On Wednesday morning, Senator Bernie Sanders announced he is dropping out of the 2020 presidential race. I must have been in total denial of all the signs others say they had been detecting, because I was not just devastated, I was in shock, in disbelief. How could he? How could Bernie do this to the millions who loved him, who volunteered for him, who made calls and started conversations, and donated, and donated again, and again?
More importantly, how could our “champion” ask us to vote for Joe Biden, the man who, at the peak of a global pandemic, still opposes universal health care?
Still reeling from the news, I turned to Linda Sarsour, a national surrogate for Sanders, who posted a live recording shortly after Bernie’s announcement. And Sarsour put it exactly as I needed to hear it: we are “electing our opponent” in the White House. Indeed, as most progressive grassroots organizers and activists have been saying all along, we are hoping to elect the person most likely to be persuaded to side with us, with justice and dignity for the poor, the disenfranchised, the downtrodden.
To my Bernie fam. ♥️
Posted by Linda Sarsour on Wednesday, April 8, 2020
And much as we sometimes cynically speak of “Republicrats,” to denounce the lack of critical differences between American Republicans and Democrats, Bernie and Trump come from different worlds, and have different fundamentally worldviews. To give just one example, Bernie’s suggestion that the US conditions military aid to Israel, even diverting some of it towards Gaza, is diametrically opposed to Trump’s cutting off all aid to UNRWA.
Yet even with Bernie as president, we were electing the person we could push from the left, on most issues. True, he needed more support than “push” on very important matters such as universal healthcare, free higher education, and student loan forgiveness. But on others—especially on Israel—he was far from our ideal candidate.
Bernie is a Zionist, albeit a “liberal Zionist,” who loves Israel, and has repeatedly said he believes it has a “right to exist.” He bristles at the idea of one state, with equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis. He is not part of today’s progressive American Jews who, even though most have been raised within Zionist households, and gone on family trips to Israel as children, grew up to grasp the fact that Zionism is racism, and today completely denounce the supremacist ideology. Bernie grew up in a Zionist household, went to Israel as a young man, lived on a kibbutz, and views the Israel he cherished then as a righteous nation gone wrong with the occupation, and the siege on the Gaza Strip. Even as he acknowledges that the Nakba is the Palestinian people’s “trail of tears,” a forced expulsion from one’s homeland, he does not guilt Israel for its primal sin, in 1948, but rather, for the consequences of that sin, the 1967 Naksa. “Like our own country, the founding of Israel involved the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people already living there, the Palestinian people. Over 700,000 people were made refugees. To acknowledge this painful historical fact does not ‘delegitimize’ Israel, any more than acknowledging the Trail of Tears delegitimizes the United States of America,” he told participants at the annual J Street conference. And he has consistently opposed BDS, even when approached about it by close allies he fully trusts, thus showing that he would dismiss the leadership of and call for solidarity by those most impacted by an injustice he is aware of.
And still, Palestinians in this country have been so disrespected that a presidential candidate who merely acknowledged our humanity was seen as a life raft.
So let us remember that if Bernie had not dropped out, and if Bernie had become our president, we would still be pushing, still fighting. Yes, we, Palestinians, Americans, the entire world, would have been significantly better off with Sanders than we can possibly be with Status Joe or, heaven forbid, but also, let us brace ourselves for it, four more years of Trump. Unburdened of some of the calamities currently aggravated by Trump, such as the embrace of white supremacy, the Muslim ban, and always, always, profit before people, we could have focused better on the many struggles we still have to fight: law enforcement violence, hypermilitarism, a deeply misogynist and transphobic culture, environmental devastation, and more social ills than I can list here.
Bernie ended his message to the nation by urging us to keep fighting. “The struggle carries on,” he told his fans. No truer words were said, in this still unfolding roller-coaster of a Democratic nomination process.