Could Bernie Sanders, like Jeremy Corbyn, be accused of anti-Semitism?
Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, has condemned the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A strong supporter of Israel's right to exist, he has also been a strong supporter of the rights of the Palestinian people. | David Zalubowski/AP

BERLIN – Britain and the U.S. have had close ties, echoes and parallels from our start, some very good, others nasty. One of the latter may now be threatening to emerge.

Jeremy Corbyn’s rise in Labour Party leadership offered great hopes for a leftward turn in Britain, away from the worrisome policies of Boris Johnson. But hopes were dashed in the recent elections by the dirtiest media campaign in many years plus sniping by New Labour phonies like war-loving Tony Blair, who seemed to prefer the Tories to Jeremy.

Also contributing to the defeat of Corbyn were denunciations by the Netanyahu wing in Jewish circles, led by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis who, in a key letter to the London “Times”  violated non-partisan traditions by attacking “Labour antisemitism,” saying Corbyn was “not fit for high office and that “new poison” in the party has been “sanctioned from the top.” The “very soul of our nation is at stake,” he wrote, and called on British Jews to vote for any party except Labour!

Such right-wing advice and the whole campaign by organizations falsely claiming to represent all British Jews were built on lies. There is undoubtedly less anti-Semitism by far in the Labour Party than among the Tories. As for Corbyn, who has opposed every form of racism all his life, John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons until recently, who is Jewish and a Tory, said that in 22 years of knowing Corbyn he had “never detected so much as a whiff of antisemitism.”

Of course, the reason for the vicious, often personal attacks was really because Corbyn does not support Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, but opposes all oppression of “underdogs” anywhere in the world.  And Mervis, closely linked to the Israeli government for years, even acted as its unofficial ambassador while he was Chief Rabbi in Ireland.

I see undeniable parallels, even ties, with the election campaign in the U.S. It is difficult to attack Bernie in the same way, for he is Jewish and even worked in a kibbutz in his youth.

But if the possibility of his election increases, this would not just mean electing the first Jewish president in U.S. history. As the prospects for a Sanders victory in primary elections increase we see hatred and panic among the same elements who hated Jeremy, fearful of challenges to their power and their wealth.

I predict that they will attack Bernie just as maliciously and falsely as Jeremy, using his support for Palestinian rights to label him by that weird epithet, “self-hating Jew,” and perhaps by digging up (or constructing) a stupid statement or other by some unknown Sanders campaigner, maybe in Nebraska or North Dakota, in order to denounce his campaign.

There have already been signs of this. While the main attacks against Bernie will most likely be from the red-baiting angle – “Sanders will bring us Venezuelan socialism!” – “He will steal our eye-glasses” or “…our self-defense AR-15s” – I fear that the GOP’s Sheldon Adelsons, and also some wealthy Democrats, may well be sharpening up the same sword wielded in Britain. I think great alertness and good clear answers have already become very necessary.


Victor Grossman
Victor Grossman

Victor Grossman is a journalist from the U.S. now living in Berlin. He fled his U.S. Army post in the 1950s in danger of reprisals for his left-wing activities at Harvard and in Buffalo, New York. He landed in the former German Democratic Republic (Socialist East Germany), studied journalism, founded a Paul Robeson Archive, and became a freelance journalist and author. His latest book,  A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee, is about his life in the German Democratic Republic from 1949 – 1990, the tremendous improvements for the people under socialism, the reasons for the fall of socialism, and the importance of today's struggles.