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How did a Nazi flag wind up at a Sanders' rally?

Bernie Sanders is managing to keep up an active campaign schedule, despite his recent heart attack and even more recent drubbing on Super Tuesday at the hands of Joe Biden. Last night he held a rally in Arizona to pump up the troops, but one particular “trooper” was of the sort that nobody wants to see showing up. A young man in the audience whipped out a Nazi flag and began waving it, briefly being caught on camera. The crowd quickly turned on the flag-waver, forcing him to drop his Nazi symbol and flee the area, but the damage had already been done. People raced to be the ones who most quickly denounced the display. (Associated Press)

The display of a Nazi flag by a man at a Bernie Sanders campaign rally in Arizona drew condemnation from Jewish American groups and his main rival in the Democratic presidential primary on Friday amid ongoing worries about Democratic candidates’ security at public events.

Images of a flag depicting the Nazi swastika symbol that was briefly displayed at Sanders’ Thursday night rally in Phoenix began circulating online after the incident. The moment also elicited warnings about anti-Semitism directed at the Jewish Sanders, who has talked about members of his father’s family being “wiped out” by the Holocaust.

“Good people, regardless of how they vote, should call this out in no uncertain terms,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in an interview, adding that “I worry we’ll see more of this” given the anti-Semitism that emerged, particularly online, during the 2016 campaign.

The security personnel responding to the incident weren’t able to find the guy and he wound up escaping, albeit without his flag. That left plenty of questions for everyone to mull over.

As to who did this, the Anti-Defamation League claims to have worked out who it is. You can click through and judge for yourself, but I won’t print the name here until there’s some sort of confirmation from authorities. If they have the right guy, it won’t be particularly surprising for him to have done it as he’s something of a provocateur.

If it turns out to be some other unknown person, it’s tough to say what his crazy motivation might have been. Did he honestly think that Bernie and his supporters would be sympathetic to Nazi views and expect people to join in with him? Was this a “false flag” operation designed to help someone else by making it look as if Sanders attracts supporters with such radical views? Was he just some drunken/stoned crackpot?

The situation is complicated by the fact that Bernie Sanders is Jewish, making the stunt all that much more of an outrage. Of course, Sanders may have faced less antisemitism than other politicians because the fact is that he doesn’t exactly wear his Jewish heritage on his sleeve. (When discussing this with one of my relatives this morning, she said, “Bernie Sanders is Jewish?”)

I’m not going to scoff at anyone who didn’t realize that fact. The way that the Vermont Senator seems to avoid discussing his religious beliefs has been something of an issue for a while now. Back during the 2016 campaign, Sanders told the New York Times that he’s Jewish, but he doesn’t like to talk about it. That’s changed a little bit this year, with Sanders declaring that he is, in fact, Jewish, but he’s not “actively involved in organized religion.” In other words, Sanders is “of Jewish heritage” but apparently isn’t actively practicing.

Still, he was quick to (justifiably) decry someone coming to his rally with a Nazi flag. But that’s not all. He’s dropped a few comments into recent interviews about members of his father’s family being “wiped out” during the Holocaust. That seems a bit like a case of trying to eat your cake and have it too, doesn’t it?

Look, I’m not the judge of how anyone practices (or doesn’t practice) their religion of choice. It’s none of my business whether Sanders regularly attends services at the local temple. But if he’s not doing that, exposing himself to the same dangers as the rest of the community, is it a truly honest approach to go out on the campaign trail and talk about the impact of the Holocaust on his people? I’ll leave that call to the reader’s discretion.

In any event, there are few things that nearly the entire country can agree upon these days, but this should certainly be one of them. We don’t need Nazi symbology at political rallies and when such things show up they should be broadly condemned from both sides of the aisle.