US Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders, who has just won the Nevada Democratic primary and is projected to maintain his strong showing in the coming weeks, has adopted a position on Palestine and Israel that can be considered unique, especially if compared to his rivals.
While Sanders has repeatedly emphasized that he is “pro-Israel” and that, as a president, he will continue to support Israel, he has also balanced that with statements where he demanded respect for Palestinians, going as far as describing the current Israeli government as “racist”.
Below are only a few examples of Sander’s past comments on Palestine and Israel, starting from the latest and going back to his 2016 rivalry against failed presidential contender, Hillary Clinton.
February 19, 2020: Israel’s ‘Racist’ Government
Sanders said support for Israel was possible without backing its “racist” government, and the needs of Palestinians must not be ignored.
In a Town Hall meeting hosted by US news channel CNN, Sanders was asked what Israel-US policy would look like under his administration.
“To be for the Israeli people and to be for peace in the Middle East does not mean that we have to support right-wing racist governments that currently exist in Israel,” Sanders said.
— Palestine Chronicle (@PalestineChron) February 20, 2020
November 20, 2019: ‘Respect and Dignity’
In a Democratic presidential primary debate in Atlanta, Sanders said that Palestinians should be treated with “respect and dignity.”
“It is no longer good enough for us simply to be pro-Israel. I am pro-Israel. But we must treat the Palestinian people as well with the respect and dignity that they deserve,” he said.
“What is going on in Gaza right now. The youth unemployment is 70 or 80 percent, is unsustainable .. So we need to be rethinking who our allies are around the world.”
September 22, 2019: US ‘Complicity’
In an interview with The Intercept, Sanders said that “the US is complicit” in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, but also added that Israel is not “the only party at fault”.
“In terms of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the United States has got to play a much more even-handed role. Clearly that is not the case right now,” he said, also expressing his support for decreasing the $3 billion worth of annual US aid granted to Israel, but emphasized that it was the use of funding that was the more important element in fostering relations.
“The US funding plays a very important role, and I would love to see people in the Middle East sit down with the United States government and figure out how US aid can bring people together … So I think there is extraordinary potential for the United States to help the Palestinian people rebuild Gaza and other areas.”
— The Intercept (@theintercept) March 10, 2016
March 18, 2019: ‘Apartheid-like’ Conditions in Palestine
Sanders posted a campaign video featuring a supporter praising him for his condemnation of the “apartheid-like” conditions imposed on Palestinians by Israel.
"I don't care when [Trump] calls him "Crazy Bernie." I was in California when Bernie went to Disneyland and literally said that he did not think that Mickey Mouse and Goofy approved of Disney not paying their workers a living wage. You gotta be a little crazy to do that." – Shaun King, civil rights activist.
Posted by Bernie Sanders on Monday, March 18, 2019
February 27, 2017: A ‘50-Year’ Occupation
Sanders called for “an end to [Israel’s] 50-year occupation” during J Street’s annual conference, highlighting common ground between his opposition to the US President Donald Trump administration and the right-wing policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
“We need to end this 50-year-long occupation and create a more prosperous future for Jews, Arabs and Palestinians alike,” Sanders proclaimed, warning against an arrangement in which “Palestinians will be forced to live under perpetual Israeli rule in a series of disconnected communities in the West Bank and Gaza.”
— IMEU (@theIMEU) February 28, 2017
April 14, 2016: The Needs of the Palestinian People
During the Democratic debate, Sanders blamed his opponent Hillary Clinton for failing to mention the need of Palestinians.
“I heard virtually no discussion at all about the needs of the Palestinian people,” ha said.
“There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”
— Mondoweiss (@Mondoweiss) April 16, 2016
(The Palestine Chronicle)