Sanders: Israel ‘Overreacted’ During Gaza War

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addressed for the second time in a lengthy profile his Jewish upbringing in Brooklyn and faith. But, for the first time, he took a very critical stance against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In an interview to Rolling Stone, published Wednesday, Sanders went into detail about his childhood in Brooklyn, how his older brother Larry drew him into politics and how being Jewish motivated him to pursue a political career.

“My dad and mom were not political. They voted, they were Democrats, as was almost everybody in our community,” Sanders recalled. “My brother was political and introduced me to politics. But we were not a political family.”

He added, “Clearly, one of the factors that influenced my life was the knowledge, as a kid, that my dad’s family – and probably my mother’s as well, but I knew more about my dad – that many members of his family were killed by Hitler. So what you learn, not intellectually when you’re seven years of age, but it goes into your emotional, instinctual base, is that politics makes a difference. That’s why many African-Americans pay attention to politics in a different way. Politics meant that segregation and lynching existed in this country. And that’s why African-Americans are very sensitive to what goes on in politics. And the same thing with Jewish people. That is how, instinctually, if you like, or emotionally, I gravitated into politics.”

Rolling Stone asked the Jewish Senator: “Do you believe in God?”

“Yeah, I do. I do,” Sanders responded. “I’m not into organized religion. But I believe that what impacts you impacts me, that we are all united in one way or another. When children go hungry, I get impacted. When kids die because they can’t afford medicine, I get impacted. We are one world and one people. And that belief leads me to the conclusion that we just cannot turn our back on human suffering.”

Sanders also discussed his approach towards Israel and his relationship with Netanyahu. But while promising to “support the security of Israel” and “help Israel fight terrorist attacks,” Sanders criticized Netanyahu’s conduct and “overreacted” response to the rockets fired at Israel during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.

“Do I think that Netanyahu overreacted? Yes, I do. War is terrible unto itself. But I think that Israel overreacted and caused more civilian damage than was necessary,” he told the magazine. “They have very sophisticated weapons systems. They make the case, and I respect that, that they do try to make sure that civilians are not damaged. But the end result was that a lot of civilians were killed, and a lot of housing was destroyed. There was terrible, terrible damage done.”

Sanders did not mention the recent wave of stabbing attacks against Israeli citizens over the past two months or condemn the Palestinian Authority for inciting against Israel. But, on the other hand, he decried Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and its policy towards Hamas-ruled Gaza. “The United States has got to work with the Palestinian people in improving their standard of living, which is now a disaster, and has been made much worse since the war in Gaza,” he stressed.

“Under my administration,” Sanders pledged, “the United States will maintain an even-handed approach to the area. I believe in a two-state solution, where Israel has security, and the Palestinians have a state of their own.”

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