Democratic presidential candidate defended his support of Israel and peace in the Middle East as he was confronted by a “Black Lives Matter” supporter about his relationship with the Jewish community during an event at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Saturday.
“You went to Israel for a year. As you know, Zionist Jews—I don’t mean to offend anybody—they running the Federal Reserve, they running Wall Street, they’re running everything,” John Prince, wearing a Black Lives Matter pin (according to the NY Observer), yelled out towards the end of a forum on race and social justice issues at the iconic Harlem theater. “What is your affiliation to your Jewish community?”
“No, no, no, no, no, that’s not what you’re asking. No that’s not what you’re asking. I’m proud to be Jewish,” Sanders said to applause. “I may be Jewish, but you’re not going to find any candidate running for president, for example, to talk about Zionism and the Middle East.”
“I am a strong defender of Israel, but I also believe that we have got to pay attention to the needs of the Palestinian people,” he continued. “There are wonderful people-and I have met them-on both sides of that issue, and there are bad people on both sides of that issue. If we are going to bring peace, hopefully, God willing, in the Middle East, We’re going to have to treat both sides with respect and equality.”
“A disgrace! #BernieSanders’ response to obscenely antisemitic Q is . . . promise to be tougher on #Israel? Shameful!,” NYC Councilman Rory Lancman tweeted after the remarks were reported.
During the forum, Sanders invokes his Jewish faith as a root cause for his sense of racial justice. Saying he feels “uncomfortable” to talk about himself on the campaign trail, the Democratic presidential hopeful told the crowd that he can remember tears coming down his face when he learned as a child that most of his father’s family had been killed in the Holocaust by a lunatic in Germany. “That is something you never forget.”
“To see racism or people hating each other for the color of their skin or for the accent that they may have is, from the deepest part of me, something that is so grotesque and awful,” Sanders said. “From a very early age, it was clear to me that I have to spend my life helping to oppose that type of behavior.”
Sanders held a campaign rally in the Brooklyn neighborhood he was brought up as a child on Friday. Standing outside the apartment building he lived in for the first 18 years of his life, Sanders urged his supporters to help him win the state of New York in the April 19 primary, a win that could propel him to win the Democratic presidential nomination and the White House.
As he was entering the building, Sanders was confrontedby Assemblyman Dov Hikind for comments he made on the Israel-Gaza war in 2014. Hikind then went up to Sanders’ wife, Jane, and expressed his disapproval of Sanders’ misstatement and demanding an apology. “What he did was a victory for terrorism,” Hikind told reporters following the rally. “He is the most popular guy with Hezbollah, Hamas, and terrorist organizations.”