A spokesperson for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign apologized Tuesday for questioning if Jewish people have a “dual allegiance” to the United States and Israel.
Belén Sisa, Sanders’ national deputy press secretary, made the comments Sunday on Facebook while defending Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has faced significant backlash for the same sentiment.
“In a conversation on Facebook, I used some language that I see now was insensitive. Issues of allegiance and loyalty to one’s country come with painful history,” Sisa told Politico. “At a time when so many communities in our country feel under attack by the president and his allies, I absolutely recognize that we need to address these issues with greater care and sensitivity to their historical resonance, and I’m committed to doing that in the future.”
When one person involved in the Facebook conversation pointed out the history behind the “dual loyalty” slur, Sisa responded, “This is a serious question: do you not think that the American government and American Jewish community has a dual allegiance to the state of Israel? I’m asking not to rule out the history of this issue, but in the context in which this was said by Ilhan.”
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (2nd L) speaks as Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) (L) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (R) listen during a news conference on prescription drugs January 10, 2019 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Another Facebook user then followed up with Sisa, asking, “Do you think Bernie Sanders has dual loyalty?” She responded, “I think I would probably have to ask him. But his comments make me believe otherwise, as he has been very blunt on where he stands.” (RELATED: ADL Calls For Resolution Condemning Anti-Semitism Following Rep. Omar’s Comments)
Omar made the claim approximately two weeks ago at a town hall in Washington, DC and has yet to apologize for the claim, despite receiving a strong rebuke from members of both parties.
Though Sanders criticized her word choice, he also defended the Minnesota congresswoman.
“We must not, however, equate anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel. Rather, we must develop an even-handed Middle East policy which brings Israelis and Palestinians together for a lasting peace,” a statement from him reads in part. “What I fear is going on in the House now is an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate. That’s wrong.”