TEL AVIV – Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has turned to yet another Israel critic for foreign policy advice, this time a former U.S. official who espoused the conspiracy theory that Israel may have carried out chemical attacks in Syria as a false-flag operation against the Assad regime.
Last week, Politico reported that Sanders is being advised 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.
“Of late, I’ve been asked by quite a number of people or groups to advise on national security and foreign policy. The Sanders campaign has been one of these and I have spoken directly to the senator on one occasion, at this point,” Wilkerson told Politico.
In 2013, U.S. and other Western intelligence officials concluded forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad had used chemical weapons twice on March 19 of that year.
At the time, Wilkerson appeared on the radical left show “The Young Turks” on Current TV, where he suggested that Israel might have been behind the chemical weapons attacks.
“I think the President’s statement which you just played was very circumspect, very prudent,” Wilkerson stated.
We don’t know what the chain of custody is. This could’ve been an Israeli false flag operation, it could’ve been an opposition in Syria, and one wonders what part of the opposition false flag operation, or it could’ve been an actual use by [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad, but we certainly don’t know with the evidence we’ve been given. And what I’m hearing from the intelligence community is that that evidence is really flaky.
Wilkerson’s wild claim was gleefully disseminated by Al-Manar, the official media network of the Hezbollah terrorist organization.
Tablet Magazine notes:
While journalist Seymour Hersh has claimed that the rebels carried out these attacks (and been widely debunked), neither he nor anyone else has ever suggested that Israel had anything to do with them. Only cranks – or worse – would insinuate that the Jewish state was somehow responsible for such an atrocity. …
The problem here is not that Sanders agrees with Wilkerson’s conspiracy theorizing. That seems highly unlikely. Rather, the issue is that this is what happens to people who don’t know much about a subject: they are easily taken in by cranks, and don’t know how to spot them.
Asked about the charge last week, Wilkerson told Maggie Haberman of the New York Times that he was simply listing the various players who could have been behind the attacks.
“I was just suggesting all the different people that could have been involved at a time when speculation was rampant,” Wilkerson said.
However, Haaretz notes that Wilkerson has expressed anti-Israel sentiments before.
Speaking to TheRealNews.com, Wilkerson said:
Israel has an enormous impact on U.S. foreign policy, but it’s beginning to be so detrimental to U.S. foreign and security policy that people like (Senators) John McCain and Lindsey Graham, with their hands out to the Jewish lobby for more donations to their PACs and so forth, just simply need to shut up and go back into the dark shadows from whence they emerged.
Haaretz further reported:
In a wide-ranging interview with another far-left outlet, Mint Press, on the eve of Israeli elections last March, Wilkerson said that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu had caused “unprecedented” damage to Israel, which he described as “the most predatory capitalist state in the eastern Mediterranean.”
“Fifty-one percent of [Israeli] land belongs to the security complex, either outright or leased,” Wilkerson said. “Sixty families in Israel own about 75 percent of the wealth, which is unbelievable.” He went on: “[The United States], China, and Russia have exemplified predatory capitalism in the last 20 years, but Israel outstrips us all.”
Calling Israel a strategic liability for the United States, Wilkerson stated in the interview that if the country supports Israel as [the U.S.] has, “it is impossible to say you have a sound strategic approach to the region.”
Regarding the elections that were then impending, he said, “The only positive thing I can see right now is the potential for Bibi Netanyahu to lose.”
Wilkerson is just the latest Sanders adviser with troubling views on Israel.
As Breitbart Jerusalem reported, Sanders has admitted to seeking foreign policy advice from other 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.”
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,” implicitly 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.
Earlier this 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.”
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.