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Sanders says he’d leverage aid to change Israel’s racist policies but ‘the fault is not all with Israel’

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Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) were both questioned about their potential policies towards Israel this week by members of the progressive Jewish organization IfNotNow.

At a campaign event in Berlin, New Hampshire on August 13, Bryn Mawr College student Emma Glazer asked Sanders why he felt compelled to end the occupation. In response Sanders explained:

It’s a funny thing. All that I have ever said on this issue, is that U.S. foreign policy should be even-handed. That’s all. Even-handed…we respect Israel. Israel has every right in the world to live in peace and security, but so do the Palestinian people. So do the Palestinian people. And as somebody who is proudly Jewish, to be critical of a right-wing Netanyahu government in Israel is not to be antisemitic…And by the way, the fault is not all with Israel, you got very poor and corrupt Palestinian leadership, but what the goal of the United States has got to be is to bring people in the region together, the Palestinians and the Israelis to create a kind of workable peace which works for both parties not just one…the United States government gives a whole lot of money to Israel and I think we can leverage that money to end some of the racism that we have recently seen in Israel.

Glazer released a response to Sanders’ comments:

As a proud Jewish Vermonter, I am heartened to hear Senator Sanders ground his opposition to Netanyahu’s right-wing, racist policies in his Jewish identity and offer a new approach to ending the occupation. I am disgusted that the right, which has spent years furthering an ideology of violent antisemitism and white nationalism, continues to spread the lie that any criticism of Israel is antisemitic. It is increasingly clear that American Jews, and Americans in general, don’t want their tax dollars going to support racist government policies, whether it be family separation in the U.S. or endless occupation in Israel/Palestine.

At a Working Families Party event that same day, Elizabeth Warren was asked about how she’d pressure Israel to end the occupation by IfNotNow co-founder and organizer Dani Moscovitch. Moscovitch pointed out that while the situation has been quite bad under the Trump administration, Israel’s racist policies remained entrenched while Obama was president as well. Warren told her:

So, I think of this as starting with our values and that is recognizing the dignity and worth of every human being. I believe that Israelis and Palestinians want a chance at self-determination and a chance at building a future for themselves, for their children, and for their grandchildren. The way we will do that…the way they will do that is a two-state solution. Our role is not determine what the two-state solution is, but it is to push them in that direction. Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu have [pulled us] in the opposite direction…but you’re right, for a long time everyone has mouthed the words “two-state solution”, but no one has been willing to push hard. I believe that what we can do best for peace in the Middle East is to push the current government in Israel toward negotiations for a two-state solution. And we get a two-state solution, that is the end of the occupation, that means that the parties then have self-determination and are able to build a future going forward. Each of them, for their own children and their own grandchildren, but it’s going to take a willingness to push and to push hard.

Muscovitch responded to Warren’s answer on Twitter, “It’s a start! But it’s not a plan. [Elizabeth Warren] you have so many incredible plans putting forth a bold vision for structural change in this country. Do you have a plan to pressure the Israeli government to end the military occupation of millions of Palestinians?

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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11 Responses

  1. RoHa on August 15, 2019, 2:55 am

    And what does he mean by “leverage”?

  2. Misterioso on August 15, 2019, 9:33 am

    File this under “C” for corruption:

    “UN religious freedom monitor working with Israel lobby” Electronic Intifada, August 13/19, by Ali Abunimah

    “the United Nations expert charged with monitoring religious freedom around the world is being accused of ignoring Israel’s systematic violations of the rights of Palestinians to observe their faith.

    “Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, is also working closely with Israel lobby groups to produce a report that may stigmatize support for Palestinian rights as anti-Semitism.

    “Shaheed is an academic and the former foreign minister of the Maldives.

    “’Since his mandate, in November 2016, Mr. Shaheed has been very vocal, outspoken and active on important and crucial topics such as anti-Semitism,’ the organization Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said Monday.

    “’He’s also been disproportionately vocal on freedom of religion in Iran, in comparison with his silence on issues of freedom of religion of Shia minorities in countries like Saudi Arabia, for instance.’

    “But Euro-Med Monitor observes that it has ‘failed to find a single statement by Mr. Shaheed pertaining to the continued Israeli violations of Palestinians’ rights to freedom of religion at the Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif, even on occasions where Israeli authorities completely closed down the gates of the [al-Aqsa] mosque in the face of Muslim worshippers in July 2017, or more recently.’

    “Israeli occupation forces violently attacked Muslim worshippers and closed the al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem to Muslims on Sunday, the first day of Eid al-Adha.

    “At the same time, it allowed some 1,700 Jewish worshippers, organized by groups whose aim is to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, to enter the site.

    “Israel also habitually imposes restrictions on the freedom of religion of Christians.

    “Moreover, the most recent visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories by the office of the special rapporteur on freedom of religion was more than a decade ago.

    “Working with Israel lobby”

    “’We find this seriously alarming when one of the most relevant authorities on the issue of freedom of religion stands completely silent and turns a blind eye to grave and systematic Israeli violations against Muslim worshippers at al-Aqsa mosque,’ Anas Jerjawi, director of Euro-Med Monitor’s Palestine office, said.

    “Jerjawi also charged that Shaheed ‘is close to pro-Israeli lobbying groups such as the European Jewish Congress, World Jewish Congress and others.’

    “’This raises more questions concerning the objectivity of his conduct when he simultaneously refuses to criticize or at least document Israel’s violations against Palestinians’ right to freedom of religion.”

    “In May, Shaheed teamed up with the World Jewish Congress and Jewish communal organizations in Europe to plan the ‘first ever’ UN report on anti-Semitism.

    “The World Jewish Congress lobbies in support of Israel, including justifying its attacks on Palestinian civilians as ‘self defense’ and opposing BDS, the nonviolent boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

    “The lobbying organization aims to ‘activate the prodigious wealth of Jewish talent in the field of public relations to counter adverse images of Israel and its people, in the media, on the internet and by articulate spokespersons who attack it.’

    “Shaheed aims to submit his report on anti-Semitism to the UN General Assembly in September.

    “In a call for evidence for his report, Shaheed explicitly asks for examples of anti-Semitism ‘as enumerated in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA’s) Working Definition of anti-Semitism.’

    “This is significant because the controversial IHRA definition, promoted by Israel and its lobby, conflates anti-Jewish prejudice, on the one hand, with criticism of Israel and its racist state ideology, Zionism, on the other.

    “Zionism is racist because it holds that Palestinians expelled from their homeland before, during and after Israel’s creation, should not be allowed to return to their homes just because they are not Jewish.

    “In keeping with this Zionist ideology, Israel views Palestinians as a ‘demographic threat’ which must be controlled by means ranging from racist and discriminatory laws to habitual massacres.

    “Last week it was revealed that the IHRA definition was used by a British local authority to ban a charity bike ride raising money for Palestinian children from using its public parks.

    “In internal emails, officials in the London borough of Tower Hamlets cited the organizers’ opposition to Israel’s well-documented crimes against Palestinians as anti-Semitism.

    “In response to this incident, Antony Lerman, former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, renewed his warnings that the IHRA definition is being used for blatant censorship.

    “Lerman writes that it is the ‘very vagueness of the IHRA that has licensed a free-for-all of interpretation, delighting opponents of Palestinian demands for equal rights, the right of return for refugees, an end to ethnic cleansing and acknowledgement of the Nakba.’

    “But now, the UN’s expert on freedom of religion is adopting this arbitrary, vague and sweeping definition as the basis for his report.

    “Anti-Palestinian tweets” [Quoted in the article.]

    “Shaheed used his Twitter account before assuming his UN role to express bias in support of Israel.

    “He echoed an Israeli talking point that the UN singles Israel out, when in fact the world body has never once imposed sanctions on Israel for numerous egregious violations of international law:

    “He even took aim at the government of the Maldives for helping rebuild the destroyed homes of Palestinians in Gaza.

    “Shaheed has also boasted about his ‘overtures towards Israel.’

    “Notably, Shaheed is a senior fellow with the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, a think tank chaired by Irwin Cotler, one of the most prominent figures in Canada’s Israel lobby.

    “Euro-Med Monitor says it has ‘attempted on numerous occasions to get in touch with Mr. Shaheed, in the quest of motivating him to undertake necessary actions in accordance with his position and the responsibilities assigned to him.’

    “But the human rights group says all its letters ‘remain entirely unanswered and ignored.’

    “The group has also written to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urging the body to investigate Shaheed’s conduct and to replace him if necessary.”

  3. Rusty Pipes on August 15, 2019, 10:53 am

    I like Elizabeth Warren, but it doesn’t matter how hard we push Israel (or what carrots we can use to convince them) to sit down for negotiations. It matters how hard we are willing to push once we get them there.

  4. Elizabeth Block on August 15, 2019, 11:23 am

    “very poor and corrupt Palestinian leadership” – yes. It’s often said that power corrupts. So, I think, does powerlessness. You may have noticed that in organizations with very little power in the wider world, the leaders, and would-be leaders, fight hard for what power there is.

    As for Elizabeth Warren, I would ask her the question I’ve asked Canadian political leaders: What’s your Plan B? When you can no longer pretend to think there’s ever going to be a Palestinian state, what then?
    People who support, or say they support, two states actually support the status quo, i.e. Israel’s continuing theft of land, water, livelihoods, and lives.

  5. genesto on August 15, 2019, 12:34 pm

    The fact is that Warren, while very strongly progressive on domestic policy, is weak on foreign policy. When she has addressed foreign policy in the past, she comes across as a hawk, very much like Hillary and other major women politicians over the years, both here and abroad. This appears to be an attempt to counteract the pervasive (though unfounded) notion that women are not as tough as men and, therefore, would render us weak in the international arena. Tulsi Gabbard is the notable exception to this general rule, since she has been in combat – even been awarded for bravery during her service – and has nothing to prove in this regard. Instead of looking for more wars in which to embroil our country, she is combating the US’ hunger for imperialistic, regime change wars, and is taking a tremendous amount of heat for it.

    I’m afraid that Warren cannot be trusted to resist the enormous pressure by the military industrial complex and the Israel lobby, to drag us into yet another war, including one with Iran. Until I see or hear otherwise, I’d be a bit suspicious of the other women candidates’ ability to resist such pressure as well.

  6. hearhear on August 15, 2019, 2:22 pm

    The following is an excerpt from a poem that caused a sensation when it was read at a Tel Aviv event marking the first year of the Intifada. The poet is an israeli professor of Hebrew literature and he is famous throughout Occupied Palestine as a lyricist and TV show host. He was commissioned by the israeli government to write many of its military songs.

    First Intifada: 1987-1993. Of course you zionists Jews will call him a self-hating Jew. He may call you all a Jew-hating Jew. HearHear in the United States of israel…until we take it back and justice for all in Palestine will prevail and israeli war criminals are sent to The Hague.

    We Shoot Children Too, Don’t We

    By Dan Almagor 1983

    Most of these people truly desire
    To harvest their olive trees
    As they have for hundreds of years.
    Most of these people truly desire to raise their kids
    Not to throw stones
    Or Molotov cocktails,
    But to study in peace,
    To play in peace,
    And to raise a flag.
    Their own flag.
    And facing that flag, to cry
    As we did, that night, then, excited as we were.
    And we have no, have no, have no
    Right in the world
    To rob them of this desire.
    This flag,
    These tears.
    These tears, which always, always
    Come after all the others.

    Let us start preparing our defense.
    We will need it soon enough.
    All those who actually did it,
    And those who still do.
    And those who hushed it up,
    And those who still do.
    And those who said nothing,
    And those who clucked their tongues, saying
    “Something must be done, really;
    (But not tonight. I have a concert,
    A gala,
    A birthday!)”

    Yes, we’ll all get our summons one day
    For the Colonels’ trials.
    The Colonel’s trials are coming,
    Their time will come, it must be so.
    The trials of the Generals, the Colonels,
    The division, the battalion,
    And the platoon commanders.
    There is no escaping it.
    This is how history works.
    What shall we say?
    What will the Colonels, the Captains, the
    Corporals say?

    What will they say
    Of those terrible beatings,
    The brutality,
    Of houses blown up,
    And most of all, the humiliation.
    That humiliation.
    Of patients forced to wipe the writing
    off the walls.
    Of old men forced to take down a flag
    From an electric pole,
    Who were electrocuted, or fell
    And broke their legs.
    Of the old water carrier
    Whom soldiers ordered off his donkey
    And rode on his back, just for fun.

    Mean, arrogant, and dumb.
    Who do we think we are?
    Who gave us the right
    To be so deaf, so dumb?
    Ignoring the obvious: They are as human
    As we are, as we are.
    At least as human as we used to be
    Only forty-one years ago.
    No less diligent, no less smart.
    As sensitive, as full of hope.
    They love their wives and children
    As we do, no less.
    And our children now shoot theirs
    With lead, plastic bullets, and gas.

    The Palestinian state will come to pass.
    It will.
    Not a poet wrote this.
    History will.
    And seasons may come, and seasons may go,
    And life goes on as we very well know.
    Weddings, and births, and deaths all the same-
    But just the shame of it. The shame.

  7. Mayhem on August 18, 2019, 7:57 pm

    We have seen the U.S. justifiably leveraging aid that has been coming to the PA and its agencies because it is on the Palestinian side that there are clearly policies that need to be redressed. It seems though that when you hate Israel you are compelled to ignore harsh realities like this:

    “The Palestinian Authority police have banned a Palestinian LGBT rights group from organizing any activities in the West Bank and threatened to arrest them, saying such activities are contrary to the “values of Palestinian society.”

    In a statement Saturday, police spokesman Louay Arzeikat said events organized by the group al-Qaws “go against and infringe upon the higher principles and values of Palestinian society.”

    Read more at PA police ban Palestinian LGBT group from holding activities in West Bank.

    • oldgeezer on August 18, 2019, 8:58 pm


      What’s your point? They don’t allow gay pride parades so it’s ok if Israel kills their children and women?

      Get a grip you psycho.

      They deserve the same rights as all other people. Let’s not forget that Israel doesn’t not a lengthy history of permitting gay pride parades. And in fairness it isn’t a lenghty history for many countries and many others don’t allow it.

      Your attempt to pink wash the brutal savagery and immoralty of the idf and the country that controls it just doesn’t work.

      • Mooser on August 19, 2019, 2:26 pm

        “Mayhem’s” link goes to the “Times of Israel”. Wouldn’t give it a whole lot of credence.

      • Mayhem on August 20, 2019, 3:36 am

        @Mooser, this story of the oppression of LGBT activity in Palestinian society is widely reported.
        And try this one for size from Deutsche Welle US-Palestinian jailed for life over selling land to Jews.
        And this one involving Hezbollah in the north of the country Hezbollah brings Arson Terror to the Northern Front where apparently the despicable UN forces in the area didn’t lift a finger to stop the terrorists or to put out the fires.
        It’s quite extraordinary how Israel manages to exist with such repressive regimes and terrorists at its doorstep.

    • RoHa on August 19, 2019, 1:06 am

      What the devil does “leveraging” mean?

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