An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders

Dear Senator Sanders,

I watched with great dismay on TV your recent remarks in your national televised debate with Hillary Clinton, which was undoubtedly watched by millions, especially by many impressionable Americans who know very little about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I listened to your strong criticism of Israel for its “disproportionate” use of force in the recent Gaza war. I know you have made similar comments in recent weeks, and have been reiterating this with greater force and tone. You have called on the US to “no longer be one-sided, as there are two sides to this story.”

Many Jews have been disgusted at these attacks, seeing it almost as a psychological syndrome of extreme secularism and liberalism, the so-called “self-hating Jew syndrome.” I, for one, choose to leave any possible psychological underpinnings out of this, and just accept that this is purely your own political views based on your knowledge of the situation. However, what DOES upset me, in these recent comments is a display on your part of either a complete ignorance of what took place during the recent Gaza War, or overlooking many of the facts on the ground. I wanted to present at least seven facts which you may or may not be aware of:

  1. Israel dropped leaflets to warn civilians to leave. Before starting the war, Israel dropped leaflets as well as made robocalls telling the civilians that were in the areas which had supplies of rockets and were Hamas enclaves to leave those areas. This was not mere “PR to try to make Israel look good,” as some claim. In these leaflets were specific directions for where to go which would be safe from Israeli fire. Hamas media told its people to ignore these leaflets, and for everyone to stay where they are. Dropping leaflets like these to warn civilians is practically unheard of in modern warfare as it often exposes to the enemy which areas will be targets.
  2. Hamas used its own people as human shields. In addition to telling the Palestinian people to ignore the warning leaflets that Israel dropped, Hamas also hid its cache of rockets in the areas that were the most densely populated, in addition to hiding many in schools, hospitals, and mosques. The did this knowing that Israel would lose the “PR war” if it were to bomb these areas. In general, Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, making civilian casualties higher than it would normally be in other locations.
  3. Israel had no choice. With thousands of rockets loaded with explosives raining down on most of Israel’s major cities, Israel had no choice but to go after Hamas’s infrastructure of terror. This included the rocket factories, the supplies of rockets as well as the terror tunnels leading into Israel. I ask you, Senator Sanders, with all of your criticism of Israel, what else could they do? Do you have a better solution? Perhaps a polite text to Hamas asking them to kindly stop firing their rockets and closing up their terror tunnels? You have done a dirty political trick which is to pander to the Liberal Left by criticizing Israel, but not giving any alternative solution for what Israel should have done. What would you have done, if you were in Israel’s shoes?
  4. It is disputed the true number of actual innocent casualties of the Gaza War. The UN largely based its assumptions of percentage of civilian casualties based on the numbers that the Gaza Health Ministry reports, which is controlled in Gaza by Hamas. Israel insists, the true percentage was much lower. On December 1, 2014, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported on its detailed, name-by-name analysis of 1,598 Palestinian fatalities in Operation Protective Edge that amounted to 75 percent of those who were killed. Of the fatalities who could be identified, about 45 percent were non-combatants, while 55 percent were combatants – nowhere near the levels of civilian losses that were discussed in the media.
  5. When compared to other countries, Israel’s ratio of civilian to combatant killed by Israel is much lower. Just as an example, the US led Iraq War has resulted in over half a million people killed, with an estimated 60-70% of those civilian deaths. In addition, the War in Afghanistan post 9/11 has resulted in over 26,000 civilian deaths due to war-related violence have been documented; 29,900 civilians have been wounded, which is significantly more than the number of Taliban or Al Qaeda operatives killed. So I ask you, Senator Sanders, why have you singled out Israel for criticism?
  6. Israel spends its money on defense, Hamas spends its money on terror. The biggest reason why the casualty count on the Israeli side is relatively low, while the Palestinian side is so high is because Israel tirelessly spends its time, money, and resources defending its people, whether it’s the Iron Dome, bomb shelters, sirens, and education to its people in the event of an attack. Hamas on the other hand, does little if any, to protect its own people. Instead it chooses to use its money and resources to attack Israel in any way it can. In one famous instance, when Israel allowed thousands of tons of concrete into Gaza for the purpose of building schools, homes, and hospitals, Hamas used the very same concrete to build terror tunnels to attack Israel.
  7. Hamas broke the cease-fire twice during the war. During the war, there were two temporary cease-fires that were set in place, which Hamas agreed to, until a long term cease-fire could be brokered. Both of these were broken by Hamas, which lead to Israel to continue to defend itself against the rocket attacks. This led to more civilian casualties. But again, it was Hamas which chose to break these cease-fires, not Israel.

It is ironic, Senator Sanders, that in your demand that the “US no longer be one sided toward Israel, and instead to be two-sided” you have become, in fact much more one sided. Just the one side you have chosen isn’t Israel.

Sincerely Yours,

Yisroel Juskowitz

About the Author
Yisroel Juskowitz is most well known for his two best-selling books on Jewish topics "The Hidden Path" and "For Every Season, both of which has received widespread critical acclaim. He is involved in many creative projects to inspire, educate, and entertain the Jewish people. He has two albums of his music, which was received very warmly, he has performed to Jews of all walks of life and ages, and has also given many classes on many Jewish topics. He draws and paints Judaica art as well. Yisroel's passion is to use his many creative outlets to further help the Jewish people and Jewish causes.
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