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?

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And what does he mean by “leverage”?

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… Read more »

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.

“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… Read more »

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… Read more »