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.
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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”:
VIDEO : Bernie Sanders calling out the RACIST Israeli Government
Every Corbyn supporter wants Bernie to be the first Jewish President of the USA. He speaks truth to power.
Let's see the right wing fanatical supporters of racist Apartheid Israel now call Bernie 'antisemitic' 🤣 pic.twitter.com/BCxIjoyCjx
— LabourFanTV (@TheBirmingham6) April 23, 2019
Journalist Glenn Greenwald was also quick to defend Sanders’ comments:
Having @AIPAC sub-tweet & chide @BernieSanders for the supreme crime of speaking ill of Israel's leader is one his best endorsements yet. Sanders is running for President of the US and is thus allowed to criticize the leader of this foreign country & question these "close ties." https://t.co/VXmTkKVH79
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 23, 2019
Fellow journalist Mehdi Hasan, meanwhile, imagined what a meeting between a President Sanders and Netanyahu would look like:
On CNN, @SenSanders calls the Netanyahu government in Israel a "right wing, dare I say it, racist" government. Imagine what the first official meeting at the White House between a President Sanders and Prime Minister Netanyahu in 2021 would be like 😜#CNNTownHall
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) April 23, 2019
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.
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.
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