Having hit some sour notes with the Jewish community over the course of his campaign, it is unsurprising that Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has hired a director of Jewish outreach. His choice, however, may be questionable: Simone Zimmerman is known for her anti-Israel stance, reports the Times of Israel.
The appointment was first publicized by JTA, in a story on the growing concern among Jewish supporters for Sanders’s lukewarm attitude towards Israel. Already, some right-wing opponents of the self-proclaimed Democratic socialist have come down on Zimmerman’s appointment.
— Simone Zimmerman (@simonerzim) April 5, 2016
“Yes, this is what the Bernie Sanders version of Jewish outreach looks like,” he continued. “Stone throwing and BDS papered over with random Yiddish and Jewish words to make anti-Semitism and hatred of Jew seem socially acceptable.”
While the anti-Semite label may be a little harsh for Zimmerman, who identifies strongly with the Conservative Jewish community and was once an Israel supporter, she certainly is no friend of the Jewish State today.
After visiting Israel and witnessing what she considered Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians, Zimmerman was swayed by information provided by BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) supporters. She became active in J-Street, an organization which bills itself as being “pro-Israel, pro-peace” and advocates for the creation of a Palestinian state in Gaza, along with Judea and Samaria, the Biblical heartland of Israel. In 2012, Zimmerman was even elected president of the national student board of J Street U, the organization’s arm on campus. In 2014 she helped found a spin-off organization called IfNotNow, advocating the immediate end of the “occupation” and protesting against pro-Israel American Jewish groups during that summer’s war with Hamas.
Zimmerman’s anti-Israel sentiments even go so far as to curse out the country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. In an angry Facebook post from last March, Zimmerman wrote, “Bibi Netanyahu is an arrogant, deceptive, cynical, manipulative a–hole.”
“F— you, Bibi, for daring to insist that you legitimately represent even a fraction of the Jews in this world,” she continued, in a long rant against the Israeli government’s actions.
She also criticized Netanyahu’s strong objections to the infamous Iranian nuclear deal, writing, “F— you…for trying to derail a potentially historic diplomatic deal with Iran and thus trying to distract the world from the fact that you sanctioned the murder of over 2,000 people this summer.”
Zimmerman concluded that “a brutal military occupation of millions more continues under your watch”.
Although she says she personally opposes BDS, she supports the inclusion of pro-BDS groups under the umbrella of Jewish organizations such as Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
In a column which she wrote for left-wing Israeli news site Haaretz in February, she contended, “We are doing this [opposing what she considers the occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel] out of love for our community and love for our neighbors. We know that Jewish liberation is inextricably tied to the liberation of all people.”
Zimmerman stressed the importance, in her view, of “bringing American Jews to do civil resistance work in solidarity with West Bank Palestinians.”
She continued, “What we need is for the community to stop willfully blinding itself to the disastrous reality of holding millions of Palestinians under military occupation. Moreover, we need the community to stop policing and demonizing those of us who say these truths in public and are fighting for change.”
She is certainly singing Bernie’s tune, but it remains to be seen whether that will resonate with Jewish voters.