Bernie Sanders on Israel and Jewishness

There’s a new Jewish Currents article regarding Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Jewishness (“What Being Jewish Means to Bernie“).  Although the JC piece was fairly good, it left out one or more instances during his 2016 campaign when he was heckled for supporting Israel’s existence and effectively shut down this kind of attack.  While this TTN post should not be read as an endorsement, it’s noteworthy that his pronouncements on Israel (at least during the 2015-16 campaign) were totally compatible with The Third Narrative. 

This is how Slate covered one such incident, beginning as follows:

Things got heated near the end of a Bernie Sanders campaign event at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, where a protester uttered anti-Semitic remarks in the form of a question. “As you know, the Zionist Jews—and I don’t mean to offend anybody—they run the Federal Reserve, they run Wall Street, they run every campaign,” John Prince, 32, shouted. Sanders starts to frown, shakes his hand and holds up his hand: “Brother, brother, brother.” Prince continued: “What is your affiliation to your Jewish community? That’s all I’m asking.”

Sanders apparently knows an anti-Semitic question when he sees one and quickly fired back: “That’s not what you’re asking.” The senator went on to say that he’s “proud to be Jewish” and then used the opportunity to talk about his stance toward Israel, noting that while he’s a big defender of the country he also thinks that the Palestinians need to be taken into consideration. The heckler continued to shout as the crowd around him booed. [See video at the end of this post.]

Early in the campaign, in Sept. 2015, Philip Weiss (the founder and co-editor of scathingly criticized Sanders on Israel.  In this article, “Bernie Sanders is ‘radical’ on economic policy but a pussycat for Israel,” Weiss quotes Sanders from a C-SPAN broadcast:

I think what the United States needs is to have an evenhanded policy toward Israel and toward the Palestinians. What we need to guarantee and make certain is that Israel can exist in peace and security and that the Palestinians have their own independent state and an economy to allow their people to have a decent standard of living.

[Sanders notes that he boycotted Netanyahu’s speech last March to Congress because it was “a campaign ploy” and because he disagreed with “many of the policies he’s advocating.”]

What you need for that region, and god knows this conflict has been a horrendous conflict, it has gone on decade after decade after decade. I don’t know that anyone has any magical answer, but I think the role that the United States can play is to bring people together and develop a fair and evenhanded proposal toward both sides.

[Q. How do you approach the policy?]

Well look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I have a magical solution that has eluded every president. This is tough stuff. And you have forces on both sides in terms of the Israel-Palestinian conflict who have been counterproductive, no question about it. I think that the best that we can do over a period of time is to try to bring the sides together.

Our goal should be to see more economic assistance to the people in that region rather than just military assistance. Right now the United States provides substantial amounts of military aid to both Israel and Egypt. I would hope that in years to come the amount of military aid could be reduced and in fact could be substituted with economic aide. There is a lot of economic misery within the Palestinian community. The recent war in Gaza made a terrible situation even worse. They need help and I would hope that we could move in that direction.

To Weiss, this marked Sanders as “mealy-mouthed and deeply conservative” regarding Israel — which reveals more about Philip Weiss than Bernie Sanders. TTN