Bernie Sanders confirmed Friday afternoon that he will not attend a major pro-Israel conference in Washington next week.
Sanders, the first Jewish politician to ever win a presidential primary, is the only remaining 2016 contender who will not speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major gathering for politicians and Jewish leaders every year.
In a letter to AIPAC President Robert Cohen, Sanders expressed regret that he could not attend the annual conference, but said “issues impacting Israel and the Middle East are of the utmost importance to me, to our country and to the world.”
Sanders said he was scheduled to be traveling throughout the West and his campaign schedule prevents him from attending. He said he would send remarks to the organization in the hopes that they could be distributed to members as AIPAC does not permit candidates to address the conference remotely.
CNN noted a “petition started by Max Blumenthal, the son of former Clinton adviser Sidney Blumenthal and a pro-Palestinian writer, had garnered more then 5,000 signatures urging Sanders not to speak at AIPAC. One of the signers is Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters, who has endorsed Sanders.”
Sanders has largely been silent about Israel on the campaign trail. He has been tied to advisers with troubling views on Israel.
Breitbart Jerusalem reported last month Sanders this past had admitted to seeking foreign policy advice from several critics of the Jewish state.
In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, the Democratic candidate gave the following reply when asked about his plans for Secretary of Defense: “We talked to people like Jim Zogby, talked to the people on J Street, to get a broad perspective of the Middle East.”
While the George Soros-funded J Street describes itself as a liberal, pro-Israel lobby, it has faced mounting criticism for the policies it advocates, which many argue are harmful to the Jewish state.
In 2009, the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. refused to send its ambassador to J Street’s first national conference, explaining that the organization’s policies could harm Israel’s interests.
J Street supports the international nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heavily lobbied against on the grounds of Israeli and U.S. national security.
President of the Arab American Institute James Zogby – Sanders’ other stated go-to source for foreign policy advice – is notoriously anti-Israel. He refers to the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement as a “legitimate and moral response to Israeli policy.”
In the past, Zogby has attempted to rationalize Palestinian terrorism against Israelis, saying that he was trying to understand “why the perpetrators [of terrorist acts] acted as they did or why there are people whose anger and despair bring them to support this or that crime.”
Zogby, who is of Lebanese descent, has described Hezbollah terrorists as “the Lebanese armed resistance.”
Also last month, Politico reported that Sanders has been advised for his presidential run by Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired U.S. Army colonel who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell and later became a staunch opponent of the war in Iraq. Wilkerson previously espoused the conspiracy theory that Israel may have carried out chemical attacks in Syria as a false-flag operation against the Assad regime.
Meanwhile, in a July interview, Sanders was directly asked by Ezra Klein at the left- leaning Vox whether he considers himself a Zionist, meaning supportive of a homeland for the Jewish nation.
“A Zionist? What does that mean? Want to define what the word is? Do I think Israel has the right to exist? Yeah, I do. Do I believe that the United States should be playing an even-handed role in terms of its dealings with the Palestinian community in Israel? Absolutely I do,” he replied.
“Again, I think that you have volatile regions in the world, the Middle East is one of them, and the United States has got to work with other countries around the world to fight for Israel’s security and existence at the same time as we fight for a Palestinian state where the people in that country can enjoy a decent standard of living, which is certainly not the case right now. My long-term hope is that instead of pouring so much military aid into Israel, into Egypt, we can provide more economic aid to help improve the standard of living of the people in that area.”
During Israel’s defensive war targeting Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip during the summer of 2014, a constituent commended Sanders for not signing a Senate resolution blaming Hamas for the conflict. The constituent asked if Sanders would “go further,” implicitely asking whether Sanders would criticize Israel’s actions during that war.
“Has Israel overreacted? Have they bombed U.N. facilities? The answer is yes, and that is terribly, terribly wrong,” Sanders replied.
“On the other hand – and there is another hand – you have a situation where Hamas is sending missiles into Israel – a fact – and you know where some of those missiles are coming from.
“They’re coming from populated areas; that’s a fact. Hamas is using money that came into Gaza for construction purposes – and God knows they need roads and all the things that they need – and used some of that money to build these very sophisticated tunnels into Israel for military purposes.”
Last month, Haaretz featured an article pointing out Sanders’ lack of participation in organized Jewish life and questioned whether he was an atheist.
“Sanders has stayed far away from organized American Jewish life both personally and professionally, and the U.S. Jewish establishment in turn had a hard time regarding as one of its own a secular socialist congressional iconoclast who has never belonged to a synagogue, never appeared at pro-Israel rallies or AIPAC events, and has refrained from returning to the Jewish state since his now- infamous kibbutz stint in the 1960’s.
“When, last fall, Sanders was asked on-camera whether he believed in God – by, of all people, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel – he avoided directly answering the question, and invoked none other than the Pope in his answer: “I am who I am, and what I believe in and what my spirituality is about is that we’re all in this together. I think it is not a good thing to believe as human beings we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people, and this is not Judaism. This is what Pope Francis is talking about, that we cannot worship just billionaires and the making of more and more money.”
Sanders Volunteered in Israel for Marxist Revolutionary Group
Breitbart Jerusalem reported that in 1963 Sanders volunteered at a kibbutz in northern Israel as the guest of a Marxist-socialist youth movement with a revolutionary mission.
For months, Israeli reporters have been searching for the name of the kibbutz on which Sanders spent several months in 1963. The presidential candidate, who has not been shy about his affinity for socialism, was reluctant to disclose much about his Jewish upbringing or his time in Israel, where he traveled with his first wife, Deborah Shiling.
Sanders’ campaign has conspicuously refused to answer inquiries about the identity of the kibbutz.
Last month, Jerusalem Post Intelligence and Security columnist Yossi Melman revealed that Sanders volunteered the information about the kibbutz during an interview with the reporter in 1990, while Melman was the intelligence correspondent and analyst for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.
The 1990 interview, discovered in the Haaretz archive, cites Sanders saying that in 1963 he spent several months at Kibbutz Sha’ar Ha’amakim in northern Israel as a guest of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement, which was affiliated with the kibbutz.
The information has garnered some media attention from Israel-themed outlets.
Yet not a single news report reviewed by Breitbart News mentioned that Hashomer Hatzair was an openly Marxist movement that sought to use Zionism as the first stage of a utopian plan for Israel. The second stage was to be a revolution that would transform Israel into an Arab-Jewish socialist paradise.
Hashomer Hatzair is still around. It currently identifies as a progressive Zionist organization and is a member of the International Falcon Movement–Socialist Education International.
Hashomer Hatzair runs a youth program in the U.S. that says it “encourages youth to build progressive Jewish values, explore connections to Israel and the Jewish community, and develop a commitment to social, environmental, and economic justice.”
The organization, founded in Europe in 1913 to prepare young socialists for the move to Mandatory Palestine, has rebranded its mission numerous times. It was once a revolutionary Marxist organization.
Movement members first settled in Mandatory Palestine in 1919 and seven years later founded several kibbutzim as well as a political party called the Socialist League of Palestine.
In a lengthy history for the Van Leer Jerusalem Foundation, Hebrew University Political Science Professor and prolific author Shlomo Avineri in 1977 documented the Marxist revolutionary ideology of the Hashomer Hatzair movement.
In a 404-page work titled, “Varieties of Marxism,” Avineri recounted the Marxist “baptism” of Hashomer Hatzair, which he referred to as HH, in the 1920s as “one of the most exciting intellectual chapters in the modern history of Zionism and Palestine.”
“It bears testimony to the historical essentiality of Marxism in those years, which saw a new wave of Marxism that was to grow and intensify until it reached its political peak in the 1950s, whereupon it would disintegrate in face of political reality.
“Unlike other pragmatic socialist movements at the time, Hashomer Hatzair “refused to accept constructivism as the main content of class war in the Palestinian reality, or to contend that socialism could be realized without revolution.”
Hashomer Hatzair saw Zionism, or support for a Jewish national homeland, as an entryway into the Jewish state in order to accomplish a socialist revolution in two phases. It enumerated this mission by creating its own “Etapist Theory,” according to which “Jewish socialist society would be realized in two stages,” wrote Avineiri.
The historian elaborated:
“In the first stage, the Jewish national home would be established in Eretz Israel, based on a productive and self-sufficient economic foundation. In the second stage, the social revolution itself would be accomplished.
“The function of the Zionist movement and Zionist cooperation was limited to the first stage only; it would be terminated after the economic, cultural, and political foundations had been laid in Palestine, and after the national funds, based on national donations, were no longer required. Partnership with the Zionists was therefore considered only temporary.”
The social revolution was to be realized, however, by the international organization of the workers, i.e. Jewish-Arab collaboration. This “theory of stages” formulated by Meir Yaari had many advantages for HH. It could continue to participate in the Zionist Organization, to build socialist cells within the framework of the existing regime, and, atthe same time, to maintain revolutionary radicalism.
While that radicalism may now be tempered, the group continues to maintain its socialist identity.
In 2008, Haaretz reported on the continuing efforts of Hashomer Hatzair to spread socialism in Israel and worldwide.
The newspaper reported on a world conference marking the movement’s 95th anniversary that attempted to update the organization’s basic tenets. Participants in the 2008 conference could not agree on which style of socialism to adopt. “While Latin American graduates favored classic socialism, the European delegates sided with democratic socialism,” reported Haaretz.
The newspaper continued, quoting a delegate from Argentina:
According to Dana Merweiss, from Argentina, the way to implement socialism today is by education and creating communities with socialist awareness. Levine said the movement in the past required its members to work withinits community, but today “we say we should also work outside our community as part of the fulfillment of the principle of socialism. In Argentina we work in poor neighborhoods, Jewish and non-Jewish,” he said.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.