Bernie Sanders calls the Israeli government ‘racist’ on live TV – to rapturous applause

Bryan Wall

Bernie Sanders has criticised Israel’s treatment of Palestinian people during a live town hall event. The 2020 presidential hopeful also described Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government as “racist”.

If Sanders becomes president, he would be the first Jewish person to hold the office.

Israel and the US

Sanders was asked how he would ensure the US alliance with Israel if he becomes president given his criticisms of Netanyahu. He began by pointing out that he himself had once worked on a kibbutz — a form of agricultural or industrial cooperative — in Israel as a young man. He also noted that he has family there.

But he then argued that:

the fact of the matter is that Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who I think is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly.

He also remarked that the US gives Israel billions of dollars in military aid. But rather than showing such bias in the Middle East, he insisted:

the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level playing field basis.

A “racist government”

But Sanders went further. He asserted that the US shouldn’t “just support one country”; especially when this country, Israel, is:

now run by a right-wing — dare I say it — racist government.

This comment received rapturous applause from the audience.

Twitter users were also impressed. One, for example, said Sanders “speaks truth to power”:

Journalist Glenn Greenwald was also quick to defend Sanders’ comments:

Fellow journalist Mehdi Hasan, meanwhile, imagined what a meeting between a President Sanders and Netanyahu would look like:

The truth of the matter

Sanders is right when he refers to Israel’s discrimination against the Palestinian people. Because Israel’s laws declare it is the state of the Jewish people and not its citizens. Perhaps as a result of this, Israel’s legal system also favours Jewish people over Palestinian people.

For example, Israel’s citizenship law:

prohibits or does not allow Palestinians who are citizens of Israel to bring their foreign spouses… who are from Arab countries, or even from the West Bank and Gaza Strip- to reside with them in Israel or in Jerusalem.

The government has also targeted refugees who have arrived in Israel from Eritrea and Sudan. Netanyahu has recently described them as “infiltrators”.

Israel’s future

Considering the hard right’s election victory in Israel earlier this month, we can expect Israel’s disregard for international law to continue. For the Palestinian people, this means continued suffering.

But if Sanders becomes US president, perhaps he can challenge this status quo and hold Israel’s government to account.

Featured image via Flickr – Gage Skidmore/ Wikimedia Commons – U.S. Department of State

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