Bernie Sanders’ appointments of Cornel West and James Zogby as his representatives to the Democratic party’s platform drafting committee are drawing strong condemnation from U.S. Jewish leaders.
In an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, West doubled down on his criticism of Israel. “Justice for Palestinians cannot be attained without the lifting of the occupation,” he said, adding that the platform needed to bring more balance to “the plight of an occupied people.” West also accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “war crimes” and said that “the role of money and lobbies makes it difficult for there to be a candid dialogue” on Israel.
The Anti-Defamation League on Thursday called West’s support of the BDS movement and comments on Netanyahu “unacceptable.”
“Cornel West is a scholar of racial and economic justice, but claiming war crimes by Israel’s Prime Minister and BDS support [is] unacceptable,” ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted on Thursday.
“The Democrats’ platform should support [the] two-state solution but also make 100 percent clear that long-standing policy [of] supporting Israel will not waiver,” he added.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told the New York Times that West’s inclusion on the committee is “disturbing” and raises concerns that the Democratic Party could “adopt positions that could be seen as hostile to Israel” at their national convention in Philadelphia. “For us, the concern is that it legitimizes and potentially puts into a major party platform” a point of view “that undermines the principles of the Israeli-U.S. relationship that have been bipartisan for decades,” Hoenlein was quoted as saying.
“Of all the social activists that Senator Sanders could have nominated to help advance his message, we are particularly troubled by the selection of Cornel West, a prominent supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement,” American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen said in a statement. “Ultimately, we will judge the committee based on their actions at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this July, but considering Sanders’ extremely misinformed comments about Israel last month, the American Jewish Congress is especially concerned about West’s policy positions on the Middle East.”
Professor Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat, told the Algemeiner in an interview, “I’m not worried about Sanders as a winner; I’m worried about him as a loser. And I will do everything in my power to see that he is marginalized in the Democratic Party, particularly on foreign policy, about which he knows nothing.”
The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) expressed hope in a statement to Jewish Insider on Friday that no matter the wording, “This year, Democrats will once again approve a platform that speaks to our commitment to a strong US-Israel relationship.”
Sanders indicated that he would seek “consensus” on the party’s policy towards Israel in a statement to the New York Times. “I have always and will always be 100 percent supportive of Israel’s right to exist and live in peace and security,” the Democratic presidential hopeful wrote in a statement. “I also believe that lasting peace in the region will not occur without fair and respectful treatment of the Palestinian people. I believe that most Democrats agree with that position and that a strong consensus will be achieved at the Democratic National Convention.”