Discourse with some angry Bernie Sanders supporters that purport to love Israel.

In response to my last piece with the Times of Israel, I received a number of angry responses from supporters of Bernie Sanders as well as supporters of Socialism, many of whom mistakenly viewed my critique of Bernie Sanders’ Middle East Policy speech as a general critique of Socialism or “Democratic Socialism.” While I personally happen to be a big fan of free markets and think that economic freedom is a necessary ingredient to personal freedom, my objection to Bernie Sanders’ Middle East Policy speech focused on his speech and how false, misleading and anti-Israel were so many of the statements Bernie Sanders made in that speech.

As should be expected, my most vociferous objections have come from self-identified American Jewish Zionists who are also Bernie Sanders’ supporters. One ardent Bernie Sanders supporter from Los Angeles (that also professed to be an ardent Zionist), took great umbrage with my article about Bernie Sanders’ Middle East Policy Speech and his critique of my article encapsulated much of the criticism I received from other Sanders’ supporters. He attacked me as falsely presenting in my piece my opinions about Sanders’ speech as facts. He defended Bernie Sanders as being a genuine Zionist and friend of Israel. He claimed that my article misrepresented the things Bernie Sanders actually said in his speech. He defended Bernie Sanders’ claim that peace will require every Jew being removed from the so-called “West Bank” (and he did not like my references to Judea and Samaria). And he argued that many of the issues I took exception to in Bernie Sanders’ speech were simply not that important. Below is my response to this supporter of Sanders – and in effect to others like him – that so badly wants their support of Bernie Sanders to not affect their own standing as a friend of Israel:

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Based [on the numerous pro-Sanders posts] on your FB page it appears that you are a big Sanders’ fan so I can appreciate that my article may be causing you some cognitive dissonance. Nevertheless, your criticisms of it are both unfair and unfounded. First, it is absurd to write that I cannot include my opinions in an Op-Ed piece. The “Op” literally stands for opinion. Second, you still have not identified a single fact that I asserted in my piece about Sanders’ Middle East Policy speech that is incorrect.

In terms of your attempt to defend Sanders’ Middle East Policy speech (which was really indefensible; note, this my OPINION) your defense falls very flat. First, to say that Sanders’ speech was not filled with lies and is only his “opinion” is hysterical in light of the offense you have taken with my piece. Bernie Sanders is running for President of the USA. The most powerful position in the world. He peppered his speech with factual claims that are blatantly false and then you want to cut Sanders’ slack for it only being his opinion. I guess I should take that as a compliment. You want to hold me to a higher standard than a sitting U.S. Senator running for President.

As for why I put “peace” in quotes, the reason is that I plainly don’t believe peace will result from Israel forcing every Jew out of our indigenous homeland in Judea and Samaria. And as you readily admit, you don’t either. But what you apparently do believe (or at least wrote) is that Israel should forcibly uproot approx. 400,000 Jews from their homes and withdraw to the indefensible 1949 Armistice line so that when the Arabs do attack Israel from Judea and Samaria, that Israel will get the world back on our side.” First, we withdrew completely from Gaza and the world has never been on our side when we responded to attacks from Gaza. Your assumption that the world would be on “our side” if Israel abandoned claim to Judea and Samaria and forced every Jew out of there is not grounded in history or reality.

Second, when you write “our side” does that mean after Israel hypothetically decides to listen to Bernie Sanders (G-d forbid) and withdraws from all of Judea and Samaria, that you and your kids would be at risk when the rockets, missiles and mortars start dropping in on Tel-Aviv, Ben-Gurion, Haifa and the so-called western portions of Jerusalem (as they inevitably will) or that you and/or your kids will suit up and fight for the IDF when it has to go back into Judea and Samaria after Hamas or ISIS take over there? Based on your FB page it looks like you live in LA, not Israel. And unless you are living in Israel and have served or will serve in the IDF I think a little humility is in order here, and you should be a lot more careful with your willingness to put Israeli lives at risk based on the wishful thinking that leaving the strategic high ground in Judea and Samaria and making Israel only 9 miles wide at its narrowest point will suddenly make the anti-Semites and Israel haters side with Israel. News flash, they won’t. Second news flash, Jews like Bernie Sanders focus on the Holocaust as the main part of their Jewish identity because they are comfortable with Jews as victims, not as soldiers. They think “nice Jewish boys” shouldn’t be cops or soldiers. But Zionism, which you profess to be a fan of, requires Jewish soldiers, cops, farmers, etc. and it is supposed to put an end to Jewish victimhood and dependence on others for the protection of Jewish lives, even if it makes far-left wing secular Jews like Sanders uncomfortable.

And after writing that you are a Zionist, I can’t believe you followed your response to my piece with the assertion that “there is no Judea and Samaria today.” Of course there is. Judea and Samaria is the Jewish and biblical name for this land. Judea and Samaria have been known by these names for centuries, and were registered as such on official documents and maps, by international institutions and in authoritative reference books right up to about 1950. Even in UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which was adopted on November 29, 1947, and recommended the 2nd partition of the Palestine Mandate into an Arab and Jewish State, the UN expressly referred to Judea and Samaria by those historical names. Do you believe there is a “West Bank” today? If so, why? Because that is what Jordan called it after it illegally conquered and annexed the land in 1949? Zionism, which you profess to believe in, is about rebuilding the Jewish State in our indigenous homeland. I hate to break it to you, but it doesn’t get more indigenous to the Jewish people than Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. It is not Solomon’s 950 BC borders (as you sarcastically wrote); it is the very heartland of the Jewish people. Most of our holiest sites and our history are tied to Judea and Samaria, not Tel-Aviv (no matter how awesome Tel-Aviv is).

You also ask me where in Sanders’ speech he said that Judea and Samaria are “Palestinian territory,” but I quoted that language in my piece. Perhaps if your decision to support Sanders wasn’t causing you so much cognitive dissonance, you would have read it. First, he said this: “Peace will mean ending what amounts to the occupation of PALESTINIAN TERRITORY, establishing mutually agreed upon borders, and pulling back settlements in the West Bank, just as Israel did in Gaza…” And he followed up that express assertion of “Palestinian territory” with “That is why I join much of the international community, including the U.S. State Department and European Union, in voicing my concern that Israel’s recent expropriation of an additional 579 acres of land in the West Bank…” So I believe Bernie Sanders’ representation and assertion that the so-called “West Bank” is somehow “Palestinian territory” is pretty clear. And the facts I presented in my piece to demonstrate how false this claim is, are not refutable; and notably you have not tried to refute them despite your repeated assertion that my piece was “not factual and accurate.”

Thankfully, you clarified that do not agree with Sanders’ libelous claim that Israel is stealing water from Arabs in Judea and Samaria, but you seem remarkably glib and forgiving for him making that libel (which comes straight from the SJP talking points) a major part of his Middle East Policy speech.

You shockingly are not sure if you disagree with Bernie Sanders’ claim in his speech that Israel killed 1500 civilians in Operation Protective Edge and you asserted that you don’t believe this is a disputed fact. It sure is, and if you read my article, which I would hope you did, given how affirmatively you attacked it for not being factual enough, you would have noted the discussion about the civilian to combatant casualty ratio in Operation Protective Edge being 1:1.

You then assert that Sanders accusing Israel of “disproportionate responses” to Arab terrorism, rockets and missiles are only “his opinions” and they “don’t make him any less of a Zionist.” Again, as I note in detail in my article, whether a response is “disproportionate” is a matter of facts and law, not opinion. Second, the “disproportionate response” calumny is one of the main talking points of the anti-Israel left that uniquely holds Israel out to a different standard for the rules of war than any other country. It should bother any Zionist greatly when a person in public office, let alone a U.S. presidential candidate, makes that claim about Israel, particularly with respect to Gaza and Operation Protective Edge.

As I wrote in my piece, Bernie Sanders expressly castigated Israel for its “bombing of hospitals, schools and refugee camps” during Operation Protective Edge. Repeating the CAIR, SJP, Hamas and Fatah talking points on Israel’s conduct during the war, which are used to falsely depict Israel as an aggressor that deliberately and wantonly focused on civilian targets with no consideration or regard for innocent life is plainly not the action of any real Zionist. As I wrote in my piece, Sanders’ heinous lies about Israel’s purported “disproportionate response” completely disregarded the incredible steps Israel took to avoid harming civilians, and that Hamas regularly placed its rockets, mortars, missiles and terror tunnels near or in those same hospitals, schools and refugee camps that Bernie Sanders referenced in his mendacious speech in order to pander to those that hate Israel and wish to see it eliminated.

While you chastise me for including “opinions” in an Op-Ed, you apparently are very relaxed about Bernie Sanders’ attacking and slandering Israel for what he expressly described as Israel’s “disproportionate responses to being attacked;” even though I noted in my piece, that by doing so, Sanders is aligning himself with the very anti-Israel view that only determines proportionality on the basis of the parties’ respective death tolls, which is 100% wrong as a matter of law. But since you are so ready to agree with Israel withdrawing to indefensible borders based on the hope of gaining world sympathy (when Israel will inevitably be attacked from any territory in Judea and Samaria that it relinquishes), perhaps you would suggest that Israel turn off Iron Dome or stop successfully interdicting attacks from terror tunnels so that there would be more dead Jews? Then perhaps Bernie Sanders and other people like him would have a harder time pressing the “disproportionate response” lie.

And while you defend Bernie Sanders’ “opinions” in his Middle East Policy speech (while attacking mine) and you continue to claim – despite all credible evidence to the contrary – that Bernie Sanders is a Zionist, you also ignore what was arguably the most pandering and misleading of the policy statements made by Bernie Sanders during his Middle East Policy speech (though you claim to have read it), when Bernie Sanders demanded an end to the “economic blockade of Gaza.” Like the people that Bernie Sanders was pandering to (SJP, CAIR, and JVP types) and all those that regularly demonize Israel, Bernie Sanders here completely inverts cause and effect.

After Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and forced every Jew out of their home in Gaza (because most “enlightened” Westerners accept the obscene notion that Arabs can live freely where there is a Jewish majority but Jews can’t live within any Arab controlled entity), there was no blockade. However, soon after Israel left Gaza, the rockets and mortar attacks followed. And it was after the Battle of Gaza in June 2007 when Hamas militarily defeated Fatah (and threw Fatah opponents off of rooftops), that BOTH Israel and Egypt heavily tightened their respective border crossings, creating the “blockade” Sanders referred to in his speech, and which is a favorite false talking point of the far-left Israel haters. This blockade includes a naval blockade in accordance with international law. In order to lift these economic sanctions and movement restrictions, Hamas was told that it has to: renounce violence against Israel, recognize Israel, and honor all previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, all of which Hamas has refused to do.

If Bernie Sanders was a Zionist, as you profess, and even remotely a friend of Israel, then you would expect him to emphasize that Israel’s blockade of the Hamas stronghold and radical Islamist dictatorship that is the Gaza Strip was properly implemented in order to prevent Hamas from importing more of the weapons it wants to further its goal of killing Jews (all Jews) and destroying Israel. If Bernie Sanders was a Zionist, as you claim, and a real friend of Israel (and not as I wrote, someone that, like many of those on the far left, can’t discern the inherent difference between democracies and dictatorships), then he would have noted the important reasons for Israel’s blockade of Gaza (which he did not), he would have also noted how Israel nevertheless allows tons of consumer goods as well as medical and humanitarian aid into Gaza, including during Operation Protective Edge, at a time when Gazans were firing thousands upon thousands of rockets into Israel.

A friend of Israel would have included these facts in his Middle East Policy speech. Bernie Sanders did not. So you can continue to support Bernie Sanders for President; that is your right as an American. But don’t try to justify it on the false notion that Bernie Sanders is any friend of Israel. As I wrote in my last piece (that so troubles you), with friends like Sanders, who needs enemies.

About the Author
Micha Danzig is a practicing attorney in San Diego and board member of T.E.A.M. (Training & Education About the Middle East). He is also active with Stand With Us and a former soldier in the IDF.