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Bernie Sanders at CNN town hall: ‘Israel is run by a racist government’

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Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) told a room full of students last night during CNN’s marathon town hall in New Hampshire that Israel is headed by a “racist government,” and vowed to “level the playing field” between disparate American support for Israel and the Palestinians.

When asked how he will maintain a strong alliance with Israel despite his past criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who was reelected to a fifth term earlier this month, Sanders said his longstanding support of Israel, which included a stint living on a Kibbutz in the 1960s, is separate from his view of the current administration.

“I am not anti-Israel, but the fact of the matter is that Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who I think is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly,” he said.

Later in his response he said Israel “is now run by a right-wing–dare I say–racist government.”

Israel is the largest recipient of United States aid since the end of World War II. Currently the U.S. gives Israel $3.8 billion a year in aid, of which $3.3 billion goes to military financing and $500 million supports a missile defense system.

In contrast the Trump administration suspended all U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority last February. The measure followed a steady deterioration of relations with Ramallah after the U.S. embassy was moved to Jerusalem, and an end to U.S. funding to UNRWA, the United Nations agency that supports Palestinian refugees. In recent years UNRWA funding exceeded $1 billion per year, a majority of which went to gender based violence programs.

The Palestinian Authority had received a total of $5 billion in aid from the U.S. since it was established in 1994.

Last week freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) raised conditioning U.S. aid to Israel in an interview with the Skullduggery podcast. “I think it is certainly on the table. I think it’s something that can be discussed,” she said. Ocasio-Cortez also criticized Netanyahu as “a Trump-like figure” who is part of the “ascent of authoritarianism across the world.”

Following, she posted to social media a bill sponsored by Representative Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn) that prohibits U.S. aid dollars being used for the detention, interrogation or abuse of Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel forces and police.

Sanders was less explicit. “The United States gives billions of dollar in military aid to Israel,” he said, “what I believe is not radical. I just believe that the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level playing field basis, which the goal must be to try to bring people together and not just support one country.”

“I am 100 percent pro-Israel, Israel has every right in the world to exist, and to exist in peace and security and not be subjected to terrorist attacks,” he said, “but the United States needs to deal not just with Israel but with the Palestinian people as well.”

Sanders, who is Jewish, is the only presidential candidate who has resided in Israel and has relatives living there.

Allison Deger
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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8 Responses

  1. eljay
    eljay on April 23, 2019, 12:55 pm

    [email protected] just called the Israeli gov “right wing and racist”. Not only is that bogus …

    Israel’s government may not be “right wing and racist” (not right-wing? really?) but – like all previous Israeli governments- it is colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist.

    … but this self-loathing Jew who’s trying to score points with anti-semites …

    Says the Jewish supremacist who’s trying to score points with supporters of Jewish / “Jewish State” supremacism.

    … Bernie = danger for the U.S. & Israel …

    Zionists like Hikind = danger for all Jews

  2. Kay24
    Kay24 on April 23, 2019, 1:53 pm

    Well said Senator Sanders. Apart from Netanyahu’s apartheid policies, we now know it to be absolutely right – he aligned with Jewish terrorists to run for re-election. What more proof does anyone need. I hope the others have the courage to take his cue, and speak out.

  3. Keith
    Keith on April 23, 2019, 6:02 pm

    PHIL- (Sander’s quote)- “I am 100 percent pro-Israel, Israel has every right in the world to exist….”

    Exist as a Jewish state, not as a state of all of its citizens? 100 percent pro-Israel? Good lord, Phil, this is a partisan attack against Netanyahu/Trump without any substance. This is hot air masquerading as tough talk. Bernie is just doing what sheepdogs do.

    • Jejasalo
      Jejasalo on April 24, 2019, 10:48 am

      Good Lord, Keith —

      Welcome to US electoral politics. Sanders *has* to say what he said if he wants even the slightest shot at the presidency. If you want him to start railing about Israel as an apartheid, settler colonial state (which it is) he would have to include the US in order to be consistent or end his presidential bid today. Even if he’s not consistent it’s better to try to get unsecured votes than allowing the undecided electorate to join the evangelical Zionists on the far right.

      Politics is an ugly game but it’s where we are. A majority of American voters will not vote for a man who condemns Israel and all US ties to it. Democracies progress very slowly. We’re stuck with that unless you’d rather we did away with the constitution.

      • Keith
        Keith on April 24, 2019, 3:54 pm

        JEJASALO- “Democracies progress very slowly.”

        How much time do you spend dreaming up excuses? Our current corporate/fat-cat oligarchy (with elections) is currently undergoing rapid change as militarized neoliberal globalization eviscerates the well-being of the 99% at breakneck speed. Bernie Sanders is a sheepdog who bleats hot air to his Sandernista followers even as he reassures the Zionists who own the Democratic Party that he will give 100% support to their agenda and not to worry about what he says. Bernie Sanders is the embodiment of his initials and Phil’s article is making much ado about nothing.

  4. ckg
    ckg on April 23, 2019, 6:03 pm

    McCollum’s bill died when Congress adjourned in December and the bill had not yet been passed. If AOC were serious she would reintroduce it in the current Congress. It’s pointless for a representative to praise a dead bill without resurrecting it. It’s also misleading.

  5. pabelmont
    pabelmont on April 24, 2019, 9:10 am

    Sen sanders is too cautious, presumably partly because he is some kind of Zionist and partly out of awareness of USA politics.

    Still, he is (among others) opening a “window” of criticism of Israel — and with him it appears likely to avoid smear of antisemitism, but we’ll see) — and this is wonderful.

    One could wish the criticism was more complete and explicit, but perhaps in politics small steps are the way to begin a long process.

  6. Peter in SF
    Peter in SF on April 25, 2019, 5:11 am

    In contrast the Trump administration suspended all U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority last February. The measure followed a steady deterioration of relations with Ramallah after the U.S. embassy was moved to Jerusalem,

    Uh, this was the U.S. embassy in Israel, not in the PA as you suggest. The U.S. does not recognize the PA as a government of a state, so it has no embassy in an area under its jurisdiction, though it has had a consulate in Jerusalem for many years.

    and an end to U.S. funding to UNRWA, the United Nations agency that supports Palestinian refugees. In recent years UNRWA funding exceeded $1 billion per year, a majority of which went to gender based violence programs.

    This is a blatantly false characterization of what UNRWA spends its money on. It is not spent on gender-based violence, or even on programs to prevent or deal with gender-based violence. UNRWA spends about half of its budget running a school system, and the rest on health and relief programs. Mondoweiss should not be publishing easily debunkable nonsense like this about UNRWA.

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