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Election Watch 2016

Sanders: “Being Jewish essential to who I am”

(JTA) — Bernie Sanders was asked during the Democratic presidential debate in Flint, Mich., on Sunday evening about reports that Jews were disappointed that he appeared to have downplayed his Jewishness during his campaign.

“I am very proud to be Jewish, and being Jewish is so much of what I am,” Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont, replied.

Sanders- “Being“Look, my father’s family was wiped out by Hitler in the Holocaust,” said Sanders, 74, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and whose father immigrated to the United States from Poland. “I know about what crazy and radical, and extremist politics mean. I learned that lesson as a tiny, tiny child when my mother would take me shopping, and we would see people working in stores who had numbers on their arms because they were in Hitler’s concentration camp. I am very proud of being Jewish, and that is an essential part of who I am as a human being.”

Sanders’ relationship to his Jewish identity was never much of a national issue during his decades as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and then as a senator from Vermont. His history-making bid for the presidential nod brought the question to the fore, however, and in two earlier debate appearances he appeared to avoid raising it, even when it was clearly an issue.

Asked at a debate in February about the historic potential of his rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, becoming the first woman president, Sanders said someone of his “background” moving into the White House would be historic as well, without specifying that he would be the first Jewish president. Sanders made history last month when he became the first Jewish candidate to win a nominating election, in New Hampshire.


Farrakhan praises Trump for not taking Jewish money

(JTA) — Donald Trump won praise from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan for not taking Jewish money in his quest for the White House. Farrakhan, who has made frequent antisemitic comments, lauded Trump during a sermon Sunday, Feb. 28 in Chicago, according to the Anti-Defamation League website the following day.

According to the ADL, Farrakhan said the billionaire Trump is “the only mem­ber who has stood in front of Jew­ish com­mu­nity and said I don’t want your money. Anytime a man can say to those who con­trol the politics of Amer­ica, ‘I don’t want your money,’ that means you can’t con­trol me. And they can­not afford to give up con­trol of the pres­i­dents of the United States.”

Farrakhan, 82, stopped short of a full endorsement, however, stating: “Not that I’m for Mr. Trump, but I like what I’m look­ing at.”

The ADL said Farrakhan’s sermon also blamed Jews, whom he referred to as the “Synagogue of Satan,” for the Iraq War and 9/11 terror attacks.

Referring to former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Farrakhan said, “These are people sitting in the Pentagon, planning the destruction of Muslim nations.”

“Wolfowitz had 10 years now, to plan how they’re gonna clean out the Mid­dle East and take over those Mus­lim nations. They needed another Pearl Har­bor,” Farrakhan said, according to the ADL. “They needed some event that was cataclysmic, that would make the Amer­i­can peo­ple rise up, ready for war … they plot­ted a false flag oper­a­tion, and when a gov­ern­ment is so rot­ten that they will kill inno­cent peo­ple to accom­plish a polit­i­cal objec­tive, you are not deal­ing with a human …”

Farrakhan continued, “George Bush, and those devils, Satans around him. They plot­ted 9/11. Ain’t no Mus­lim took con­trol of no plane.”

Blaming the Jews for 9/11 was nothing new for Farrakhan, who said in a 2015 sermon that “it is now becoming apparent that there were many Israelis and Zionist Jews in key roles in the 9/11 attacks.”


Foxman: Trump knew his Hitler-like salute was evoking fascist symbolism

(JTA) — Donald Trump knew he was evoking fascist symbolism when he asked supporters at a campaign rally in Florida to raise their right arms and pledge to vote for him, former Anti-Defamation League leader Abraham Foxman said. The salute at a rally Saturday, March 5 (and at two subsequent rallies) for the front-running Republican presidential candidate prompted a backlash on social media, where comparisons to Hitler were rife.

“It is a fascist gesture,” Foxman told the Times of Israel news website on Sunday. “He is smart enough — he always tells us how smart he is — to know the images that this evokes. Instead of asking his audience to pledge allegiance to the United States of America, which in itself would be a little bizarre, he’s asking them to swear allegiance to him.”

At the rally at the University of Central Florida’s arena in Orlando, Trump said: “Raise your right hand. I do solemnly swear that I — no matter how I feel, no matter what the conditions, if there’s hurricanes or whatever — will vote, on or before the 12th, for Donald J. Trump for president.” Hands went up throughout the audience amid loud cheers and a recitation of the “pledge.”

Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, said Trump’s ability to motivate his supporters to make such symbolic gestures is disturbing. “As a Jew who survived the Holocaust, to see an audience of thousands of people raising their hands in what looks like the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute is about as offensive, obnoxious and disgusting as anything I thought I would ever witness in the United States of America,” he said. “We’ve seen this sort of thing at rallies of neo-Nazis. We’ve seen it at rallies of white supremacists. But to see it at a rally for a legitimate candidate for the presidency of the United States is outrageous.”

Foxman said he finds it even more troubling that Trump appears to appeal to so many American voters.


NRA praises Sanders for defending gun manufacturers

(JTA) — The National Rifle Association praised presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for saying a law he supported kept lawsuits from driving gun manufacturers out of the United States. “Sen. Sanders was spot-on in his comments about gun manufacturer liability,” the gun lobby said Monday in a tweet about the Democratic debate the previous evening between Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont, and Hillary Clinton, his rival to be the party’s nominee.

Clinton, who hews to Sanders’ right on most issues, including health care, foreign policy and dealing with Wall Street, has hammered him throughout the campaign on gun control, the one major issue where she stands to his left. In Sunday’s debate broadcast by CNN from Flint, Michigan, Clinton pointed out that she voted against a 2005 law that protected manufacturers from lawsuits. Sanders, then in the U.S. House of Representatives, voted for it.

Sanders said he would not oppose lawsuits if the seller or manufacturer could be shown to reasonably anticipate they were selling guns to criminals. “If they are selling a product to a person who buys it legally, what you’re really talking about is ending gun manufacturing in America,” he said. “I don’t agree with that.”

That quote by Sanders was attached to the NRA tweet superimposed over the lobby’s logo.

The CNN moderators raised the question because the families of 26 people murdered in 2012 at Sandy Hook elementary school are suing Remington, the manufacturer of the semi-automatic rifle used in the killings.


Bloomberg: I won’t run in ‘16 because 3-way race could help Trump or Cruz

(JTA) — Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he will not run for president in the 2016 race. The billionaire media magnate, who is Jewish and had been exploring the possibility of running as an independent, announced on Monday that he will stay out of the race because he does not believe he can win and fears a three-way race could benefit Republican front-runner Donald Trump or Trump’s rival, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Bloomberg, 74, wrote that Trump has run “the most divisive and demagogic presidential campaign I can remember, preying on people’s prejudices and fears.” Bloomberg also criticized Cruz, saying his “pandering on immigration may lack Trump’s rhetorical excess, but is no less extreme.”

The ex-mayor concluded that he is “not ready to endorse any candidate.”

Bloomberg won the inaugural $1 million Genesis Generation Challenge in 2014 for “engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and/or the State of Israel.” His charity, Bloomberg Philanthropies, has provided $1.5 million to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in urban innovation grants.


Poll: Jewish- Israelis prefer Clinton to Sanders by more than 2 to 1

(JTA) — Of the two Democratic candidates in the U.S. presidential race, Israelis prefer the non-Jewish one. The Israel Democracy Institute’s Peace Index survey released Sunday, March 6 found that 40.5 percent of Jewish-Israelis see former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “preferable from Israel’s standpoint,” while only 16.5 percent prefer Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish. The survey of 600 Israelis also found that 61 percent of Jewish-Israelis believe Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s positions on Israel are “very or moderately friendly.” In addition, 34 percent of Jewish-Israelis surveyed believe a Republican president would be better than a Democratic one for Israel and 28 percent think a Democratic president would be better, while 38 percent had no opinion or did not know. The telephone survey was conducted from Feb. 28 to March 1. The Israel Democracy Institute conducted the survey. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.1 percent.

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