Sanders Doubles Down on Israel Criticism

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a Democratic debate in New York

Bernie Sanders doubled down on his comments regarding Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in the 2014 war in Gaza during the Democratic presidential debate in Brooklyn, NY, on Thursday.

“I do believe that Israel was subjected to terrorist attacks, and has every right in the world to destroy terrorism. But we had in the Gaza area, some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed. Now, if you’re asking not just me, but countries all over the world was that a disproportionate attack, the answer is that I believe it was,” Sanders said during the debate, aired on CNN and NY1, five days before the New York presidential primary.

Sanders suggested that the United States was not critical enough of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Palestinian issue. “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,” the Jewish senator from Vermont said. “There will never be peace in that region unless the United States plays a role, an even-handed role trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among the Palestinian people.”

He further accused Hillary Clinton of pandering to the pro-Israel community and not supporting the Palestinian people’s right to independence. “I read Secretary Clinton’s statement speech before AIPAC. I heard virtually no discussion at all about the needs of the Palestinian people. Almost none in that speech,” he stated. “We cannot continue to be one-sided. There are two sides to the issue.

Clinton defended Israel’s actions in Gaza, but also her pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. “They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages,” she said. “They do not believe that there should be a constant incitement by Hamas aided and abetted by Iran against Israel. I don’t know how you run a country when you are under constant threat, terrorist tact, rockets coming at you. You have a right to defend yourself.”

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Clinton said, “If Yasser Arafat had agreed with my husband at Camp David in the Late 1990s to the offer then Prime Minister Barat put on the table, we would have had a Palestinian state for 15 years.

But the Democratic presidential front-runner took a middle ground by noting she has had major disagreements with Netanyahu. “I have spoken about and written at some length the very candid conversations I’ve had with him and other Israeli leaders,” Clinton said. “Nobody is saying that any individual leader is always right, but it is a difficult position.”

Sanders’ harsh criticsm of Israel was preceded by his hiring of Simone Zimmerman, a former J Street student activist and an avowed critic of Israel, as his Jewish Outreach Director. Sanders suspended Zimmerman on Thursday after revelations that she had used vulgarities in Facebook posts about Netanyahu and Clinton.


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