Bernie Sanders slams BDS, reiterates support for Israel
Sanders evaded response to probing questions on what form of resistance he finds acceptable for Palestinians, appearing as though he finds even the non-violent BDS movement unacceptable.
Bernie Sanders is the first Jewish presidential candidate to make any sizable primary win in American history. He was also the first candidate to win majority Muslim districts by wide margins, winning Dearborn Michigan a city with a 40 percent Arab American population by 60 percent of the vote.
During his run in the Democratic Party primaries against establishment favourite Hillary Clinton, Sanders continuously asserted his unwavering support for Israel.
Yet, the leftist Senator also made statements against what he described as Israel’s “disproportionate attacks” against Gaza. During a televised debate on CNN, Sanders said that a willingness to help Palestinians does not mean that he is anti-Israel.
While his latest statements are not a clear negation of statements he made on the campaign trail, it signaled a slight yet significant redirection towards American style unconditional support for Israel.
The interview came as a follow up to a pro-Israel letter signed by Sanders and all other members of the US Senate, in an unprecedented unique display of bipartisanship.
The letter was addressed to the United Nations last Thursday. In the document they urged Secretary General António Guterres to address the way in which various UN bodies treat Israel.
“Continued targeting of Israel by the UN Human Rights Council and other UN entities is unacceptable,” read the letter penned by Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Christopher Coons.
While he is a signatory to the letter, Sanders vaguely distanced himself from its full content saying, “I didn’t write that letter, I signed onto the letter. It’s not a letter I would have written.”
The letter failed to recognise that Israel continues to break international law by occupying Palestinian territories in the West Bank and building illegal settlements on Palestinian lands. Instead it threatened to withhold American financial contributions to the international body, a serious threat given that the United States is the largest financial contributor to the UN.
Bernie claimed that the United Nations should turn its attention to nations like Saudi Arabia where women are treated as “third class citizens”.
The letter was addressed the UN as a whole, and to UNESCO, UNRWA and ESCWA specifically.
Last March, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, a peripheral UN organisation working with Palestinian refugees, released a report asserting that "Israel has established an apartheid regime that systematically institutionalizes racial oppression and domination of the Palestinian people as a whole."
The report was furiously condemned by United States and Israel and their combined pressure led the head of the agency to resign days later.
UN resolutions are mostly symbolic. Resolutions passed by UN General Assembly, which the Senators’ letter criticised at great lengths, are not binding in any way. Moreover, the General Assembly passed only two resolutions critical of Israel in the past 15 years.
The only UN body that has executive powers is the Security Council on which the United States has veto power. The United States exercised its veto at least 45 times to protect Israel.