Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders suspended a campaign coordinator for posting profane attacks on the Israeli prime minister on social media, but he continues blaming Israel for civilian deaths in Gaza.
The presidential campaign of Democratic primary candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders has suspended an activist recently hired as the campaign’s Jewish outreach coordinator after she was found to have posted profanity-laced social media messages about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Simone Zimmerman is active in the self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby J Street and the “Open Hillel” movement—both of which have been criticized in the Jewish community for ignoring Israeli grievances in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and whitewashing Palestinian terrorism. Open Hillel rejects the Hillel campus umbrella organization’s guidelines on shunning partnerships with anti-Israel groups, while J Street has also been scrutinized for co-sponsoring events with anti-Israel organizations. Zimmerman has also been involved with IfNotNow, a new movement of young American Jews who oppose Israeli control in the disputed territories.
In a February op-ed for Haaretz, Zimmerman outlined her views on Israel, including her perceptions on what she called “grave injustices committed by the Jewish state” and the “disastrous reality of holding millions of Palestinians under military occupation.”
“Tell the UC Regents: anti-Zionism is not racism, it’s a political belief,” Zimmerman retweeted from the Twitter account of the anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace in March, reacting to the University of California Board of Regents’ adoption of a report that condemned both anti-Semitism and forms of anti-Zionism that are anti-Semitic.
The initial decision to hire Zimmerman came after Sanders recently inflated the number of Palestinian civilian deaths in the 2014 Israel-Hamas war at least sevenfold—to 10,000—in an interview with the New York Daily News.
In the wake of Zimmerman’s hiring, her past Facebook posts came to light, including one in which she wrote, “Bibi Netanyahu is an arrogant, deceptive, cynical, manipulative asshole,” and “F**k you, Bibi, for daring to insist that you legitimately represent every fraction of the Jewish world.” She later edited those posts to remove the profanity.
The former head of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, wrote in an email to Jewish Insider that Sanders “needs to fire Simone Zimmerman” because “no amount of word changes can cure her ugly characterization of the prime minister of Israel and the Israeli army and people defending themselves.”
Sanders’ spokesperson, Michael Briggs, told the New York Times that Zimmerman has “been suspended while we investigate the matter.”
In the meantime, Sanders remains the strongest advocate for the Palestinians among the candidates, both Republican and Democrat. In a debate Thursday evening with his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, he stated:
“Israel was subjected to terrorist attacks, has every right in the world to destroy terrorism. But we had in the Gaza area — not a very large area — some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed.”
He corrected his original estimation of 10,000 deaths, but left out the reasons why there was so much devastation, not mentioning Hamas’s use of men, women and children as human shields; stealing shipments of goods, such as cement, meant for housing construction but used to build terror tunnels, and more.
“Now, if you’re asking not just me, but countries all over the world, ‘was that a disproportionate attack,’ the answer is that I believe it was, and let me say something else. As somebody who is 100 percent pro-Israel,” he claimed, “in the long run — and this is not going to be easy, God only knows, but in the long run if we are ever going to bring peace to that region which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity…
“Right now in Gaza unemployment is somewhere around 40 percent,” he continued. “You got a lot of that area continues, it hasn’t been built, decimated, houses decimated health care decimated, schools decimated. I believe the United States and the rest of the world have got to work together to help the Palestinian people.”
Throughout the debate, Sanders insisted that Israel’s response to rockets raining down on Israel by Hamas was disproportionate.
By: JNS.org and United with Israel Staff
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