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Weekend at Bernie’s: Sanders’ Slanders, Dangerous Delusions, and Flawed Fluff

Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont) was interviewed on “Meet the Press” by host Kristen Welker this past Sunday (May 12, 2004).  Bernie has been a major voice of the far-left for more than a decade and is consistently anti-Israel.  Bernie’s Israel can do no right; usually he treats Israel’s enemies and its fierce critics gently, though Sunday he did strongly criticize Hamas, something to which we will return shortly.  I recorded everything he said.

Following Welker’s introduction, Sanders delivered the centerpiece of his extreme and distorted views in his very first comment: “The reality is, as I think any objective observer knows … Israel has broken international law, it has broken American law, and in my view Israel should not be receiving another nickel in US military aid.”  (I am amused when people claim that their view is objective.) 

He then strongly criticized Hamas.  “The facts are quite clear:  Hamas is a terrible, disgusting, terrorist organization that began this war.” Apparently, its October 7 massacre — brutally slaughtering infants, murdering families, seizing hostages and raping Jewish women — was so indefensible that even Sanders could not ignore it.  But wait.

One might then think that Israel would be justified in eliminating the evil Hamas cowards, with US military and political support.  The situation is morally clear and anything less ensures a repeat.  But Sanders’ bizarre morality does not allow it.  Therefore, his position on US aid to Israel — actual and symbolic — renders his critique of Hamas meaningless. 

Sanders further exposes his inverted and dangerous morality:  “But what Israel has done over the last seven months is not just gone to war against Hamas, it has gone to war against the entire Palestinian people and the results have been absolutely catastrophic.”  Nonsense.  Slander. 

The only “war against a people” involving Israel has been the long-standing Arab campaign to annihilate the Jewish state and its citizens, openly proclaimed by many Arab political and religious leaders, decade after decade.  The slogan “From the River to the Sea” is but its latest popularized version of vile venom.

By contrast, with rare exceptions, Jews have never called for or targeted Palestinians in a “war against the entire Palestinian people.”  Moreover, when a very few Israeli / Jewish leaders have voiced broad anti-Arab sentiments, Jewish leaders across the Jewish spectrum rush to publicly condemn them, reflecting popular Jewish thought.  History also records Israel’s repeated attempts at securing peace with its Arab neighbors.  Sanders enables the “Great Slander” of our generations and fuels antisemitism with his lie.

Still, Sanders comes armed with “facts”:  “35,000 Gazans dead, 77,000 wounded, ⅔ of whom are women and children; 60% destruction of housing, increase in raw sewage and absence of electricity, … and most frighteningly the likelihood of hundreds of thousands of children facing starvation.”  Today, the UN released figures that 4,959 women and 7,797 children were killed.  (Accurate numbers are elusive and politicized — the UN had previously reported that 9,500 women and 14,500 children were killed in Gaza.)  The number of innocent dead and suffering is seriously troubling, and even the Jews I know who support the war against Hamas, care more about Arab suffering than do Arab leaders and their supporters.

As to the numbers, are they accurate?  Arab propagandists routinely inflate numbers and gullible anti-Israel politicians and the UN, and journalists quickly, uncritically, embrace them.  Second, how many are Hamas soldiers and how many are Hamas supporters — including women?  How many have been killed by Hamas’ own faulty bombs or by Hamas for not supporting it.  Sanders and his blind allies seem curiously uncurious, and assuredly, no one really knows.

But to the point, who inflicted this suffering on the Gazans?  Hamas and its Gazan supporters!  By savagely attacking Israel’s citizens, by hiding among civilians, with civilian support, by co-opting food and medicine for their miserable militants, by advocating for Israel’s destruction without regard to its fellow Gazans, Hamas and its allies — Iran, Hizbollah, and others — are criminals.  They callously prefer the misery of their own people to their peace and prosperity, as long as it sustains Jew-hatred.  And let us not absolve terrorist accomplices — international funders and diplomats who mindlessly support them, who raise no serious opposition to them in public international forums.  Palestinian misery is and has been in their hands.

In one of her last questions, Welker posed a key question:  “How can we get rid of Hamas given that their very goal is to destroy Israel’s existence?”  Sanders:  “You are right.  I do not want to minimize this.”  But that is exactly what Sanders does by offering only weak rhetoric and no-solutions that ensure misery.  Since Hamas hides among civilians — incidentally also against international law — and it enjoys at least some immeasurable amount of civilian support, Sanders’ paramount concern for civilian casualties logically leads to protecting Hamas and eventually strengthening all who share its ideology.  Such priority would be interpreted by the “From the River to the Sea” crowd as a victory.  Sanders has no real answer, because his answers are fatally flawed, literally.  

Sanders has more to say.  He invokes polls favoring a ceasefire and contends that the US is isolated in its support for Israel, while smearing Israel as “a pariah nation.”  False.  The American people still support Israel and want it to degrade Hamas.  Yet, Sanders is manipulative:  polls do not measure morality; Sanders never invokes them when they oppose his agenda.  

Isolated?  Indeed. We are isolated from rulers of China, Iran, Russia, and others who abuse human rights.  We are isolated from many European nations, where antisemitism remains strong, in the lands that hosted the Sho’ah.  Yes, we are isolated in the UN, where anti-Israel resolutions have obsessively preoccupied its energies for more than 50 years, the same UN that could not even muster votes to condemn Hamas after October 7.  We are isolated from an array of groups on his ideological side of the spectrum which lacked the morality and courage to raise a voice for slaughtered infants, raped women, and abducted elderly and families.  Bernie, why are your moral energies not directed against your comrades who were muted following Hamas’ atrocities?  No Bernie, when the US is isolated by supporting Israel, it is an act of moral clarity, a display of courage, and a badge of honor in the best interests of the US and civilization. 

Sanders did have one further remedy:  hope.  He hopes that future Arab leaders would engage in genuine peace with Israel.  I, too, hope.  But hope without rendering impotent those who would destroy Israel and inflict misery on its own people is fluff.  Sanders’ prescription only strengthens misery-creating forces and weakens the much-needed and vital moral resolve in the United States and the West. 

This post by Rabbi Seth D Gordon was published in The Times of Israel on May 14, 2024.


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