Original Post Date: April 19, 2016
George Orwell famously said that in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. Never has this been more apparent than in Bernie Sanders’s comments on Palestine and Israel during the Democratic debate. On Thursday night, the simple act of defending humanity made the world erupt in astonishment.
With many people only too aware of the power of the U.S.-Israeli relationship — and America’s power, albeit unused, to hold Israel to account — Sanders broke the unwritten campaign dogma of expressing support for Israel while remaining silent on Palestine. It is obscene that to call for respect and dignity for a group of oppressed people is deemed unprecedented and historic — but what is more disturbing is that some find such a call outrageous.
Palestine has become a key topic on the campaign stage and — although hardly earth-shattering — Sander’s recent message has since been referred to as making history. Insisting the United States and the rest of the world must work together to help the Palestinians, he talked at length about the plight of those in Gaza. Pointing to unemployment in the besieged city, which stands at 40%, he declared:
“You got a lot of that area continues [sic] that hasn’t been rebuilt. Decimated. Houses decimated. Healthcare decimated. Schools decimated.”
Being careful to admit that he is pro-Israel, he continued:
“We are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity. That does not make me anti-Israel.”
Sanders did trip up earlier this month while acknowledging the Palestinian plight. Promising to take a more balanced position on Palestine – while still guaranteeing Israel’s security — he confused the number of Palestinians injured in Gaza in 2014 with the number killed. As he told editors of theDaily News:
“I happen to believe…anybody help me out here, because I don’t remember the figures, but my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed who should not have been killed [sic].”
Most people moved on from the slip-up, except, of course, for Hillary Clinton, Israeli officials, and some hardline Zionists. Regardless, mass killing is mass killing, and 2,251 Palestinians were killed — including 551 children. Over 11,000 were injured.
Some are taking to Twitter to claim they will never forget the historical exchange between the two presidential candidates. Others expressed disbelief that proposing Palestinians be treated with dignity is considered a renegade position.
Clearly, it’s impossible to overestimate the role that the Palestine-Israel situation plays in New York politics, and the Clinton campaign will see Sanders’s support for Palestinians — which he expressed only days ahead of the state’s Tuesday primary — as a potential electoral bonus.
As with many American establishment Jews, Jews in Israel were just not “feeling the Bern,” as Dan Cohen discovered when he took to Jerusalem’s Zion Square to ask Israelis about their thoughts on the Jewish-American presidential candidate. Aside from the striking fact that those interviewed reflected a multitude of different nationalities, almost all the Israelis expressed a strong dislike for Sanders. Some even went so far as to suggest Sanders is not a real Jew. You can watch the interviews here.
Even so, before anyone else trips over themselves to hail Sanders as a revolutionary for stating a few oversimplified truths about Palestine, let’s not forget that during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, the Brooklyn-born candidate failed to voice opposition to or vote on the Senate’s resolution to support Israel’s actions. In September of 2014 — when Operation Protective Edge was still fresh — Sanders voted in favor of the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014, which was lauded by the largest pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, for enhancing ties between the two nations — including bolstering defense and military cooperation.
Further, in 2015 at a Sanders’ campaign rally, young activists from Boston Students for Justice for Palestine held a sign asking,“Will Ya Feel The Bern For Palestine?” They were swiftly instructed to put it away or leave. Just last week, the Sanders campaign’s national Jewish outreach coordinator, Simone Zimmerman, was suspended — two days after being hired — over social media posts from previous years that criticized both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and broader Israeli policies against Palestinians.
While Bernie’s actions differ from his newfound pro-Palestinian rhetoric, the stigma attached to criticizing Israel makes his words revolutionary nonetheless — a sign, perhaps, not necessarily of the candidate’s anti-establishment views on the matter, but the rigid resistance to supporting Palestinian rights in any capacity.
This article (World Shocked to Find out Bernie Sanders Thinks Palestinians Are Human Beings) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Michaela Whitton and theAntiMedia.org.