Anti-Zionist Left Rallies to Defense of Controversial Biden State Dept Pick

Peter Beinart and anti-Semitic cartoonist Eli Valley rush to defend Matt Duss's anti-Israel history

Matt Duss / YouTube screenshot
• February 8, 2021 2:51 pm


Some of the country’s most prominent, self-described "anti-Zionists" are rushing to defend the Biden administration’s possible selection of a top Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) aide to serve at the State Department.

Following a Washington Free Beacon report last week on Matt Duss’s anti-Israel history, anti-Zionists including Peter Beinart, the Jewish writer beloved by anti-Israel activists, are coming to his defense. Beinart wrote in a self-published piece on Monday that Duss is being unfairly maligned by the pro-Israel community and Republican leaders because he is a Christian who cares "about the powerless and the abused, whatever their race, religion, or nationality."

Beinart, the former editor of the New Republic and an Iraq war supporter, called for an end to the Jewish state of Israel, and American support for it, in an essay last year. 

The possible selection of Duss, like Beinart a defender of the anti-Semitic Israel boycott movement, has become a flashpoint between pro- and anti-Israel activists. Both groups see Duss's potential elevation as a signal about what direction the Biden administration's foreign policy will take. The prospect of Duss appointment is being cheered by the Democratic Party’s far-left flank, which is pressuring the Biden administration to hire nearly 100 people, including Duss, who are hostile to the U.S.-Israel alliance and want to see an end to the close cooperation between the two. Critics, including the former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley and freshman Rep. Ronny Jackson (R., Texas), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, say Duss’s "disdain for the Jewish people and the American-Israel alliance would be a cancer on the U.S. State Department."

It is unclear what position Duss is under consideration for, but he would join a growing roster of Biden administration hires who have displayed 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. This includes Robert Malley, the administration's new Iran envoy who once held unauthorized talks with Hamas, and Maher Bitar, a White House National Security Council member who spent his youth organizing in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

Beinart's praise for the Sanders aide was well-received by Trita Parsi, vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, an isolationist think tank bankrolled by billionaires George Soros and Charles Koch. Parsi, who has faced accusations of acting as an unregistered lobbyist for the Iranian regime, said Duss’s critics are being led by war "hawks trying to prevent the best in Washington from getting into the Biden administration." Parsi also was included on the far-left's list of 100 foreign policy hands they hope to see hired by the Biden administration.

Beinart also took to Twitter last Thursday to defend Duss from criticism leveled by the pro-Israel community. Beinart also demanded that a Free Beacon reporter who wrote about Duss’s views stand "in a [Palestinian] village slated for demolition" and perform "teshuvah," the Jewish ritual of atoning for one’s sins. Beinart argued that Duss is qualified to conduct U.S. diplomacy because "he has been to the West Bank repeatedly and seen the inhumanity of denying millions of people basic rights."

Anti-Semitic cartoonist Eli Valley also came to Duss’s defense online. Valley, whose cartoons have depicted Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu raping Barack Obama, took issue with the Free Beacon’s reporting on Duss, which included a critical quote from former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who said the selection of Duss "is another indication that the only unity in Biden’s foreign policy is between the far left and the extreme left." Valley referred to Haley as a "MAGA anti-Semite."

Duss has repeatedly come under fire for his rhetoric on Israel, which includes accusing the Jewish state of terrorism. He also was a key player at the left-wing ThinkProgress blog when it was engulfed in an anti-Semitism scandal that the Obama administration described at the time as troubling. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a watchdog group, described Duss's writing as "infected with Jew-hatred."

Published under: Biden Administration