Hillary Clinton’s campaign promises not to call Bernie Sanders a fake Jew (updated)

Last night, Bernie Sanders made some history by becoming the first Jew to win a presidential nominating contest held by any major political party.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign responded by calling him a fake Jew.

From Haaretz:

Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu, via Wikimedia Commons

Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu, via Wikimedia Commons

In a message tailored specifically to Jewish voters, [former congressman Paul] Hodes, who has been working closely with the Clinton campaign in New Hampshire, zoomed in on Sanders’ apparent lack of interest in Israel as a factor that should cause voters from the community to re-think their support for the Jewish American who has just climbed higher than most others in Democratic politics.

“Bernie is a secular Jew and I don’t think his religion influenced his stance on Israel,” said Hodes. “We know Hillary and we know she has an unshakeable bond with Israel, so this shouldn’t pose a great dilemma for Jewish voters.”

UPDATE 2/11: I guess the trial balloon didn’t go over so well. The Clinton campaign is now saying that they have no plans to attack Sanders on his record with Israel.

This is a particularly offensive attack from a Clinton surrogate, and would be a particularly stupid road for Clinton’s campaign to go down, as Haaretz suggested her campaign plans on doing. To be clear, “secular Jews” such as myself are used to hearing that our failure to be sufficiently supportive of the Israeli government makes us fake Jews, but we’re used to hearing it from Republicans like Steve King, not fellow Democrats. (And, for what it’s worth, some of us actually prefer “cultural Jew” or, if we’re being particularly cheeky, “Jewish atheist.”) What’s more, mountains of polling data have shown that American Jews, particularly in the Democratic Party, are if anything closer to Bernie Sanders than they are to Hillary Clinton on Israel/Palestine.

Like many if not most American Jews, Bernie Sanders is in favor of a two-state solution and supports Israel’s right to exist, but avoids describing himself as a Zionist. He is at times critical of the Israeli government, but he certainly doesn’t have nice things to say about Hamas (quite the contrary). As is the case with his broader foreign policy platform, Sanders is slightly to the left of center on Israel, but doesn’t make a big deal out of it. He’d simply rather talk about other things like social welfare and equality — things that American Jews happen to think are incredibly important. This means that, unlike Hillary Clinton, Sanders has not made promises to donors to undermine pro-Palestinian groups on college campuses. And when Israel-specific issues have arisen — say, the issue of using cluster bombs on children in order to prove one’s pro-Israel bona fides — Sanders has often come down on the right side of them. Hillary Clinton has not:

In other words, when it comes to broad strokes, there isn’t actually much separating Sanders and Clinton on Israel. Neither would change the United States government’s official position in favor of a two-state solution. Due to the increasingly deteriorating relations between Israel and its occupied territories, neither Sanders nor Clinton would be very likely to successfully broker a peace agreement. But when it comes to specifics, Clinton has gone out of her way to be part of the problem. Sanders has mostly just gotten out of the way. For an American Jewish electorate that is becoming increasingly skeptical of their leaders bromides regarding a two-state solution, it isn’t too hard to imagine them siding with the candidate who simply doesn’t want to do any harm.

All this is to say that it would be particularly offensive to hear Hillary Clinton, a devout Christian, tell me as a Jew that I’m not actually Jewish if I don’t adopt her specific Israel/Palestine politics. It would arguably be even more offensive for her to tell me as a Jew that I am supposed to base my vote on that issue and that issue alone. When you actually ask American Jews what they care about, making sure that the Palestinian people are perpetually denied a homeland is pretty far from the top of the list.

If this is the lesson her campaign learned from last night’s drubbing in New Hampshire, she’s in more trouble than I thought.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Trooper

    She NEEDS to be devout in order to wipe out grave sins. However, I don’t think it works.

  • PDQ

    Hillary and Jeb?! must be in agony this campaign season. The nomination….errr….coronation was theirs for the taking, and now they’ve seemingly lost it! And this is the second time for both. Jeb?! got bumped by George W. the first time and Hillary by that newbie senator from Illinois.

    Ohhhh the injustice of it all !! Don’t we all realize that our betters have already worked out who is supposed to get the nominations? Why won’t we follow the pre-established plan??

  • SL Abrin

    Wait until she throws in the southern accent. After all, she did live in Arkansas.

    Funny that she never bothered to adopt the accent of the state that put her in the Senate.

  • Olterigo

    What makes you a Jew? An average American Jew does not care about religion. An average American Jew is not concerned about the issue of Jewish civilizational continuity. An average American Jew most likely can’t even read Hebrew, and even if she can read Hebrew, she will probably not know what it means. So, what’s left? A penchant for cream cheese and lox on rye, a smattering of Yiddish words, and voting for the Left? That does not make you a Jew. That makes you a New Yorker. So, what’s left? Pulling out the Jewish identity card only when necessitated by political necessity?

  • SL Abrin
  • SL Abrin

    “Bernie is a secular Jew.”

    Damn straight. That’s why 100% of the formerly devout, educated Jews in my circle are behind Bernie. His thought processes are not clouded by religious fantasy or prophetic delusions. He panders not one little bit to the religious lunatics or the warmongers.

    While the Clinton campaign surrogate mentioned Bernie’s apparent lack of Israel talk, he failed to note that Bernie is the only presidential candidate EVER to have LIVED IN ISRAEL. Alongside that willing deletion is the well-known fact that 50% or more of the Israeli population is SECULAR, and their position on the Occupation is similar to Bernie’s.

  • quax

    Smart stance.

  • Spring Texan

    He’s not as religious as she is.

  • Spring Texan

    Since forever. She’s a Methodist, and yes quite devout.

  • Thanks for writing this!

  • quax

    Sometime morally bereft phonies are the by far lesser evil.

  • kladinvt

    Hillary is a “devout christian”? Since when?

  • nicho

    As do the consciences of a lot of people who couldn’t being themselves to vote for that morally bereft phony.

  • nicho

    Of course it’s a concerted effort. Camp Clinton is in full panic mode and is pulling out all the stops.

  • nicho

    Oh, for heaven’s sake. Go back to Fox News with your own kind.

  • nicho

    Some day? Try yesterday.

  • MyrddinWilt

    It is completely legitimate for Hilary to point out that Sanders isn’t punching a blank check for Netanyahu’s government. But not necessarily to her advantage to do so. Automatic, unquestioning support for Israel isn’t necessarily a vote winner like it was 20 years ago.

    Sanders himself is fairly typical of a broad group of older liberal Jews who were ardent Zionists in their youth and have been soundly disillusioned. That group is an outlier in the 70+ generation but mainstream among the under 40s.

    Imagine what would happen to international support for the US if Trump was to be elected and run the country according to his campaign pledges to the wingnuts for 20 years. That is pretty much what has happened in Israel since the murder of Rabin.

    It is quite likely that Hilary will be the last Democratic nominee with an endorsement from AIPAC. Netanyahu and the Republicans have decided to make Israel a partisan issue and they are succeeding. But it isn’t delivering the Jewish vote for the GOP in the way they expected. Instead it is marginalizing support for Israel inside the Democratic party.

  • Duke Woolworth

    Not rue (translation:BS.)

  • WarrenHart

    I dont think it’s anything like is being portrayed in this anti-Hillary Clinton piece, but whatever it is, I hope it works. The president is going to either be Hillary Clinton or whoever their nominee is. Bernie Sanders will be lucky to win a state in the general election once they get finished with him, if he won the nomination. .

  • Silver_Witch

    I love using the plug-in and I have noted a hell of alot of down votes in the last week. I never thought that it might be a concerted effort.

  • Walter S

    Yes, you’re right, he would be with Sanders in hindsight. But Einstein grew up in an environment (Germany) where lack of independence and reliance troubled him (his independent thinking led Photo-electric effect for a Nobel Prize which led to Quantum Mechanics and his thought-experiment led to Special Relativity and then General Relativity later). All that required experiments. Special Relativity and General Relativity went through experiments and passed. Sanders had DONE NOTHING of EXPERIMENTS.

    As for the Fed Reserve, you do realize they read research reports often at every 12 branch of the Fed Reserve and in Washington. Yellen, Bernanke, and prior Fed Chairman and the rest of the 12 presidents, 7 governors read economic reports. Now, Yellen and Bernanke are really well known economists in their own field and trained very well in what’s called capitalism. They got a PhD and they study cases and results.

    Sanders, doesn’t do anything like that. He comes up with thought experiments and assumes to be true without putting his thought experiments through the grinder, aka economic papers. That’s Sanders failure. He hasn’t put forth his policies in front of economists for critiques at all. Not once. He assumes they work. Economists at the Fed DON’T DO THAT.

    So to each one own, maybe you should reconsider Sander’s policies and instead put it through the grinder. You have to have strength to receive criticism and assess one’s assumptions. That’s what scientists and economists do. Sanders, NOT.

  • Silver_Witch

    I have to say that last night when Bernie won NH it was the first time in my life (60 years) that I felt as if a candidate really represented me. I am an American born and raised, I am also a Bi, Atheist, woman – who has felt on the out for many many years with the “standard candidate”. I have been Dem a long long time – I am however a Progressive – loud and proud.

    Turning the pandering to Christians is SOP and polls well – so that shows who Clinton is and clearly she is NO Sanders.

  • Silver_Witch

    Oh hell she has surrogates (Madeleine Albright) telling woman that don’t support Hillary that there is a special place in hell for them, so hell why not go after Jews as well.

    P.S. Her “black” support might wither when this makes the rounds.

    “In her support for the 1994 crime bill, for example, she used racially coded rhetoric to cast black children as animals,” Alexander wrote.

    “They are not just gangs of kids anymore,” the then First Lady said, as she lobbied for the passage of the 1994 crime bill. “They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

  • quax

    I think you are right. She gravely misreads the public mood with regards to that question.

  • quax

    Your conscience works in mysterious ways …

  • quax

    I am quite certain Einstein would have been with Sanders on the cluster bomb issue.

    As to regarding the Federal Reserve as a paragon of econ wisdom – to each their own.

  • Ol’ Hippy

    Israel will become a real problem for the US some day. Their govt is terroristic toward the Palestinians. The only path toward peace there is a two state solution and Netanyahu is never going to let it happen. The deal with Iran will spark a war if the GOP takes over next year. Hillary and Bernie both support Israel, though Hillary is more so than Bernie. The 1st gulf war could have be solved diplomatically IF Israel had been willing to talk. As I say they will eventually be a nuclear armed problem some day even if not so soon. They already control the media and spin everything to point to the Palestinian as the terrorists. This country irregardless of whose in office backs Israel and will do so in the foreseeable future.

  • quax

    Noxious. Without partners for peace the US only has lose-lose propositions, and no chance to end this festering wound in the Middle East. Any candidate who puts America first will share Bernie’s disengagement. Even Trump isn’t stupid enough to try to polarize on that issue.

  • Bill Pearlman

    Not going to help her. The Democratic party thinks that Iran and Hezbollah are the good guys here

  • Walter S

    Well, Sanders stands for unsubstantiated evidence supporting ideas against a lot of famous Nobel Prize winning economist Jews and ones at the central bank (ahem…Paul Krugman, the nobel prize Jewish economist from Princeton, calling him out on lacking evidence policy without citing his name), so he’s definitely not welcomed by any Jewish economist since Sanders doesn’t understand economics and finance. (and I read in Isaacson’s bio on Einstein and came to the conclusion Einstein wouldn’t like Sanders too).

    Yeah, truth hurts. Sanders isn’t good at it nor understands how the world works. Clearly obvious by his policy summaries and those young folks who never did well in Econ 101. Fake “Jew”? You betcha.

  • Don Chandler

    If an unshakable bond with Israel is the same thing as alignment with Netanyahu, there is a big discrepancy (I percieve a rift.) Israelis might vote for Netanyahu, but I’m not voting for Netanyahu. Israel is also a democracy and that doesn’t mean Israel is a Right Wing Regime….does it? Democracies have dissent.

  • mmedefarge

    I agree with you about the Clinton bots. Not just the downvotes here, but they are the ones who “remind” us that we have to vote for her should she steal the nomination because the alternative is just unthinkable. I have seen that so many times, even on an astrology blog!
    They just don’t get that as a matter of conscience I could never vote for Hillary.

  • Butch1

    I have already decided to vote for Jill Stein if there are “dirty tricks” to stop Sanders’ from getting the nomination.

  • Butch1

    Perhaps someone is checking how much she has been attending church this past year or two to see if she is as “religious” as she pretends to be. (she and Bill) If she cannot attend because of her campaign duties, then what’s stopping Bill? ;-)

  • Butch1

    This is hitting low and it is showing she is getting desperate and will stop at nothing to try and wound him. This can only blow-back and really harm her in the end. I am really surprised at her. Of course, she will deny she had anything to do with it and will fire the person even though she and her husband put them up to it.

  • Kalil Chernov

    I did not miss her repeated references to her faith in her speech last night. I think her ‘southern pivot’ is going to include a lot of faith-baiting. I only hope that goes as well for her in South Carolina as it did for Liddy Dole in North Carolina.

  • hiker_sf

    And another thing, I believe that Clinton may have bots down-voting comments, as if it matters. My comment below and another have 8 downvotes each, In the history of Disqus, I’ve never seen anything like this and it is happening on multiple blogs.

    If you want to see the number of downvotes, you have to add a plug-in to the Chrome browser.

  • Clinton and her campaign seem determined to make it as hard as possible for me to vote for her if she wins the nomination…

  • Umschaltspiel KOP

    Boy, Billary, you are truly an abomination. Just because how she allied herself with Israel, doesn’t mean she can determine who is Jewish and who is not.

  • NYBamBam

    Thanks for letting us know. I have no doubt lots more nastiness is going to come from the Clinton mafia. They’ve lost the moral argument, they are losing the popular election and their stronghold constituencies – poor, working class, women, etc. – are voting with their feet against the political establishment.

    More Clinton strongholds – seniors, African-Americans, Latinos – will fall in the next two months and Clinton will be left with nothing but the DNC, the neoliberal rich and a bunch of stolen delegate seats to prop up her hollow campaign.

    Never mind the fact that she’s scandal waiting to happen. How long before super delegates start jumping ship?

    This party’s just getting started.

  • Quilla

    Pssst…honey, you can be a fake Christian because that’s a belief but you can’t be a fake Jew because that what your mother made you.

    Sit up straight, Hillary, and don’t call the other kids bad names.

  • hiker_sf

    This is a standard tool in the Clinton character-assassination smear arsenal.

    It reminds me of 2008 when Clinton campaign finance committee member Geraldine Ferraro said that “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position” as candidate for president. It was seen by most of us as incredibly racist, as if Obama was the Affirmative Action candidate or something. Clinton distanced herself from the remark and Ferraro quit, but later she demanded an apology from Obama.

    Just as in this election, there was a generational divide: Ferraro was pissed that her daughter voted for Obama.

    While I’m supporting Sanders and I won’t hesitate to vote for Clinton in November if she is the Democratic candidate. As repulsive as these smears are, I caution: Don’t base your vote upon what Clinton supporters may have done or said or what Sanders supporters may have done or said.

    That is something that is just too easy to manipulate.

    I guess that I should add that I don’t find either candidate to my liking – I’m voting against the Republican, and, for now, I dislike Sanders less. Those who fall into “hero worship” for any of the POTUS candidates are in for a rude awakening.

  • cambridgemac

    Oh dear. Thanks for this update. I keep hoping she and her team will come to their senses.

  • Candace Crum

    Bring it on!! Lets see what the American Left thinks of our blind support of Israel while our children are being poisoned in Michigan, our infrastructure needs attention and we are in massive debt. Secretary Clinton should be careful with this one. Can’t wait to see how this plays out!

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