Senator Bernie Sanders(I-Vt.) came on Face the Nation Sunday. In the course of the interview, Sanders lashed out at the new, extremist government in Israel, which includes a minister once convicted of incitement to racial violence and more than one figure belonging to Kahanist organizations of a sort that were at some points on the U.S. terrorism list.
Sanders, who is Jewish, has several beefs with the current government in Israel, not least that he is “embarrassed” by it. Israel should not reflect on Jewish Americans, who are only responsible for their own individual actions and speech. The world is unfair that way, though, and for some people the fascist takeover in Israel will raise questions about what sort of person would not only support it but also try to silence anyone who speaks out against it. Sanders clearly feels that it is an albatross about his neck.
For Sanders, a true Mensch, however, it isn’t only about Israel. He says he is worried about “what may happen to the Palestinian people.” The hate-filled Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir of the extremist Religious Zionism bloc have been put in charge of the three million occupied Palestinians in the West Bank, and are now in charge of the blockade against the 2 million besieged Palestinians of the occupied Gaza Strip. It is as though the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan were put in charge of millions of African-Americans.
Sanders, moreover, doesn’t just want to complain about this alarming state of offairs, which the CIA believes could result in a new round of violence. He said,
I mean, I haven’t said this publicly. But I think the United States gives billions of dollars in aid to Israel. And I think we’ve got to put some strings attached to that and say you cannot run a racist government. You cannot turn your back on a two-state solution. You cannot demean the Palestinian people there. You just can’t do it and then come to America and ask for money.
In Congress, Israel is the most sacred of sacred cows. Its lobbyists (who ought to have to register as foreign agents but who seldom do) don’t win every fight and they aren’t almighty or “in control.” But they are very, very powerful, as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee boasts at its website. So the Israeli government routinely violates international and U.S. law with impunity.
So for Sanders to suggest holding the some $4 billion in direct aid the U.S. gives Israel every year over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s head to make him back off his racist rhetoric and alliances, and to make him stop doing everything he can to forestall the rise of a Palestinian state, is bold indeed. So far, it is not entirely clear that Sanders and other critics of Netanyahu could get the votes in Congress that would be necessary to rein the prime minister in.
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams and was authored by Juan Cole.