The controversial Bernie Sanders aide reportedly in line for a Biden State Department posting has assailed President Joe Biden's approach to the Middle East and lambasted other Democratic leaders, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), for their support of Israel—going so far as to question whether Democrats like Schumer who opposed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are fit to lead the party.
Matt Duss, who is reportedly in the running for a State Department gig, is a veteran anti-Israel activist who has come under fire for criticizing the Jewish state in terms that watchdog groups have called anti-Semitic. His voluminous Twitter feed suggests he would be an odd fit for the purportedly pro-Israel Biden administration: On the platform, he has lambasted Democrats who oppose an economic boycott of Israel and accused pro-Israel Democrats of "carrying water" for Israel.
His targets have included the president himself. In January 2020, Duss accused Biden "of undermining [former president Barack] Obama's peace effort" between the Israelis and Palestinians, saying that Biden's pro-Israel approach "has been wholly discredited by the last three years, in which ‘no daylight' has only deepened the occupations, no chance of peace." His remark came just months before the Trump administration announced historic peace agreements between Israel and its longtime Arab enemies, including Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
This type of criticism is a hallmark of Duss's foreign policy, which opponents of his posting at the State Department have described as dangerous for U.S.-Israel relations. Duss has emerged as a flashpoint between pro-Israel Democrats and the party's left flank. Both groups see Duss's elevation as a window into the Biden administration's foreign policy approach, particularly as it relates to diplomacy with Iran and security arrangements with Israel. Duss's supporters include proponents of Israel boycotts and advocacy groups pushing for reduced cooperation between the United States and Israel.
A review of Duss's Twitter feed reveals a deep hostility toward pro-Israel Democrats, including Biden, Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D., Md.), who have been vocal about their support for Israel and skepticism about the Iran nuclear accord.
When Cardin refused to sign a Democrat-led letter warning Israel about annexing portions of the West Bank last May, Duss accused the Jewish senator of supporting a "system of racist inequality and dispossession." He claimed that Cardin's views are anathema to the Democratic Party's values.
In March 2020, then-candidate Biden told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the nation's leading pro-Israel advocacy group, that he would never support Israel boycotts and would always "stand for a secure democratic Jewish state of Israel." Duss said Biden's vows to pursue a two-state solution are not good enough: "The Palestinians don't have ‘legitimate aspirations,' VP Biden, they have rights. You can say it. I know you can. Palestinian rights."
After a U.S. airstrike killed Qassem Soleimani, the top Iranian military leader who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, Duss excoriated Pelosi for supporting the move: "Pelosi now applauding the assassination of a foreign government official," he wrote.
As debate raged in 2019 over anti-Semitic comments by Reps. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), Duss mocked those who recommended the Israel-obsessed lawmakers take a trip to Israel with Hoyer and AIPAC. "Of all the bad faith criticisms of Tlaib and Omar, I think ‘If they really wanted to learn about Israel-Palestine they would've joined Steny Hoyer's AIPAC propaganda trip' is probably my favorite," he wrote.
Duss also has accused pro-Israel Democrats of defending racism and violence against the Palestinian people. In one July 2019 missive, Duss promoted a book purporting to expose Israel's alleged occupation, calling it "required reading for ‘pro-Israel' Democrats trying to protect the status quo."
"When you go after progressives for criticizing the occupation, you're not only defending systemic racist violence against Palestinians, you're undermining our Israeli colleagues struggling to end it," Duss wrote.
Duss also has attacked Democrats who stand against the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. "Democrats who buy into anti-BDS hysteria are carrying [Israeli prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu's water," Duss wrote in May 2019 in a tweet that included a link to an article headlined, "Why are the Democrats doing Bibi's Dirty Work?"
Schumer, another leading pro-Israel Jewish member of Congress, is a frequent target for Duss. As the Iran nuclear deal was being negotiated in 2015, Duss said Schumer's opposition to the deal—which provided Iran with billions in cash that was spent to fuel its global terrorism enterprise—should disqualify him from leading the Democratic Party.
"Very hard to see how someone so out of step with his own party can presume to lead it," Duss wrote in August 2015.
"A week ago, question was whether Dems would follow Schumer opposing Iran deal," Duss wrote later in the month. "A week later, question is whether Schumer's fit to lead Dems." Other tweets from that time demand that Schumer give up his role as a party leader.