March 19, 2019

Some questions for Bernie Sanders on Israel and the Palestinians

Bernie Sanders’ recent editorial board interview with the • He repeatedly defends the figure of “over 10,000” Palestinian civilians killed by the IDF during 2014’s Gaza War. In fact, the Palestinians’ favorite UN Agency, the UNHRC, claimed 1,462 Palestinian civilian casualties—a figure that the IDF counterclaims is inflated by 100 percent because it includes Hamas fighters who used hospitals and schools for cover.  Would Senator Sanders like to correct himself?

• Sanders condemns in detail Palestinians killed by the IDF, but he doesn’t specifically mention Jewish civilian casualties especially in Southern Israel. Why?

• Sanders says that Israel could have used “technology” to avoid “indiscriminate” Palestinian casualties. Is he implying that the IDF did not try do so or that technological fixes against terrorists like the Obama Administration’s killer drones are guarantee against allegedly “disproportionate” civilian collateral damage?

• Sanders as a U.S. Senator ought to be more privy to recent developments—including those not generally known outside the U.S. intelligence community or the halls of Congress—than, let us say,  billionaire and self-declared foreign policy expert Donald Trump. Yet Sanders fails to discuss such ominous new trends as Hamas’ diversion of supposedly “peaceful” cement imports into Gaza for building a new network of terrorist tunnels. Israel has just had to reluctantly act against this threat. Is Sanders ignorant or unconcerned about it?

• Sanders wants the Palestinians to promise to make war no more against the Jewish state. Yet he is silent against their unceasing propaganda war against Israel targeting future generations of Palestinian youngsters with indoctrination against Israel, denying Jews’ historic presence in the Holy Land, and impugning Jews worldwide with hoary religious libels though the medium of mosques, madrassas, and even television cartoon shows. Doesn’t Senator Senators consider this poisoning on young Palestinian minds as much a threat to peace making as Israel settlements or settlement expansion?

Contrary to mythology, not all U.S. presidential candidates—or presidents—since 1948 have been great friends of Israel.

But are American Jews and Israelis wrong to hope and believe that the first serious Jewish presidential candidate with a history spent partly on a kibbutz and relatives who still live in Israel should be seriously and soberly sympathetic toward Israel and its survival concerns?

By all means, let’s give peace a chance, but that requires that Senator Sanders demand more than that Israel improve relations with the Palestinians without exactly explaining how that is to be done in the face of renewed Palestinian intransigence and rejectionism.

If he wants to be a good foreign policy president, American voters need to have answers now.

Historian Harold Brackman is a consultant for the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance