Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden said Democrats need to condemn when criticism of policies in Israel morph into anti-Semitism, including when it is coming from the liberal wing of the party.
Speaking to donors at a virtual fundraiser Tuesday afternoon, which was billed as a “fireside chat” between Biden “and the American Jewish Community,” the 2020 hopeful argued that while anyone can criticize Israel over policy disagreements, anti-Semitism must always be condemned.
“Criticism of Israel’s policy is not anti-Semitism,” the former vice president said, “But too often that criticism from the left morphs into anti-Semitism.”
Biden made the remarks after being asked how the Jewish community can respond to the rising anti-Semitism from the political left in the US.
“Arguably, we haven’t heard enough about the Holocaust because people are still trying to deny its horrible reality. We have to keep talking about it,” the presidential contender added, “So many people forget, it’s almost hard to believe.”
A transcript of the donor call obtained by the New York Times reveals that Biden went even further, saying that “whatever the source,” anti-Semitism must be condemned.
“We have to condemn it, and I’ve gotten in trouble for doing that,” he said, “Whatever the source, right, left or center.”
Democrats have spent decades comfortably maintaining their pro-Israel stance, something that has earned itself a large swath of the Jewish American electorate.
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Jewish Americans have overwhelmingly voted Democrat in the last 10 presidential elections, even when it broke with national trends and a Republican was elected.
Though Jews routinely vote overwhelmingly for Democrats — more than 70% backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 — polling suggests they tend to lean toward the ideological middle.
During the 2020 primary, an intraparty feud emerged as a major sticking point for Jewish Democrats, when ex-2020 candidate Bernie Sanders began publicly feuding with the pro-Israel AIPAC conference.
Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.), who is Jewish, had already become a vocal critic of Israel over what he called it’s “occupation” of Palestinian land, and teased the possibility of cutting off US aid to the longtime ally.
The Democratic socialist also upset many moderate Jewish voters with his embrace of Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-rights activist who has been repeatedly accused of making anti-Semitic remarks. Sarsour was an official surrogate of Sanders’ 2020 campaign.
The former VP has been outspoken about his efforts to reach out to the progressive wing of the party, including through the launch of his “unity” panel with Sanders — which was recently joined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
Biden’s stance on Israel, however, seems to starkly differ from that of Sanders.
He told donors at Tuesday’s fundraiser that, “My commitment to Israel is absolutely unshakable.”
The soon-to-be presidential nominee committed to helping Israel maintain its “qualitative military edge,” as well as working on peace building efforts with the Palestinians.
While he and Sanders both oppose the Israeli annexation of the West Bank, Biden said the Palestinian Authority has to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as an independent, Jewish state.
“We have to continue to fight for the right of both states to exist,” he told donors, “It’s possible, we came close, and we have to try it again, but without walking away from Israel saying no more help, we’re not going to defend you.”
Earlier this month, Biden vowed to resume aid to the Palestinians, which was revoked by the Trump administration in part because it was being used to support terrorism. Biden would also seek to reopen the Palestine Liberation Organization mission in Washington, DC, according to a report.
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