Top Sanders Surrogate: Zionism Is a 'Racist' Ideology

Phillip Agnew, Bernie Sanders, and rapper Killer Mike / Twitter
March 5, 2020

A top surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I., Vt.) presidential campaign claimed Zionism is a "racist" ideology and even criticized Barack Obama for saying otherwise.

Phillip Agnew, a self-proclaimed militant, was published by Ebony magazine in 2015 arguing that Zionism "is a racist, exploitative, and exclusionary ideology."

"There is no direct line from Zionism to the Black Freedom struggle," Agnew wrote. "No rhetorical imagination-acrobatics can conjure one, and no amount of intimidation can chart one. It is a racist, exploitative, and exclusionary ideology."

Agnew, who also goes by Umi Selah, criticized then-president Obama for comparing the right of Jews to "have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination" to African Americans having equal protection under the law. He called it a "lie" and a "figment of our well-manicured imagination."

The Sanders campaign and Agnew did not respond to requests for comment.

Agnew's viewpoint is out of line with even the United Nations, which has a history of heaping scorn on the Jewish state. The international body voted overwhelmingly in 1991 to revoke a statement it previously passed, saying, "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination."

"The official count found 111 nations in favor of repealing the statement and 25 nations, mostly Islamic and hard-line Communists, voting against," the New York Times reported at the time. "Thirteen nations abstained. Seventeen other countries, including Egypt, which recognizes Israel, and Kuwait and China, did not take part in the voting."

Agnew is the cofounder of Dream Defenders, a group that promotes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which advocates an economic boycott of Israel and its people.

He officially endorsed Sanders last July and has been actively campaigning for him for several months. He spoke alongside other prominent Sanders surrogates such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and liberal filmmaker Michael Moore earlier this year in Iowa. He also introduced Sanders at a November campaign rally in Los Angeles and appeared with him in August to discuss health care and college affordability with young voters.

Sanders's national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray expressed admiration for Agnew's political views, calling him an "absolute delight" on Twitter last year.