Michael Boyden

Bernie Sanders doesn’t get it

Bernie Sanders, described as a presidential hopeful, spoke at the annual J Street national conference this week and is reported as proposing that some of the military aid currently being given to Israel by the United States be rechanneled to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza.

As he put it, “My solution is, to Israel, if you want military aid, you’re going to have to fundamentally change your relationship to the people of Gaza…. I would say that some of the $3.8 billion should go right now to humanitarian aid in Gaza”. What about the people of Gaza fundamentally changing their relationship to Israel, or is that asking too much?

The unstated premise that lies behind Sanders’ populist remarks is that Israel is responsible for the wretched plight of Gaza’s Palestinians and should, therefore, be punished by reducing military aid that is used to defend her against Iran and her proxies, such as the Hamas leadership in Gaza, who are committed to wiping the Jewish State off the map.

Hamas’ Charter affirmed in 1988, that Hamas was founded to liberate Palestine, including modern-day Israel, from Israeli occupation and to establish an Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

While some claim that Hamas has abandoned its Charter, Mahmoud al-Zahar, co-founder of Hamas and a member of the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, has stated categorically that “Our ultimate plan is [to have] Palestine in its entirety. I say this loud and clear so that nobody will accuse me of employing political tactics. We will not recognize the Israeli enemy”.

Israel’s late, renowned author, Amoz Oz, who led Israel’s left-wing peace camp for decades, was quoted as saying: “I have been a man of compromise all my life … but even a man of compromise cannot approach Hamas and say: ‘Maybe we meet halfway and Israel only exists on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays'”.

Hamas controls the Gaza Strip and Bernie Sanders proposes channeling American aid to Gaza! Where does he condition support for Gaza upon Hamas’ recognizing the State of Israel, holding democratic elections, granting full and equal rights to all Palestinians and ceasing its belligerence towards Israel?

None of that is there, because the Palestinians are in his view the innocent and wretched victims of Israeli aggression and bear no responsibility for their condition.

It is that misguided view that has enabled the Palestinians to continue to bemoan the injustice that they suffer while refusing to sit down with Israel and hammer out an agreement that could one day lead to a two-state solution.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.
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