If Bernie Sanders was a normal politician, he would have done everything possible to avoid being drawn into a discussion on Israel in a high stakes debate New York -- particularly when the state's large Jewish population is up for grabs and could help swing the election for him next week.
But Bernie Sanders is no normal politician, and he took the opportunity to tell the truth about a topic virtually every country in the world appears to have a more balanced view of than the United States.
When Wolf Blitzer asked Sanders about his statement that Israel’s 2014 military strikes on Gaza were “disproportionate and led to the unnecessary loss of innocent life,” Sanders did a funny thing -- he owned the comments and actually doubled down on them.
“Of course Israel has a right not only to defend themselves but to live in peace and security without fear of terrorist attack. That is not a debate,” said Sanders. “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.”
“As somebody who is one hundred per cent pro-Israel, in the long run—and this is not going to be easy, God only knows, but in the long run, if we are ever going to bring peace to that region, which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity,” he went on.
Woah. A mainstream American politician acknowledging the humanity of a Palestinian? While this might not seem to be a big deal, in the US political system, it is tantamount to supporting ISIS.
Sanders continued, discussing the catastrophic unemployment rate in Gaza and the terrible damage the Netanyahu government inflicted on the area.
“Decimated houses, decimated health care, decimated schools," said Sanders of the region. "I believe the United States and the rest of the world have got to work together to help the Palestinian people. That does not make me anti-Israel. That paves the way, I think, to an approach that works in the Middle East.”
Hillary Clinton on the other hand, refused to acknowledge any of this and continued her astonishingly dishonest line that the Palestinians are entirely responsible for their own predicament.
“I don’t know how you run a country when you are under constant threat, terrorist attacks, rockets coming at you,” said Clinton, blaming Hamas for the origins of the 2014 conflict. “You have a right to defend yourself.”
This despite the fact that the causes of the conflict are well document, beginning with Israel illegally going into the West Bank and blaming Hamas for attacks they did not initiate. But then one should expect this from Hillary Clinton given her foreign policy credentials consist of a long list of being on the wrong side of literally everything.
Sanders has hammered Clinton for her foreign policy sins, and rightly so. But to attack her on Israel in New York shows some real chutzpah. Sanders even went after her for refusing to acknowledge the Palestinian's plight in her awful speech to AIPAC last month. Sanders said that peace in the region would never be possible “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.”
Again, this statement should be completely uncontroversial, but coming from a Jewish guy running for President of the United States, it really is a big deal and underlines what kind of a campaign Bernie Sanders is trying to run.