Tag Archives: Jewish

Open Letter to Bernie Sanders: How dare you?

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Dear Bernie,

I decided that before I begin sharing with you my feelings on your stance towards Israel I would first research your comments condemning the attacks by Palestinian terrorists on the civilian Jewish population.  So, in fairness, to begin I will post those condemnations before I proceed with what I would like to say.

 

Now that I have finished with that I will continue.  No, I did not forget to cut and paste anything in this letter and I skipped a line on purpose to bring attention to the blank space.  The truth is that I was unable to find any time in which you condemned acts of terrorism against the Jewish population of the State of Israel.  Of course it is easy to find times in which you condemn Israel.  Everyone is very aware of that, however in order for you to be an honest broker, would it not be required to address the issue from an objective standpoint rather from the vacuous self-serving pandering place from which you wish to start?

Mr. Sanders, I have no problem with people criticizing Israel or its governments policies.  A large portion of the Israeli population does the same.  The difference is that the larger percentage of these people, besides having to live with the consequences of their opinions, also have served in the Israeli military.  The vast majority of these people do not have to answer to anyone for their motivation.  You however, seeing as you believe yourself worthy of the presidency of these United States can indeed be questioned as to your motivation for all of your political viewpoints.  To me your motivation regarding Israel is clear.  You see it as far more politically expedient to attack Israel than support her.  When do you stand with any representatives of the State of Israel?  Even those opposed to Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.  I see you standing proudly and with joy next to those who openly hate Israel.  To people like Linda Sarsour, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, people who at best laugh off blatant anti-Semitism, at worst contribute to it and perpetuate it.

I will not listen to the argument from you about how you can be against the State of Israel and still care about the fate of the Jewish people when you have done nothing to show yourself as an honest broker.  Where are your efforts to help the people you claim more and more to be part of as you get closer and closer to primaries in states with a larger Jewish population? And in case you claim to not know why Israel is connected to the fate of Israel, something I believe you do know but conveniently ignore, allow me to enlighten you.

The Jewish people have been victims of persecution throughout time, culminating into what was the most systematic and organized mass murder of one segment of the population the world has ever seen.  Out of the ashes of the Holocaust the modern State of Israel was born.  It was not created as a business venture or for political gain.  It was created as a safe haven for the Jewish people.  History shows us that the very survival of the Jewish people, YOUR people, may very well depend on having a Jewish state ready and able to protect and shelter us.  So while criticizing its government is a democratic process permitted and accepted in what you refer to as a racist government, supporting people, as you do, who attempt to grow organizations determined to bring Israel to her knees and destroy it is totally unacceptable.  To say in a New York Times interview 4 years ago that Israel killed 10,000 people in Gaza when that was way more than the terrorist group Hamas fraudelently claimed were killed is unacceptable.  To argue on behalf of the dignity the Palestinians while keeping quiet when it comes to the survival of Jews is unacceptable.

When asked recently what it means to you be to Jewish you responded as follows.

“I can remember very vividly, as a kid, looking at picture books about what happened in the Holocaust. As it happens, my father’s family was wiped out by Hitler.”

To this I say to you the following words. How dare you?  As a son of Holocaust survivors I see the most poignant words in your answer as being “As it happens”.  As though it’s a side point.  Forget being Jewish for a minute, something I imagine should be easy for you, your response shows a disrespect for your father and his ancestry. As it happens?  Did you only just find this out because you felt it would help your campaign?  Or is it, as it happens, on a side note, my father’s family was wiped out by Hitler.  Or, and this is how I see it, you felt that by making it too big of a deal you wouldn’t properly pander to a base you see critical to your political ambitions.  If I were to invoke the Holocaust as the one thing I see as what it means to be Jewish, let me tell you how I would answer. “Having learned about the Holocaust from a young age, having never had a grandparent because of it and knowing that 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, I will never sit quietly when people threaten my people again, and I will do my best to be the kind of person who will stand up to any groups that look to persecute and wipe out any group of people.”  That is what I would say Mr. Sanders.  It wouldn’t be a soundbite that sounds so disingenuous that I have to fight the urge to question if it is even true.

As a Jewish American I will conclude by saying that as long as you continue to behave in a way I believe to be the ways of a traitor to his own people, you will not only not get my vote, you will get my active opposition.  You see Mr. Sanders, if you can’t show an ounce of loyalty to your own people, background and heritage, why would I ever consider someone like you, someone I see as a disgrace, to be a leader in the country I proudly call home.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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How the lesson of Kobe Bryant’s life can be connected to a Jewish teaching

Celebrities At The Los Angeles Lakers Game

After a few days of reflecting over the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and 7 others this past weekend, I felt compelled to share my thoughts as to why Kobe’s death had such a huge global impact on society. I came to the conclusion that in many ways it had to do with an old Jewish lesson of how to live a successful and happy life.

Although Kobe Bryant grew up in a very Jewish neighborhood of Philadelphia and even once was quoted as saying “I wouldn’t mind being Jewish. I wouldn’t mind. Really.”, I tend to think that the philosophy he had that made his presence so powerful and his life so appealing was likely more a product of a good upbringing and life’s experiences.  Ultimately I believe that what drew people to Kobe more than anything was the fact that he appeared to be a truly happy man.

The blemish, for lack of a better word, in the Kobe story deals with the Colorado rape accusation.  I generally have little tolerance and no respect for celebrities involved in situations where they hurt others, particularly when they chalk it up to a “mistake”.  They get on the airways or social media and often even go as far as portraying themselves as a victim, in many instances displaying behavior showing that rather than being a mistake, what they did was indicative of their character.   In the case of Kobe Bryant, it truly appears as though at worst he did make a terrible mistake and did a terrible thing, at best there are aspects of this story we may never know and tell at least a somewhat different and significantly less incriminating story.   I do not say this to challenge the woman in Colorado’s claims. I say this because in every thing he has appeared to do since that time, Kobe Bryant was not only a model citizen, but everywhere you turn you see a man who not only treated women well, he advanced their causes.  Whether it was reporters, friends, athletes or celebrities, every single woman who has spoken of him since his death has done so in loving admiration, respect and gratitude. So Kobe was either never that bad, or his growth from a true mistake was significant and profound.

The most powerful images of Kobe were with his family.  This was clearly a man who was surrounded by a wife and daughters whose lives were wonderful, to no small part because of what he gave them.  And in every single photograph you see with his family, you see a truly happy man.  This was a man who adored his family, valued them in a way you would hope everyone would, and always seemed to want for nothing more, while always working to accomplish more.

It is my belief in seeing these images and learning more about this man that the old Jewish teaching Kobe lived by was the teaching that is the foundation of a happy life.  It comes from Ethics of our Fathers and states,  “Who is Rich? Those who are happy with their portion”.  In Kobe Bryant you clearly saw a man who was grateful for everything he had, from the time he had less to the time he had more.  This man appeared to always be happy with his portion in a manner that so many fail to reach.

Those close to him are devastated because they lost him and his beautiful 13 year old daughter from their lives.  Basketball fans are saddened by the loss of an all time great and wonderful global ambassador of the game.  And everyone with any degree of compassion knows how tragic the helicopter accident was that took the lives of Kobe, his daughter and 7 other people.  But what I believe is the reason this has had such an impact on the world is that because of the aura of happiness that appeared to be all around Kobe Bryant, people who struggle to be happy felt a sense of hope.  He was a tremendously gifted and talented man, but the center of his happiness seemed to revolve around those he loved, and the commitment to excellence that was manifested in hard work and determination.  Things that are more attainable to the every day person than the ability to play basketball.   And his death, as tragic as it was, happened in the pursuit of something pure, something that reflected positive values.  In seeing the pictures of him with his daughter Gianna, I can’t help but think that the 2 of them died in the company of their best friend, each other.

I would offer this lesson to be learned from this tragedy.   Rather than asking why, make your pursuits the reason why.  Look at a man who improved himself constantly, strengthened his character and values, and was truly happy with his portion. Try to emulate those positive attributes. Become a better person, a happier person.  Become someone who, if you are not already, is happy with their portion.  Do this and hope does not ever have to die with the loss of someone you idolize or even when in your life it is the loss of someone you love.

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Open Letter to Nassau Coliseum Senior Vice President, Booking – Keith Sheldon Regarding Upcoming Roger Waters concerts

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Dear Mr Sheldon,

Although I am not certain you are the correct person to address regarding this matter, I will start with you and go from there depending on the response.  As I am sure you are aware, there are a large number of people, not only from Long Island but from all over the tri-state area, and the entire world for that matter, that find Roger Waters to be an offensive anti-Semite with views riddled with hypocrisy and hate.  While I agree with the concept of keeping musical performances separate from political ideology, in essence meaning an entertainer can believe whatever he or she chooses to believe without having concern for their right to perform, in the case of Roger Waters this very issue is what makes it imperative that his upcoming concerts at the Nassau Coliseum get cancelled.  Please allow me to explain why.

As a Jew and a Zionist my personal views for Roger Waters are anything but positive.  His unrelenting attacks on the State of Israel, much of it through his activism in the BDS Movement, attacks that border on obsession, are so filled with a one-sided hate for the Jewish element in Israel, I would believe that alone would be enough to have him unfit to perform at your venue.  I do not sit here writing you this letter to make an argument for Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinians, but I will make a point of saying that anyone who refuses to even entertain at least some culpability on the part of Palestinian leadership is clearly biased in one direction.  Since that bias is directed towards the Jewish leadership in Israel it is clearly more than just anti-Zionism, it is unquestionably anti-Semitism.  In allowing his shows to go on, you are allowing an individual filled with hate to represent himself on your stage, a stage located in the midst of a vast Jewish population.

All that being said, there is a far more basic and solid reason to be made against his performance.  To quote his very own words, words he spoke in response to hearing of the efforts to stop his shows from going on,  Waters said his shows would not be cancelled, “insisting a performer’s rights should not be under attack because of his or her beliefs.”  This glaring hypocrisy from a man who has attacked and harassed some of the most established and successful musicians in the world for performing in Israel.  Here are a few examples of comments he made to fellow musicians.

 To Bon Jovi:

“You stand shoulder to shoulder with the settler who burned the baby. The dead can’t remind you of the crimes you’ve ignored.”

 

To Thom Yorke of Radiohead

“My answer to people who say we should go there and sit around the campfire and sing songs: No, we shouldn’t. We should observe the picket line.  Anybody who’s tempted to do that, like our friends in Radiohead, if only they would actually educate themselves. I know Thom Yorke’s been whining about how he feels insulted, people are suggesting he doesn’t know what’s going on.”

 

To the Rolling Stones

“Regardless of your intentions, crossing the picket line provides propaganda that the Israeli government will use in its attempts to whitewash the policies of its unjust and racist regime.”

Star like Paul McCartney, Alicia Keys and Neil Young have all been pressured by Waters to cancel performances in Israel.  Sir Paul and Keys even revealing being the victims of death threats and intimidation, all spurred on by the same Waters who insisted  “a performer’s rights should not be under attack because of his or her beliefs.”

You have an unprecedented opportunity here.  Rather than cancel his concerts, you can make them conditional.  Conditional on Roger Waters publicly declaring the same stance towards performers choosing to perform in Israel that he feels he is entitled to on Long Island.  That being as he said, the right to perform somewhere regardless of one’s beliefs. Should he accept the terms, he will be exposed further as the hypocrite that he is, but in doing so an enemy of the only democracy in the Middle East will no longer harass his fellow musicians. Should he refuse and cancel his own concerts, the message you will send to the people of Long Island and many miles beyond will solidify the Nassau Coliseum as more than just a building with a big hall, it will establish it as a place where true performers and artists are showcased.  It will unquestionably be better for business in the long run and will establish a close bond with the community.

I am sending this letter to you first, but also intend to attempt to work on having it signed and presented as a petition in the hope that the number of signatures gives you an indication of how important this is to many people wishing to be future patrons of your venue.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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Welcome to a World of Sociopaths

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I’m basically a Democrat. I have plenty of friends who are Republicans.  I often disagree with them, occasionally agree with them, and from time to time don’t want to even venture into a political discussion with them.  I’m not fan of our current president.  I have friends who love him. We will definitely disagree on how we feel about him, sometimes jokingly while sometimes with more intensity.  One thing we never do however, is physically hurt or attack each other.  Does that make us wonderful people? Absolutely not. It makes us normal people.  It makes us people who are not sociopaths. Unfortunately we live in a world crawling with sociopaths.  They can be Democrats, Republicans, black, white, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, man, woman, citizen or immigrant. But make no mistake. Sociopaths are all over the globe, be it someone who drives a truck through crowds of people in Nice, blows himself up in a concert in Manchester, mows down women and babies on a Jerusalem street with a car, goes on a shooting rampage at a baseball practice for American Congressmen, or on a lesser but still significant level a comedian who holds up what looks like a severed head of the President of the United States.

I believe and understand that everyone wants to be part of something.  I realize that so many people in the world are in search of a movement.  That being said, even those who choose movements, even those movements I hate and find damaging or hateful, are not sociopaths for being what I perceive as stupid or misguided.  Do they give a platform or strength to the crazy person that feels it is OK to hurt or kill?  Frankly I say no, and here’s why.

I am a somewhat liberal Jewish Democrat who does not like Bernie Sanders at all.  It would not be totally abhorrent to me to blame him for what happened in Alexandria, Virginia since the shooter was a Sanders supporter. However, as much as I dislike Bernie, he is not the reason the shooter, James Hodgkinson, was crazy enough to go on a shooting rampage at a bi-partisan baseball practice with children present.  Somehow this man felt that he could do whatever he wanted to do no matter how vicious, hateful or violent it was. It’s one thing when dictators preach violence and murder against a segment of society, it’s something entirely different when a politician speaks angrily against policies. What happened was not Bernie Sanders fault.  But it is critically important to note that it also was not Donald Trump’s fault.  It’s society’s fault.

We are all very focused on the behavior of radical Islamic terrorists and for good reason. That being said, we need to make sure to pay close attention to our own house, because while we sit back and focus our concerns on other nations, we are a nation with it’s very own rising population of sociopaths, and until we find a way to stem this very dangerous tide, I fear more and more people will get hurt or killed.  My suggestion, and if President Trump follows through on this and has success this will be his legacy, is to appoint a Mental Health Czar. This would be a man or woman entrusted with understanding and dealing with the psychological issues facing so many people today.

Someone said to me earlier today that James Hodgkinson shot up the baseball field because he was mad that Trump won the election.  But that’s not the case. The reason he went on a shooting rampage against Republicans at a baseball practice is very simply because he was a sociopath.  He somehow felt his behavior was acceptable or justified. It’s very easy to blame the “other side” for all the bad that happens, and that is acceptable when it deals with policy, but when it deals with violence it’s time all of us normal people, the ones who don’t believe injuring or murdering people is acceptable behavior, remember this one very critical thing. We’re all on the same side.  When we start looking at it that way we may be on the way to saving the future of our very fragile society.

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Is ridiculing feelings like Baseball, Apple Pie and Chevrolet? Not in my America

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We all know the saying, “As American as Baseball, Apple Pie and Chevrolet”.  I always liked that saying, because although I’m not a car guy and Apple Pie isn’t my favorite thing in the world, at least those 3 things, I do like baseball a lot,  have the ability to contribute positively to people’s lives.  So if Apple Pie and Chevrolet are to be associated with things very American, that only stimulates and strengthens my patriotic impulse.  Unfortunately in the time passed since the election, it appears that a large segment of society thinks there is something else that is the American way, and that is the ridiculing of feelings.

I am white, I am Jewish, I am straight and I am male.  So in all fairness, as much as I genuinely am not pleased with the outcome of the election, the worst of Donald Trump’s campaign statements and his new administration’s potential upcoming policy agenda, at least on the surface won’t impact me directly.  So if I would speak constantly of ongoing sadness and despair, although I would have every right to feel it, I could see the rationale in calling me a cry baby.  But what about those, potentially at least, who feel they will be directly impacted?

The LGBT community has watched as the country has elected a ticket with a Vice President formerly in favor of using HIV funding for conversion therapy and once signed a bill to jail same sex couples in Indiana who applied for marriage licenses.  Are gay people whiners if they express concern and even fear?  Is the cast of Hamilton really harassing the Vice President elect as stated by the President-elect Donald Trump because they use their platform to first welcome him to their show and then call on him to be a public servant for all Americans? Are the feelings of people whose lives could get directly impacted by policy or attitude wrong for having feelings? Not in my America?

What about law-abiding, patriotic American Muslims.  And yes, for those of you on the right rolling your eyes and wondering how a proud Jewish man and proud Zionist could say such a thing, there are significantly more of those types of Muslims in the country than there are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.  Are they wrong for being scared?  Are they wrong for feeling fear of the backlash caused by comments by the President-elect  and his new National Security adviser during the campaign?  Are they wrong for feeling as though they are being made to feel less than welcome in what is also their America?  Is it OK to see them as a threat merely for being born into the religion they were born into?  Not in my America?

But no other group has been made to feel more deeply isolated and frightened by what has taken place during this election cycle than the Latino community.  Addressing those Mexicans who are murderers and rapists in a way that left it open to be interpreted as all Mexicans, rallying people behind the building of a wall between the US and Mexico, and most significantly garnishing support by proposing rounding up all undocumented aliens and deporting them, was all it took to create an atmosphere of fear and despair in much of Latino America.  This is about much more than Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric.  This is also about how so much of the American public took to the rhetoric.  Blaming undocumented immigrants for your poor lot in life is at best a precursor to a dangerous racist society, at worst the creation of it.   So I ask you, were Latinos who were shaking and crying the day after the election crybabies and whiners?  Not in my America.

I have often said that you can dispute facts but you can not dispute feelings.  Someone is not wrong for how they feel.  Their feelings may be based in the perversion of fact, but questioning the legitimacy of feelings is as illogical as saying someone is wrong for liking Pizza or Star Trek.  People like what they like and feel what they feel.  Furthermore, when a large segment of society feels a certain way, especially when those feelings are based on things they have consistently heard for over a year and a half, who is anyone to ridicule those feelings?  Are people who have been the basis and so much of the foundation of Donald Trump’s success wrong for feeling targeted?  Not in my America.

Just as we should not ridicule the feelings of those decent people who chose Donald Trump because they found him to be the best choice moving forward, so too we should not tolerate the ridicule of the people who are not happy with the result.  Particularly those who feel their lives might very well be negatively impacted.  You might say that protesting will do nothing positive and may just make it harder to move forward.  I understand that viewpoint. Rioting and causing damage to property and loss of life should be met with harsh and immediate punishment.  Without question I get that.  But is ridiculing feelings as much a symbol of this great country as Baseball, Apple Pie and Chevrolet? Not in my America.

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To destroy the Monster you must destroy the Head

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A 13 year old Jewish girl gets murdered in her bed.  A 13 year old Jewish girl gets murdered in her bed and all of us desperately try to make some sense out of it.  This was not someone who was going to impact world politics in the immediate future. She was a threat to no one.  She was neither going to hurt nor help the Palestinian cause. Hallel Yaffa Ariel was a 13 year old girl who likely would continue doing whatever a 13 year old girl does.  Yet somehow something possessed a 17 year old Palestinian boy to become a terrorist and murder her. Besides the obvious tragedy and heartbreak any normal person would feel for this horror, it is also accompanied by a desperate futility.  How do we begin to solve this?  How do we stop something so unimaginable, so horrific, so much in defiance of normalcy that we, as normal people would not even begin to be able to comprehend it?

When I was 17 the worst thing I did was cut school and make out with a girl in the back of a movie theater.  I was a child. I did not know it then but I know it now.  I also know that had I been raised to hate, to be violent, to be brutal, there is a very good chance I would have done something much worse.  I also know that if I would have been a harm to society at that age, or any age for that matter, it would have been justifiable to separate me from the innocent, certainly from the defenseless, and in turn any additional retribution would have been appropriate.  I say this because although I believe emphatically that the killing of this 17 year old terrorist was appropriate, I also cringe in fear at the thought that Palestinian youths are being formed into such tools of brutality, and wonder where and when it stops.

There are many things I don’t know.  What I do know is that whatever someone’s politics is, murdering a 13 year old girl in her bed is a heinous despicable act.  I also know that there is no moral equivalency between Israel retaliating to attacks and what happened to this girl.  Even when innocent people die in Israel’s responses, they do so more because the same people who taught this 17 year old to hate and kill are the same people who use their people as shields or pawns.  If you wonder who is responsible for the tragic deaths of innocent Palestinians you need look no further than to the very same people that taught this 17 year old that it was OK to kill a 13 year old girl in her bed while she was sleeping. These people, these representatives of everything evil, not only didn’t value the life of this little girl, they did not value the life of this 17 year old they pretend to fight for.  They are cowards, manipulators and for those who do not know, they are just as bad as anything ISIS has to offer.

These young terrorists, these Palestinian teens that are ready to murder for a cause I imagine they barely understand, are in many ways already gone.  If it is us or them the decision must be an easy one.  But make no mistake.  Their lives were taken from them by those we need to hunt down and destroy.  The so-called leaders of the Palestinian people who are getting rich and powerful while they use their people to murder Jews.  And no matter how many innocent Palestinians get killed in the process, ultimately innocent people on both sides will be saved if these devious manipulators are found and destroyed. Whoever they are, wherever they are, until the head of the monster is destroyed the monster will continue to grow and the danger of more innocent Jewish children getting murdered in their sleep will only continue to grow.  That is something that should be unacceptable to any decent human being and must be stopped no matter what it takes.

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Bernie’s Double Down on Israel is About Fear, Not Courage

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After watching the debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, some commentators went on the record as saying they felt Senator Sanders showed courage in his continuing insistence that Israel’s military action in the most recent Gaza War was a “disproportionate response”.  Their analysis was that a Jewish politician coming to New York and taking this unpopular stance in, of all places Brooklyn, took bravery and character, regardless of whether you agree with his viewpoint or not.  The reality is, despite how it looks on the surface, nothing could be further from the truth.

I don’t blame the commentators for feeling this way.  I do recognize that when Van Jones, a journalist for CNN and an African-American showed a degree of admiration for Sanders for not backing down, he was very clear about the fact that it was whether you agree with him or not.  His admiration for his character was not an endorsement of the viewpoint.  Nevertheless, just as I can intellectually understand but not comprehend what it means to be black in America, so too Van does not understand what it is like to be the son of Holocaust survivors. Incidentally, neither does Bernie Sanders.

Even when discussing his Jewish background and experience with Israel, Senator Sanders comes across more as he is talking about them than us.  I hardly ever use the term self-hating Jews anymore, not because I don’t believe that some Jews fall into that category, but because I believe it to be inappropriate to declare what someone hates or loves unless they come right out and say it.  However, I do know that the perspective of a cultural Jew whose parents immigrated from Poland with little money is very different than a proud Jew whose parents lived through Nazi-occupation first hand. But more importantly I recognize that those who take the side of the enemy hardly ever do so because of a courage of convictions, rather they do so out of a fear so deep-rooted, they either don’t know it exists or they deny it to the world.

The enemies of the free world are dangerous and frightening people.  Most of these enemies hate America and its way of life with a passion.  To an Islamic Extremist, there is almost nothing worse than an American with American values.  Almost. The one thing worse is a Jewish American.  That’s not to be taken lightly in today’s world. After all if history proves nothing else, it proves that hatred for Jews is easily converted into violence against Jews.  Throughout time, but most notably during the time of Adolph Hitler, there were always Jews who took the side of the enemy because they felt it would save them.  The harsh reality is, that it not only ended up in the loss of their lives, it ended up in the destruction of their soul.

I have absolutely no problem with a presidential candidate speaking of the rights of Palestinians to live in dignity.  I have also gone on the record many times as being someone completely willing to blame Israel when they deserve to be blamed.  That being said, a sovereign nation defending its very right to exist and retaliating against missile attacks on its population centers by a terrorist organization is not the guilty party.  Furthermore, being a Jewish politician in America and taking the side of the terrorist organization not only does not make you an individual of courage and character, it ultimately does nothing to make you immune from those who hate the Jewish people.  All it does do is make you another typical politician pandering to a certain demographic, albeit not the demographic of those born into the same religion as you.  It also makes you a coward more than it makes you a hero.  Taking on Israel is not the same as taking on Wall Street.  Taking on Israel is easy.  In the world in which we live today, it might even help a politician get more funding, and generally speaking, and I say this with pride,pro-Israel Jews don’t commit acts of violence against those who oppose their views.  I have little doubt Bernie Sanders knows that as well.

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