Here we go again. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Bernie Sander’s new campaign spokesperson, an illegal alien living in America under DACA protection. She caught my attention again because it turns out she sounds a lot like Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Belén Sisa removed a post from Facebook Tuesday when it was flagged for spouting an anti-Semitic trope in question form – Does the American-Jewish community has a dual allegiance to the state of Israel? When she began getting blowback for her question she deleted the post and apologized.
“In a conversation on Facebook, I used some language that I see now was insensitive. Issues of allegiance and loyalty to one’s country come with painful history,” Belén Sisa, Sanders’ national deputy press secretary, told POLITICO. “At a time when so many communities in our country feel under attack by the president and his allies, I absolutely recognize that we need to address these issues with greater care and sensitivity to their historical resonance, and I’m committed to doing that in the future.”
Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that Sisa supports Rep. Omar’s anti-Israeli comments. Bernie Sanders, after all, supports Omar, too. It should be noted that Sanders is the only Jewish candidate among the declared Democrats.
No other presidential contender came out as quickly — or as forcefully — as Sanders, who laid down a clear line in the crowded Democratic field between those running as true progressives on foreign policy and those who support an existing U.S. policy that tends to favor Israel over Palestine.
Sanders’ reaction to Omar’s comments — in which she said Israel’s allies “push for allegiance to a foreign country” — served other purposes as well: it helped solidify his hold on the party’s left wing and dovetailed with his intensified outreach to older African-American voters, a critical constituency that failed to warm to him in 2016.
“Bernie Sanders has held the most progressive positions in the Democratic Party on foreign policy and U.S. policy toward Israel — and just like with so many other issues, the party is catching up to positions he’s held for years now,” said Waleed Shahid, a former Sanders campaign aide who currently works for the progressive Justice Democrats. “It’s noteworthy that Sanders had both the first statement and the most aggressive one in calling out Netanyahu’s government specifically and mentioning the Palestinians by name.”
So, Sunday Sisa participated in a Facebook thread in which she voiced her support for Rep. Omar, but the way she voiced her support set off some alarms. Sisa used the very statement that Omar used that resulted in the watered down anti-hate resolution in the House.
The post was part of the intense discussion among Democrats regarding Omar’s statement that supporters of Israel in the United States demand “allegiance to a foreign country,” which numerous Jewish organizations and politicians viewed as evoking an anti-Semitic trope.
In the exchange, 25-year-old Sisa, who is national deputy press secretary for Sanders’ presidential campaign, asked the author of the post: “This is a serious question: Do you not think that the American government and American Jewish community has a dual allegiance to the State of Israel? I’m asking not to rule out the history of this issue, but in the context in which this was said by Ilhan.”
When Sisa was asked by another participant if her boss, Bernie Sanders, has “dual loyalty” she responded, “I think I would probably have to ask him. But his comments make me believe otherwise as he has been very blunt on where he stands.”
Sanders faced a similar problem with an aide in his 2016 presidential campaign, also arising on Facebook. She called Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu an “a**hole” and ending her rant with “F**k you, Bibi.”
In the 2016 presidential campaign, activist Simone Zimmerman served as Jewish outreach coordinator for only two days before being suspended. Her suspension and subsequent dismissal came after it was reported by a conservative website that she had written on Facebook that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “an arrogant, deceptive, cynical, manipulative a**hole,” adding, “F**k you, Bibi, you sanctioned the murder of over 2,000 people this summer.” Zimmerman is a former president of J Street U, co-founder of anti-occupation group IfNotNow and was recently appointed U.S. director of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
Bernie’s support of Ilhan Omar voicing anti-Semitic remarks includes his concern that Omar will be victimized for making them. He, however, doesn’t seem to have a problem with victimizing the Jewish population in America for simply supporting Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. While Sisa alleges that so many communities feel under attack by “the president and his allies” she sure didn’t hesitate to attack a community herself. Will Bernie fire her, as he did the previous staffer back in 2016? Probably not. Sisa checks the box of DACA hire and that’s important to the party of identity politics. She’ll probably be cut some slack because of that.