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Trump abandons ‘neutral’ Israel position, Sanders adopts it

on 35 Comments

One of the strangest things in a strange campaign year was to watch the two outsider candidates yesterday deliver written speeches. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are both known for impromptu speaking styles, but Sanders actually published a lengthy speech obviously not written by him and Trump gave his speech, also obviously not written by the candidate, in Washington using Teleprompters. Why such formality? The two anti-establishment candidates were addressing the heart of the establishment, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, and wanted to be on their p’s and q’s. Though Sanders did take the revolutionary step of not actually giving his speech at AIPAC but in Utah, to signal his distance.

Trump had to overcome the fact that he has said he would be “neutral” in the Israel Palestine conflict, which is anathema to AIPAC and Israel-lovers in the US elites, and he did so by not saying so last night. His unscripted moments included repeated professions of love. “I love the people in this room, I love Israel, I love Israel.” And he closed by saying that his daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism, is about to have a “beautiful Jewish baby.”

Most of his speech consisted of denunciations of Iran and the United Nations and the Obama administration. Hillary Clinton was a “total disaster” as secretary of state, and she and President Obama had “treated Israel very very badly,” Trump said. The two felt it was necessary to apply pressure on Israel to get peace, but the opposite was true. “When I become president, the days of treating Israel as a second class citizen will end, on day one…. I will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately.”

Trump echoed Netanyahu when he called for the US Embassy to be moved to Jerusalem and for Palestinians to recognize that “Israel is a Jewish state– and it must forever exist as a Jewish state.”

On MSNBC later various Democratic Israel lobbyists were saying that Trump was piping the talking points but you can’t trust him to actually believe them, whereas you can believe Hillary Clinton in your Zionist bones (to paraphrase Amb. Marc Ginsberg). I found that persuasive. Trump was, for once, a bit mechanical; and also he left out boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). Clinton, Ted Cruz, and even Bernie Sanders (on Chris Hayes’s show) opposed BDS yesterday. Clinton has been sounding the alarm on BDS for a long time, she bragged. Cruz wants to criminalize some forms of BDS advocacy. Trump probably doesn’t know what BDS is. He began his speech by saying he wasn’t pandering; but he clearly was, in all that Jewish state stuff.

Many rabbis walked out on Trump ahead of time; but the hearty applause he got has upset, and surprised, many.

And today Brian Lehrer pointed out that Trump flipflopped on tearing up/enforcing the Iran Deal in the space of two minutes, while Jane Eisner said he had flipflopped on moving the embassy to Jerusalem between December (against) and now (for).

People are hailing Bernie Sanders’s speech because of its avowed neutrality: Though Sanders said we are bound politically and culturally to Israel, he repeatedly criticized Netanyahu over settlement construction, expressed concern for Palestinians living under occupation (or actually “what amounts to the occupation of Palestinian territory”), criticized the Israeli slaughter in Gaza two years ago and the bombing of schools and hospitals, affirmed the Iran Deal, spoke of the desperate conditions in Gaza and said that he cared about both Israelis and Palestinians.

to be successful, we have also got to be a friend not only to Israel, but to the Palestinian people, where in Gaza unemployment today is 44 percent and we have there a poverty rate which is almost as high.

So when we talk about Israel and Palestinian areas, it is important to understand that today there is a whole lot of [word missing] among Palestinians and that cannot be ignored. You can’t have good policy that results in peace if you ignore one side.

He also spoke of Israel’s theft of Palestinian water. Amazing.

For my money the best part of the speech was what Sanders didn’t say. Didn’t mention Jerusalem, didn’t even use the word Jewish. He did refer to his time on a kibbutz in the 60s, and he said that Israel has a right to exist:

Peace will require the unconditional recognition by all people of Israel’s right to exist.

But he didn’t say what that Israel is that has a right to exist. Didn’t call it a Jewish state, didn’t refer to his own Jewishness. Didn’t slam the U.N.

Sanders’s speech counts as a landmark, I guess, because in the middle of a presidential campaign he called for evenhandedness. In all the borders he is establishing for the left-mainstream discourse, maybe this is another one. We don’t have to pander to AIPAC. “Bernie is going further on settlements and Gaza than any other politician past or present,” writes Hazel Kahan. “Who knows what the future will bring.” Look how ABC News played it.

That ought to feel “yuge” but it doesn’t. Because Sanders himself has been so reluctant to make political hay of it. He has done nothing to call Hillary Clinton out for her cozying up to neoconservatives, done nothing with her repeated invitations to Netanyahu to come to the White House. On this issue, the American people still come in last.

Thanks to James North and Adam Horowitz.

Update: WSJ says Trump’s speech was written by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, rightwing Zionist (who forced me out at the NY Observer).

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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35 Responses

  1. Citizen on March 22, 2016, 9:43 am

    If memory serves, on Chris Hays show last night Bernie defended BDS yet also admitted there was “some anti-semitism” among its advocates. He hit Hillary for her regime change record and the bad results in the countries impacted. He hit Bibi as a right wing guy who interfered with US governance by stabbing Obama in the back in US Congress with his anti-Iran Deal spiel, thanks to GOP leadership, and for Bibi’s openly campaigning for GOP candidates against Obama. I thought he was great, much better than all other contenders who are all status quo to the nines.

    • kalithea on March 22, 2016, 10:49 am

      He shouldn’t have mentioned the anti-Semitism. He shouldn’t be discrediting BDS by attaching this label on it when it’s the only means we have to fight the staggering obstacles that Zionism has erected to obstruct justice. It’s challenging enough.

      This proves that unless a person absolutely rejects Zionism; they can’t be trusted to go all the way for what is moral and just; they will be held back by their bias and insecurity.

      But again, he’s the lesser of all evils and I recognize in him compassion so he has the basic requisite to come to the realization one day, hopefully soon, that Zionism is totally corrupt and that it will never lead to justice or democracy. Zionism is a dead end.

      • Kris on March 22, 2016, 11:58 am

        @kalithea: “. I recognize in him compassion so he has the basic requisite to come to the realization one day, hopefully soon, that Zionism is totally corrupt and that it will never lead to justice or democracy. Zionism is a dead end.

        Me, too. Check out his interview with Chris Hayes, here, ; the part about Israel starts at about 03:28, and Bernie doesn’t discredit BDS, he just says antisemitism exists in the world.

      • bryan on March 22, 2016, 3:41 pm

        This is far more than the lesser of two evils: this is bold and incredibly principled. When have you ever heard a serious candidate for the American presidency (well not that serious or he would have bit his tongue) make such a statement? Everyone has been saying he is refreshingly honest on domestic policy: now he is equally refreshing on foreign policy. People are ready to damn him with feint praise. He could have written an article for Mondoweiss pointing out the illegitimacy of settlements, the harshness of the regime, the suffering of Palestinians, including endemic unemployment and water theft, and I would have expected objections from Hophni, but not from other people here. Give some credit where huge credit is deserved.

    • Kris on March 22, 2016, 11:47 am

      You’re right, Citizen, Bernie didn’t condemn BDS. He said that “Israel has done some terrible things,” and criticism of Israel should be about that, but that antisemitism does exist in the world.

      Here’s the Chris Hayes interview; the part about Israel starts at about 03:28 ; the video takes a few seconds to load.

      • Rusty Pipes on March 22, 2016, 4:22 pm

        Hayes: Clinton also today talked about the Boycott Divest Sanction movement which is a you know international movement, some of the people who advocate those tactics believe that Israel should be a binational state they don’t believe in Zionism some are Zionists but they want to see Israel support a two-state solution more strenuously move away from … the settlements — she linked it to racism to anti-Semitism basically she said she connected BDS to anti-semitism. Do you think that’s a fair linkage?

        Sanders: Well, I think there is some of that, absolutely. Look, Israel has — has done some very bad things. So has every other country on earth. I think if people want to attack Israel for their policies, I think that is fair game. But not to appreciate that there is some level of anti-Semitism around the world involved in that I think would be a mistake.

  2. kalithea on March 22, 2016, 10:30 am

    Trump abandons his ‘neutral’ Israel position for a day.

    So it’s only for a day, is it? His reversal on neutrality seemed pretty complete to me; but then he was only pretending a speck of difference up to that point to get some gullible Democrats and Independents on board his Trump train headed for fascism.

    And when Trump hires John Bolton to his team; will you still be holding out hoping for Trump change? You left out the part where Trump assured over and over the U.N. veto like a steamroller back and forth annihilating all hope of justice that might emerge at that end.

    • MRW on March 23, 2016, 12:27 am

      His reversal on neutrality seemed pretty complete to me

      You sure? He just read what his son-in-law wrote. Big whoop.

    • Boo on March 23, 2016, 9:28 am

      Drumpf is nothing more than a political weathervane that, on any given day, always points to opportunism and expediency.

  3. Kathleen on March 22, 2016, 11:48 am

    “Sanders’s speech counts as a landmark, I guess, because in the middle of a presidential campaign he called for evenhandedness ”

    Bernie is by far the most sane on foreign policy. Appears to have his conscience in working order. Although was disappointing to her him admonish BDS. Did he do the same to the world wide (South African) anti apartheid movement? Don’t think so

    Hillary, Cruz completely pledged their allegiance to Israel no matter how many international laws, UN resolutions, human rights crimes the commit against the Palestinians. Of course we could not expect anything different out of Clinton who has done so for decades.

    Questioned the same things that Joy Reid did on MSNBC yesterday when Cruz went as far as he did with the BDS movement and any group of campus in support. Cruz going right up to the edge of second amendment rights in the U.S. Forget the name of the news person she was being interviewed with by Chris Matthews when he also had Congressman Brad Sherman on. So tired of people like Sherman being called a Progressive by MSM host.

    Trump did refer to Palestine as ‘ Palestine” at Aipac. Have to give him that one.

  4. Mooser on March 22, 2016, 11:48 am

    “And he closed by saying that his daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism, is about to have a “beautiful Jewish baby.”

    That’s been bothering me. I don’t want Trump to be disappointed in the issue.
    I hope he understands that if it is a boy, it’ll take about a week to make him beautiful.

  5. Kathleen on March 22, 2016, 12:36 pm

    At the Intercept
    The U.S. Government Is Still Fighting to Bury the Senate Torture Report

  6. kalithea on March 22, 2016, 12:44 pm

    Blowback from U.S. foreign policy authored by Hillary Clinton who gets her cue from Zioconservatism is unfolding before our eyes in Europe in the form of ISIS terror with yet another tragic incident in Brussels and perhaps up to a million and a half refugees streaming in out of desperation.

    If we don’t act now on behalf of Sanders; we’re all doomed. Sanders has to beat Hillary. Hopefully, she’ll be indicted soon.

    And Trump is just as crazy as she is, as he proved at AIPAC, channeling Netanyahu, so please dump Trump and move over to Sanders.

    • chris o on March 23, 2016, 12:21 am

      Clinton is boring and very predictable. And she’s pretty liberal too. No indictments there, that’s just right-wing hysteria which has taken over a lot of the left when it comes to Hillary.

  7. amigo on March 22, 2016, 1:28 pm

    While America is busy trying to elect the perfect POTUS , ( means who was the top “fellater” at the AIPAC conf ) , we Europeans are the subject of ISIS attacks in our capitals , see latest bombs in Brussels , and have literally millions of refugees landing on our shores –all thanks to HRC /George dumbya Bush and the pro Israel neocons,(with full support from Tony poodle Blair ) who prosecuted the war on Iraq which resulted in the birth of ISIS .

    Anybody know how many Syrian refugees the US Gov is taking in .Maybe Trump can work his magical deal making and declare , “Give me your tired and weary and war torn bodies ” .

    Just to clarify , this is in no way meant to condemn those millions of Ordinary Americans who opposed the Iraq war.

    • echinococcus on March 22, 2016, 1:38 pm

      I don’t know where you get your US news, but just for precision, I (or anyone else) didn’t see so many “millions of Ordinary Americans” opposing the Iraq war, once the demonstrations petered out and consensus by single-party-and-press understanding was established. The many many millions of Ordinary Americans were busy playing with yellow ribbons and cheering Shock and Awe in front of their TVs.

      • amigo on March 22, 2016, 3:04 pm

        “I don’t know where you get your US news, but just for precision, I (or anyone else) didn’t see so many “millions of Ordinary Americans” opposing the Iraq war, once the demonstrations petered out.echinococcus

        So what if the protests petered out and I did not say how many Millions .2 million will qualify.In any event , taking to the streets is not the yardstick for opposition.

    • scott9854958 on March 22, 2016, 5:23 pm

      “You Europeans” can kiss my backside. No sympathy for you. None.

      You blame American foreign policy for ISIS? Ha, not even Assad himself does that. Here is his incredibly insightful message to the Brits (and others) last December:

      “How many extremist cells now exist in Europe? How many extremists did you export from Europe to Syria? This is where the danger lies. The danger is in the incubator.”

      Smart guy, that Assad. I guess he got to know Briton Jihadi John (South London native) up close and personal.

      In other words, you are the problem. You in Europe, the ones who invaded the Middle East so many decades ago, cut it up to suit your needs and then invited thousands of Islamists into your cities. You nurture these radicals with lavish welfare benefits & hate speech protections. You watch them go into Syria and murder civilians and destabilize an entire country and then wonder why you’re being inundated with refugees.

      And by the way, most of the refugees are economic migrants, not war refugees. They’re coming to Europe because you chumps will give them homes and food stamps and smartphones and they know that.

      You can take your blame game and get stuffed.

      • DaBakr on March 23, 2016, 1:42 am


        you get a cigar for that reply

      • amigo on March 25, 2016, 11:09 am

        “You Europeans” can kiss my backside. ”

        No thanks yank.What a load of ill informed blather you posted.Any reasonably intelligent 5 year old kid knows ISIS emerged as a result of the illegal invasion of Iraq.Don,t take my word for it.Read and hear the words of Tony Poodle Blair who was the quasi 2nd in command.

        “Tony Blair is right: without the Iraq war there would be no Islamic State”

        You should realise that a vote from Dabakr is proof you also are FOS.

        Keep posting that nonsense , I love a little cabaret.

      • amigo on March 25, 2016, 7:53 pm

        “You Europeans” can kiss my backside. ”

        Say scott 9766654

        What part of EURPOE did your forefathers plonk their backsides in before they went and invaded the native Americans land and stole it from them before murdering most of them.

        Btw , we Irish did not invade the Middle East as if you give a monkeys nuts about Syrians or anyone else there.

  8. Kris on March 22, 2016, 3:59 pm

    From The Intercept, “Bernie Sanders Spoke Up for Suffering Palestinians, but Few in Broadcast Media Covered It”:

    Sanders did get a chance to expand on his views on the issue during a sit-down interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and a CNN town hall. In both cases, the topic was discussed only briefly. “Overwhelmingly, the United States has time and time again looked aside when Israel has done some bad things,” he said during a two-minute segment with Anderson Cooper.

    The only reason Bernie Sanders gets away with being even slightly sympathetic to the Palestinians is that he is not begging for AIPAC money, unlike Hillary and the rest of the Republicans. There are very few Zionist Jewish voters; the huge, disproportionate power of Zionists over our government and media is based on the power that comes from enormous wealth.

  9. Mooser on March 22, 2016, 4:09 pm
    • Mooser on March 22, 2016, 7:19 pm

      My impression is that the media is trying to come up with some way to differentiate the candidates on this issue. As if they aren’t all pretty much the same.

  10. K Renner on March 22, 2016, 7:22 pm

    I don’t think that Dylan Williams really understands just how bigoted a considerable portion of the pro-Israel Jewish community is/has become, and nearly wherever it appears.

    Pro-Israel Jews who DON’T rant about the “evil Muslims and their jihad” in regards to the Palestinian nationalist movement or “Palestinian, Arab animals, subhumans” are almost what you’d call the exception to the rule.

    These are people who think they can get up on public air flights and start screaming at people for being “animals” and “baby killers” (despite the overwhelming evidence damning Israel as that in the context of Palestine), remember?

    Donald Trump has shown that he essentially hates “the Muslims” as a collective and really Arabs and non-Jewish Middle Easterners in general. This kind of mentality is one shared by AIPAC and the nastier elements of the pro-Israel crowd.

    Not surprised at all. I am to an extent, in a good way, with Bernie though.

  11. chris o on March 23, 2016, 12:17 am

    On the bright side, this really kills the Trump brand. Who is the puppet now? Who is pandering now? Who sounds like every other politician now? And his base must understand this. Ironically, this may be the only time a slavishly devotional speech to Israel can be effectively used against a candidate. But now that I think about it, I guess it can’t be used against him because nobody will use it against him.


  12. RobertHenryEller on March 23, 2016, 8:53 am

    Little Donnie folds, just like Marqito.

  13. Misterioso on March 23, 2016, 3:34 pm

    Trump Foreign Policy Adviser Has Ties to Brutal Lebanese Militia

    By Max J. Rosenthal
    Mother Jones, March 21, 2016

    Donald Trump has finally announced the names of five of his foreign policy advisers, and at least one member of his new team is sure to raise eyebrows.

    Walid Phares, a Lebanese academic who advised Mitt Romney’s campaign in 2012, is one of the five names Trump gave to the Washington Post during a meeting with the paper’s editorial board on Monday. As Mother Jones reported in 2011, Phares was a major player in the Lebanese Forces, one of the Christian militias that fought in Lebanon’s brutal 15-year civil war. According to Toni Nissi, a colleague of Phares’ at the time, Phares helped the group’s leader, Samir Geagea, steep its fighters in religious ideology.

    “[Samir Geagea] wanted to change them from a normal militia to a Christian army,” Nissi said. “Walid Phares was responsible for training the lead officers in the ideology of the Lebanese Forces.”

    The Lebanese Forces are now just one of Lebanon’s many political parties, but the group was responsible for one of the war’s most notorious incidents, the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in Lebanon’s Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982.

    Phares is also well known as an anti-Muslim campaigner. He’s appeared on the radio show of Frank Gaffney, the conspiracy theorist who’s a foreign policy adviser to Ted Cruz.

    • gamal on March 23, 2016, 8:10 pm

      “Phares is also well known as an anti-Muslim campaigner.”

      there so is a P in Arabic otherwise I’d be tempted to transliterate Walid’s surname as Faris, correctly, fucker can’t spell and Trump is talking to him but what would he know about Islam he’s Phoenician.

  14. Danaa on March 24, 2016, 4:46 am

    One other commendable statement by Sanders (I believe it was in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, but I’m not sure): he stuck it to Saudi Arabia – actually named them as a key sponsor of terrorism – something Hillary, with all the money she (and/or hubby’s “foundation”) received from the despicable KSA, would never, ever do. sanders called out KSA as undemocratic, despotic, and generally a bad player, including in Yemen. He also singled out Qatar for honorary mention – Qatar which is spending $200.B for the vanity spectacle of the world cup. Sanders suggested that some of that money could have much better uses.

    IT took me a short research to verify that indeed, not one of the candidates, and not one of the news stations had the guts to call out SA for the sponsor f ISIS and Al-Qaeda that it is. A thoroughly disgusting regime (but no, no one advocates regime change there, do they?).

    The reason for avoiding naming the culprit of terrorism as wahabism-on-steroids is obvious: money. Sanders referred even the the Saudi regime buying the acquiescence of their own citizens. And right he is. But KSA (and Qatar and UAE) also bought stakes in any number of news organizations – something that is not always in plain sight, but is known to those who need to know and some others who care enough to look. Needless to say, surreptitiously they contribute to the candidates as well even if it’s well hidden behind super-pac or “foundation” veil.

    I think it was incredibly brave of sanders to go there. At least as brave as directing some criticism Israel’s way for Gaza and the settlements and the hint that israel is not always working in good faith (OK no news to anyone here).

    Since much of the media has jewish involvement in one capacity or another, no wonder they have worked so hard to first ignore him, then diss him, then dismiss him. And still he won’t go away, despite obvious election fraud (Arizona), suspected fraud (Iowa, Illinois) and generally shabby treatment by the liberal bastions, such as NYT and MSNBC.

    We complain a lot about having poor candidates. But there is one who is head and shoulders above them all, and it’s Bernie Sanders. A mensch among the mice. IF we, the people, can’t get a guy like this into office because of quibbles, squabbles and petty cynicism, may be we all deserve what we are going to get.

  15. Kathleen on March 24, 2016, 2:47 pm

    Anyone hear this one on NPR this morning. Pretty damn good.
    First thought Emily was going down the rabbit hole.

    Parallels – World News

    Can Israelis And Palestinians Change Their Minds?

    The rival positions are so entrenched that change can seem impossible. NPR Jerusalem correspondent Emily Harris talks to two Israelis and two Palestinians who explain why they changed their thinking.

  16. Boomer on March 24, 2016, 6:34 pm

    PS: This evening, NPR devoted time to the guilty verdict for Radovan Karadzic for his role in the killings and ethnic cleansing after Yugoslavia broke up. The NPR reporters discussing it allowed as how international justice is slow, so the victims in Syria will need to be patient. I thought about the killing and ethnic cleansing that created Israel. I wonder how long the Palestinians will need to wait for justice. It has already been a long time. Of course, the U.S. has done everything it can to make sure that justice never comes for the Palestinians . . . or for Israelis and Americans, for that matter.

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