or the “establishment,” which will look for every conceivable explanation to remain and justify being neutral. It was not always so. In 1980, the legendary mayor, Ed Koch, had no problem in snubbing then President Jimmy Carter ahead of the primary. He could not be clearer as to why, as he specifically referred to Carter’s anti Israel policies. PC did not reign supreme. At any rate, where can we find people like Koch these days? If the Jewish leadership was not afraid of something published against them in the NYT or one or two left-leaning rabbis calling them to order, they would have covered the streets of NY with leaflets the truth about Bernie. There is no need to lie and exaggerate in this case, just say the truth.

It is true, that the Jews are not single issue voters, which means that most of them do not vote over Israel being their main concern, surely not in the primaries. That said, we have to bear in mind, that with the exclusion of Carter in 1980, no Dem candidate ever dared to go out so viciously and aggressively against Israel in conjunction with the most anti Jewish elements around. Having Linda Sarsour as a cheerleader is Bernie’s contribution to this campaign, as well as the likes of Simone Zimmerman. Kerry in 2004 claimed to be more pro-Israel than even George W. Bush [a real tall order…], and his Jewish brother Cameron was called for action. Obama mobilized the Pritzker family, as well as the leaders of the Chicago Jewish Federation in 2008, in order to assert his pro-Israel and pro-Jewish credentials. Bernie simply does not care.. It is not a Jewish interest to either being taken for granted, or just being ignored and looked down at. It is a sheer political interest of the Jews to show, that they are a significant political factor, and where else they should show it, if not in NY?

Yes, in elections you vote for somebody. In this round, it is HRC who stands against Bernie. Do I like, support, trust her? Not really, but what choice do we have? Jews are political animals, so they should vote. This time it means voting for HRC and not for Bernie. This is April, not November, and then it may be another opera altogether. Hillary is the ultimate politician, and if winning big in New York, mainly with the Jewish vote on her side, she will be,at least somewhat obliged to continue to express pro Israel positions. No, I am not naive. I have seen and heard it all, almost all. Never did I expect this Bern phenomenon, the candidate who simply is forcing us to do the unthinkable, to be good Jews, and yet to vote against a Jewish candidate.

Let me conclude with some Yiddishkeit, something from our heritage. This may be seen as schmaltz by some, but hopefully not by too many. The Nineteenth of April is a great day in our Jewish calendar, the beginning of the heroic Warsaw Ghetto uprising, a day to ever be remembered with joy and sadness, but altogether with pride. Not comparing anything to this great day, I still think that Jews in NY can show pride by saying a resounding NO to Bernie Sanders, a politician who says a resounding NO to us all.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina