The State Department is reportedly set to hire a top aide for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) who has a lengthy history of anti-Israel activism and played a key role at the left-wing blog ThinkProgress when an anti-Semitism scandal rocked the publication.
Matt Duss, Sanders’s top foreign policy hand, is expected to move to the State Department, though it is not clear yet what his role will be, according to Politico. Duss will join a growing roster of Biden administration hires who have displayed a deep animus toward Israel, promoted boycotts of the Jewish state, and advocated for a Palestinian “right of return” that would destroy the country’s Jewish composition.
Duss’s elevation is likely to serve as a bright line for pro-Israel groups that threatens to undermine their support for the Biden administration. While the Biden campaign took pains to distance itself from anti-Israel activists, including the anti-Semite Linda Sarsour, Duss’s inclusion in the administration would be a further signal that the new president intends to govern differently.
Duss, whose writings have been described by a watchdog group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, as “infected with Jew-hatred,” has been a leading voice in the anti-Israel movement for the better part of the last decade. His criticisms of Israel were too much even for the Obama White House, which said it was “troubled” by blog posts penned by Duss and his colleagues at the now-defunct ThinkProgress.
His elevation would mark a key win for the Democratic Party’s far-left flank, which presented the Biden transition team a list of nearly 100 people—many of them, including Duss, fringe figures—whom it wants to see in the administration. When Sanders tapped Duss as an adviser to his 2020 presidential campaign, Jewish and pro-Israel officials expressed outrage, with one accusing the senator of “building a campaign team filled with people who have devoted their careers to running anti-Semitic campaigns and calling them anti-Israel.”
Duss drew scrutiny last year for describing Israel’s targeted killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist and military official as an act of terrorism. “Responding to the [Mohsen] Fakhrizadeh assassination by reaffirming the commitment to rejoin the JCPOA would be a good way to send the message that terrorism doesn’t work,” Duss tweeted, referring to the nuclear deal by its acronym.
The Sanders ally gained notoriety in 2011 when he and several other writers at the Center for American Progress’s now-defunct ThinkProgress leveled charges of dual loyalty against Israel’s American supporters, calling them “Israel firsters,” a term that was widely condemned at the time as anti-Semitic.
In one 2010 posting on Israel’s deadly confrontation with a violent mob seeking to break its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, Duss claimed the country’s policies are like “segregation in the American South” and a “moral abomination.” Duss is also a defender of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and said in 2019 that congressional efforts to counter the anti-Israel crowd are a “con and Democrats need to stop playing along.”
Republican foreign policy leaders are decrying the move before it is made. “Hiring someone who praises Fidel Castro and defames Israel’s prime minister is another indication that the only unity in Biden’s foreign policy is between the far left and the extreme left,” Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the Washington Free Beacon.
Rep. Ronny Jackson (R., Texas), a freshman lawmaker who was tapped to serve on the powerful House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, told the Free Beacon that Biden should shun a figure who “has spewed anti-Semitic hate for years.”
Duss’s “disdain for the Jewish people and the American-Israel alliance would be a cancer on the U.S. State Department,” Jackson said, adding that his hiring “would be a step in the wrong direction for American foreign policy and for the future of the American-Israel alliance.”
The State Department told the Free Beacon it has no personnel announcements when asked about Duss on Thursday.
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