Jewish, Pro-Israel Groups Protest Bernie Sanders’ Hiring of Adviser Who Once Denounced Zionism as ‘Racist, Exclusionary Ideology’
The Algemeiner quoted B'nai B'rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and President Charles O. Kaufman in its coverage of the hiring of an advisor with a history of anti-Semitic comments to the Bernie Sanders campaign.
Jewish and pro-Israel groups on Tuesday condemned Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ decision to hire a radical activist with a long history of vitriolic anti-Israel statements as a senior adviser.
Phillip Agnew, a co-founder of the Dream Defenders group, was hired as a senior adviser to the Sanders campaign last Saturday, with Sanders saying, “He is a gifted organizer and one of his generation’s most critical voices on issues of race and inequity.”
B’nai B’rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin took a different view, saying in a statement on Tuesday, “We call on presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to terminate his campaign’s relationship with Phillip Agnew.”
“Agnew’s activist organization, Dream Defenders, has promoted to children the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which has been a US-designated terrorist organization since 1997,” they noted, “and is a proponent of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.”
“Agnew’s so-called ‘rebellion curriculum,’ which is aimed at children in 6th to 11th grade, refers to Israel as ‘occupied Palestine’ and speaks approvingly of the goals of creating a communist party and liberating ‘Palestine,’” they pointed out.
“It is unacceptable that someone with this history of antisemitic and pro-terrorism statements was given a role on any presidential campaign,” they asserted.
The Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) also weighed in, asking, “How can @BernieSanders unify the country when he appoints officials to his campaign who spew hateful, misogynist, and bigoted views? And why does Sanders refuse to disassociate himself even from their hateful statements?”
Agnew’s defamatory attitude toward the Jewish state is not new. In a June 2015 article in Ebony, Agnew described a trip to what he called “Palestine,” saying, “What I saw there was cold, calculating racism and ethnic privilege masquerading as a Jewish State.”
Referring to then-President Barack Obama’s comparison of Zionism to the US civil rights movement, Agnew claimed Zionism was a “racist, exploitative, and exclusionary ideology; its eagerness to attack and silence detractors is only matched by its eagerness to co-opt the struggles of Blacks in this country (by a Black in this country) for its own survival.”
In a 2012 tweet, he stated, “America continues to support the murderous occupation of Palestine. Today’s ‘Zion’ is Hell on Earth for millions.”
Agnew has also shown an intense anti-Americanism in his statements, tweeting in 2016, “America is hate-founded, hate-legislated, hate-sponsored, hate-endorsed, hate-filled.”
Referring to a radical Islamist’s homophobia-motivated shooting attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, Agnew said, “Just clarifying who to blame. It isn’t radical Islam and it wasn’t those people in the club. It is us. We spread this hate.”
He also appears to be a believer in 9/11 conspiracy theories, saying on Sept. 10, 2010, “Tomorrow America remembers the day that she turned on herself, dismantled her constitution, and killed her own citizens in the name of money.”
Agnew also caused controversy for sexist tweets against former First Lady Michelle Obama, tweeting in 2009, “Michel [sic] Obama is an odd looking woman… I’d call her ugly but I don’t want the backlash.”
He subsequently tweeted, “Michelle Obama is just not pretty… I’ve tried to look at her from every angle possible.”
JNS quoted B'nai B'rith CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin on the Bernie Sanders campaign's recent hiring of a senior adviser who has made anti-Semitic statements.
(March 10, 2020 / JNS) The Democratic presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has named Phillip Agnew, who has called Zionism “racist,” and co-founded a group that supports the anti-Israel BDS movement and a U.S.-designated terrorist group, a senior adviser.
“I am excited to welcome Phillip to our team,” said Sanders in a statement on Saturday. “He is a gifted organizer and one of his generation’s most critical voices on issues of race and inequity. He has and will continue to push me and this movement to deliver on what is owed to black people who have yet to experience reciprocity in this country.”
Agnew previously served as a surrogate for the campaign and is a co-founder of Dream Defenders, which has ties to Ahmad Abuznaid, a supporter of the U.S.-designated terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Founded in 2012, Dream Defenders exemplifies the trend of black anti-Semitism in the United States.
The organization has labeled Israel as a “continued settler colonial project” whose treatment of the Palestinians is similar to an “apartheid” nation. Without acknowledging Hamas launching rockets from schools and other civilian centers from Gaza into Israel, while using women and children as human shields, Dream Defenders has accused Israel of developing “its latest military weaponry by attacking the civilian population of Gaza.”
Agnew, who now goes by the name Umi Selah, has participated in multiple trips to the disputed territories over the past few years, led by Abuznaid, who claimed that these delegations are to “build real relationships with those on the ground leading the fight for liberation.”
During a January 2015 trip, Dream Defenders met with Omar Barghouti, founder of the BDS movement, and Diana Buttu, who served in the Palestine Liberation Organization during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s, when the PLO perpetrated attacks against Israelis on buses, and in restaurants and other public places. The delegation also met with artist Ayed Arafah in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp, which is recognized as a PFLP camp.
In a 2015 article in Ebony, Agnew wrote, “There is no direct line from Zionism to the Black Freedom struggle. No rhetorical imagination-acrobatics can conjure one, and no amount of intimidation can chart one. It is a racist, exploitative, and exclusionary ideology.”
Although Agnew apologized on Sunday for tweeting in 2009 what he called “stupid comments” about former first lady Michelle Obama, though he did not address his anti-Israel past.
Agnew is part of what critics have said is a group of Sanders surrogates who use anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, including Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), former Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour, and comedian and University of Detroit Mercy School of Law Professor Amer Zahr.
The Zionist Organization of America has called for Sanders to fire Agnew.
The Republican Jewish Coalition stated that Agnew’s new role exemplifies a trend in the Sanders campaign and that the senator’s main rival, while he may not need them to get the Democratic presidential nomination, will need supporters like Agnew in order to defeat the incumbent president.
“Every step of the way, Bernie Sanders has embraced anti-Israel, anti-Semitic surrogates because that is the support he needs to win the Democrats’ left wing base,” RJC spokesperson Neil Strauss told JNS. “Joe Biden might not need these supporters to win the nomination, but Sanders is proving that Biden will need this racist crowd’s support in order to drive the vote up in his base if he wants any shot at beating the most pro-Israel president in history, Donald Trump.”
B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin said “it is unacceptable that Phillip Agnew, with his long history of anti-Semitic and pro-terrorism statements, should be given a role within any presidential campaign.”
“In his statement naming Agnew as an adviser, Sanders called Agnew an expert on race and inequity,” he continued. “It is possible to address social inequity in this country without espousing anti-Israel vitriol. We’ve called on the campaign to terminate its relationship with Agnew.”
“Sadly, Senator Sanders has a bad, but very steady habit of giving senior positions in his campaign to people with long records of expressing anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic views,” Democratic Majority for Israel president and CEO Mark Mellman told JNS.
Similar to British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, he added, “I think he is going to find out that it’s not only immoral, but it’s also bad politics.”
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