On Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) surprised me when he came out against a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Some of you fellow progressives say that there should be a full-on ceasefire which would require an agreement on both sides to halt the fighting,” began host Dana Bash. “Do you support a ceasefire and if not, why not?”
“I don’t know how you can have a permanent ceasefire with an organization like Hamas, which is dedicated to turmoil and chaos and destroying the state of Israel,” Sanders replied without hesitation. “And I think what the Arab countries in the region understand is that Hamas has got to go,” he added.
I was impressed, even though I shouldn’t have been. Bernie Sanders is not only Jewish but had many relatives who were killed in the Holocaust. But, as Bash pointed out, many of Sanders’ fellow “progressives” have been calling for a ceasefire, which is essentially calling on Israel to stand down.
As PJM’s Stephen Green noted, “He’s right on both counts and kudus to Sanders for getting it right this once.”
Unfortunately, while Sanders was willing to take the right position on the ceasefire, when it came to condemning anti-Semitism within his own party, he outright refused to do so.
In the same interview, Bash played a clip of video released by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) featuring protestors chanting the anti-Semitic “from the river to the sea” slogan — and Sanders refused to condemn her promotion of the hateful, exterminationist rhetoric. He also refused to criticize her accusation against Joe Biden of supporting the genocide of Palestinians.
“Look, what’s going on right now is a horror show,” Sanders said. “We don’t have to quibble about words. Thousands of men, women, and children are being killed. It has got to end right now. And one of the things that concerns me, Dana, is, there’s not been enough talk about what right-wing Republicans are doing — they don’t want any aid to go to the Palestinians. Somebody should be talking about that. Somebody should be talking about how Trump wants to expel Palestinians from this country. So it’s, you know, you can disagree with Joe Biden, but on his worst day, he’ll be 100 times better than Trump and the right-wing Republicans are coming from.”
“So you think Rashida Tlaib should save her ire for Trump and the right wing and not a fellow Democrat?” Bash asked.
“Well, Rashida Tlaib — Rashida is a friend of mine. Her family comes from Palestine — I think she has been shaken as all of us are about what goes on, is going on right there, right now,” Sanders began. “We have to address the humanitarian crisis. But if anyone thinks that Trump is going to be better than Biden on this issue or any other issue, for that matter, I think they are sorely mistaken. “
“And I understand that,” Bash insisted. “I also understand and I know you know that words matter. And I want to ask about what she said—”
“I don’t — look, words matter, but what matters more, Dana, is you have a horrible humanitarian disaster that has to be dealt with right now. You call it whatever you want to call it. It has to be dealt with. Women and children cannot be bombed with 2,000-pound bombs. And we need the entire world community to stop that.”
Bash prompted, “So when she says, ‘from the river to the sea.’ When she says ‘from the river to the sea,’ which the [Anti-Defamation League] says is anti-Semitic, she says it’s aspirational, but the ADL says it is anti-Semitic. Do you want her to stop using terms like that? And others?”
“Well, I think that what, her, her — Dana, you know, it’s not what I want or anything else. This is what you’ve got,” Sanders replied. “President Obama just said the other day — I think quite correctly, and we’ve all gotta deal with it — this is an enormously complex issue, and slogans like ‘the river to the sea,’ if that means the destruction of Israel, that’s not going to work. People who are saying, ‘Israel, right or wrong, we are for you all the way,’ that’s not going to work. This is a horrendously complex situ — you have a right-wing government in Israel which is racist — and the people, by the way, the good news is, last poll I saw, only 18% of the people of Israel want Netanyahu to stay in office. I hope they get rid of him. I hope they put in a government which understands the severity of the crisis and can help us move towards a two-tier state.”
Sanders clearly had no interest in condemning Tlaib’s blatant anti-Semitism, choosing instead to take the position that all criticism should be directed at Trump and the Republican Party. Even Bash appeared somewhat shocked by his inability to condemn Tlaib, considering his Jewish background and family history. “And you’re also Jewish,” she pointed out. “And you have family who died in the Holocaust. How difficult is this for you?”
“This has got, this has nothing to do with me, Dana,” Sanders dodged.