US Senator Bernie Sanders delivered a video message Saturday to the left-wing Meretz party, which plans to hold a conference on Sunday to mark “50 years of occupation.”
Sanders, who has run as an Independent in Vermont before challenging former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, addressed members of the party in a recorded speech.
Sanders began by describing Meretz as “Israel’s most prominent political organization,” adding that the party stands “for many of the same values that progressives are fighting for here in the United States and throughout the world.”
He also decried the rise of numerous political movements across the globe which he described as “racist, intolerant and authoritarian in nature.”
Repeating his popular message that propelled him in the Democratic primaries in 2016, Sanders spoke of income inequality and blamed the “corrupt and ineffective” political system that has failed millions over the world.
Sanders then called for an “international movement” that fights for equality, reminding viewers that “real change comes from below and not from on top.”
The speech’s substance then switched to the Mideast peace process, with Sanders saying it is still possible to “change the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
“We are now in the 50th year of Israel’s occupation, an occupation which denies basic Palestinian rights while failing to deliver Israel real security,” Sanders said.
He concluded that “equality, security, democracy and justice” are the values that should guide change and that Meretz shares these ideals.
Himself Jewish, Sanders spent some time on an Israeli kibbutz in his youth, and has rejected the tactics of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement.
However, he has also been highly critical of Israel’s military presence in the West Bank and its continued expansion of settlements.
The senator has been critical of the prime minister as well. In April of last year he said: “If we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”
Sanders has also expressed concern about Israel’s approach to the 2014 Gaza war, commenting that Israel has the right to defend itself but has responded “disproportionately” to Palestinian attacks.
Meretz, established in 1992, is a secular party that pushes for a two-state solution to the conflict, social justice and human rights with a strong emphasis on environmental issues.
The current head of the party is chairwoman Zehava Gal-On.
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