The critics who think Bernie Sanders isn’t Jewish enough—or isn’t Jewish in the right way—now have a clear alternative in the Democratic presidential race: Michael Bloomberg. Not only is the former New York mayor rising in the polls; he’s also contrasting his Jewish identity with that of the senator from Vermont. Late last month, Bloomberg sprinkled a speech at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in South Florida with the kind of religious references (the Ten Plagues, Moses descending from Mount Sinai) and cultural schmaltz (the pickles at Wolfie’s Deli) that Sanders generally eschews. “I’m not the only Jewish candidate running for president,” Bloomberg added. “But I am the only one who doesn’t want to turn America into a kibbutz.”
Politically, however, the most significant difference between Sanders and Bloomberg’s Jewish identities concerns Israel. Sanders has tried to reconcile his support for the Jewish state with his concern for regional peace and human rights; Bloomberg has not. And while Sanders has aligned himself with a generation of young, progressive Jews, Bloomberg is aligned with the hawkish Jewish establishment. He already boasts a Jewish “Leadership Council” brimming with former officers of Jewish Federations, the American Jewish Committee, the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations, and at least eight past or present donors to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). This alignment, together with Bloomberg’s history of remarks about Israel, suggests that as president he would halt the Democratic Party’s tentative shift toward a more progressive perspective on Israel/Palestine and the entire Middle East.
Time and again, Bloomberg’s unquestioning devotion to Israel has led him to defend immoral and disastrous policies. In 2004, he told an AIPAC reception that on “the one issue that matters . . . standing up for Israel, which I think is like standing up for America, George Bush has been there.” In fact, Bush’s invasion of Iraq—which Bloomberg supported—damaged both Israeli and American security by creating a power vacuum that empowered Iran and enabled the rise of the Islamic State. [Continue reading…]