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How ‘Bernie Bros’ were invented, then smeared as sexist, racist and unAmerican as borscht

 by Jonathan Cook

Part 8 - Antisemitism smear at the ready

There is a final use of weaponised identity politics that the Democratic establishment would dearly love to use against Sanders, if they need to and can get away with it. It is the most toxic brand – and therefore the most effective – of the identity-based smears, and it has been extensively field-tested in the UK against Jeremy Corbyn to great success. The DNC would like to denounce Sanders as an antisemite.

In fact, only one thing has held them back till now: the fact that Sanders is Jewish. That may not prove an insuperable obstacle, but it does make it much harder to make the accusation look credible. The other identity-based smears had been a second-best, a make-do until a way could be found to unleash the antisemitism smear.

The establishment has been testing the waters with implied accusations of antisemitism against Sanders for a while, but their chances were given a fillip recently when Sanders refused to participate in the annual jamboree of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a prominent lobby group whose primary mission is to ringfence Israel from criticism in the US. Both the Republican and Democratic establishments turn out in force to the AIPAC conference, and in the past the event has attracted keynote speeches from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

But Sanders has refused to attend for decades and maintained that stance this month, even though he is a candidate for the Democratic nomination. In the last primaries debate, Sanders justified his decision by rightly calling Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “racist” and by describing AIPAC as providing a platform “for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights”.

Trump’s Vice-President, Mike Pence, responded that Sanders supported “Israel’s enemies” and, if elected, would be the “most anti-Israel president in the history of this nation” – all coded suggestions that Sanders is antisemitic.

But that’s Mike Pence. More useful criticism came from billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who is himself Jewish and was until last week posing as a Democrat to try to win the party’s nomination. Bloomberg accused Sanders of using dehumanising language against a bunch of inclusive identities that, he improbably suggested, AIPAC represents. He claimed:

This is a gathering of 20,000 Israel supporters of every religious denomination, ethnicity, faith, color, sexual identity and political party. Calling it a racist platform is an attempt to discredit those voices, intimidate people from coming here, and weaken the US-Israel relationship.

Where might this head? At the AIPAC conference last week we were given a foretaste. Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi of the UK and a friend to Conservative government leader Boris Johnson, was warmly greeted by delegates, including leading members of the Democratic establishment. He boasted that he and other Jewish leaders in the UK had managed to damage Jeremy Corbyn’s electoral chances by suggesting that he was an antisemite over his support, like Sanders, for Palestinian rights.

His own treatment of Corbyn, he argued, offered a model for US Jewish organisations to replicate against any leadership contender who might pose similar trouble for Israel, leaving it for his audience to pick up the not-so-subtle hint about who needed to be subjected to character assassination.

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