Why Bernie Sanders is the best candidate for Israel
I know that this news might come as a surprise to many of you, considering that Bernie Sanders has been more critical of Israel’s government than most politicians who verbalize unwavering support for the Jewish nation. But have you ever wondered why American politicians so blindly and one-sidedly show support for Israel? Though we have been led to believe that it has everything to do with Israel being the “only democracy in the Middle East” or “one of America’s closest allies”, in reality the unwavering support we have witnessed is much more about the well-meaning influence wealthy Jewish donors and powerful Jewish lobbies such as AIPAC have on the US political process. Sadly, without this influence, Israel would hold no more relevance in American politics than Papua New Guinea.
That is unless we’re talking about Bernie Sanders who does not seek support from wealthy donors and powerful lobbies. For the past 40 years, he has shown a level of consistency and honesty that is unheard of in the world of politics. He has a lifelong record of putting the people's needs over his own personal gain or profit. Simply put, Bernie Sanders says what he means and means what he says. So that when Bernie Sanders says he cares deeply about Israel’s security but also cares deeply about the needs of the Palestinian people, he means it.
When other candidates operate simply to appease wealthy donors and powerful lobbies, the norm today in American politics, then blindly supporting Israel is just another part of that process. But the process doesn’t end there. After showing unwavering support for Israel these very same politicians then go on to help arm, and/or fund almost every nation in the region including organisations such as the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS. All this, while simultaneously working to topple Middle Eastern governments who don’t fall in line with the spectacular business opportunity that the Middle East offers. And the nations that are not heavily armed and funded by the US? They are driven to compete in a wild arms race for the sake of their own security and political interests. The result, insanity and an ever-growing panic, and rightfully so, at being surrounded by heavily armed nations who are considered enemies.
Yes, all this due to the foreign policy decisions of "Israel-loving” leaders. Of course, we cannot blame the US for all the problems in the Middle East but the connection between Western foreign policy, fueled by wealthy donors and powerful lobbies, and the complete chaos in the region cannot be ignored. What we need is a leader who has risen to power not by being in the pockets of big money interests, but rather one who has risen to power because of his care and compassion for humanity as a whole. Bernie Sanders is that guy.
I have witnessed a lot of anger and disappointment expressed towards Bernie because he had the audacity to voice an opinion that Israel’s response to Gaza was “disproportionate". The two main justifications used to explain why the response was proportionate are “we were being attacked” and “we did everything we could to cause as little civilian harm as possible". In fact, both these statements are true. Israel was under constant rocket fire, conditions no nation should have to live under. And there is no denying Israel’s goal was to cause as little civilian harm as possible while simultaneously causing maximum infrastructural damage. They, in fact, accomplished a feat that until today no other nation has been capable of doing. Dropping over 5000 bombs on one of the most densely populated cities on Earth and killing an estimated 2000 people equates to over 2 high powered missile for each death; any objective observer would understand that Israel tried to minimize human harm. That being said, the goal of maximizing infrastructural damage in such a densely populated area, regardless of measures taken to minimize civilian harm, is in fact still disproportionate.
In order to understand why these attacks were disproportionate, we need to ask ourselves what these thousands of airstrikes accomplished. We failed to cease or even slow down rocket fire until a ceasefire was reached. These airstrikes are not what destroyed the tunnels. And they did not bring Hamas to the negotiating table. Our response did, however, cause the death of nearly 70 Israelis; more deaths than have been caused in the history Hamas' rocket fire. Our response caused thousands of Palestinian deaths, most of them civilians. Our response caused tens of thousands of rockets to drop on Israel and hundreds of millions of dollars to be lost from our economy. Weapon stockpiles destroyed are being restocked and the tunnels are being re-built. Anti-Israel sentiment is at an all-time high and Hamas has more international support and is stronger than ever. And worst of all is the trauma we caused an entire population, 50% of whom are under age 18 and whose only crime was being born, which certainly is no crime. The reason this is the greatest tragedy of all is that the youth of Gaza are the very people we should be connecting with in order to ensure a peaceful future for our own children. Instead, we have caused them immense mental and emotional harm and by doing so we have fueled their radicalization. Hamas is teaching them that we are evil and instead of reaching out to them with truth and compassion we have only reinforced their government’s teachings, regardless of our intent. For a country that is home to so many brilliant minds and some of the world’s most important innovations, is this really the best we can do? Could we not have destroyed the tunnels and negotiated a ceasefire without such immense destruction to all sides? We certainly could have. Our response to the rocket fire was not only disproportionate; it was illogical and self-destructive.
I understand. We, the Jewish people feel very vulnerable when criticised. And it is absolutely understandable considering our tragic history with anti-Semitism and the fact that we have lived under constant threat from our neighbours. But in order to move forward towards a truly more peaceful future, it would help us greatly to accept that loving criticism is not always antisemitism but rather often a call to greater action and the possibility of creating a better world.
The idea that this is a one-sided conflict and that we, the nation of Israel and the Jewish community at large, can do no wrong is extremely harmful to the peace process and to our own personal growth. Since Bibi’s rise to power, Israel has slowly moved towards oligarchy; anti-semitic and anti-Israel sentiment has spiraled out of control, the peace process is virtually dead, and we are becoming more and more isolated from the international community. Yet if anyone dares criticise Bibi they will be called an Israel hater and maybe even an anti-Semite. Calling out Israel’s government for their, at times, reckless behavior is in no way an endorsement of Hamas or terror attacks on civilians. Our lack of peace in this land is a result of poor leadership by both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership. Accepting this notion will open up a world of possible solutions to advance peace on this beautiful land which we both call home.
In order to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians, we need someone who will not blindly support one side but rather pressure the governments of both sides to become more involved in the peace process. One-sided support does nothing but demonize the entire other side, and ultimately and unknowingly aids in their radicalization. The politically fueled, unwavering support which Israel has been given has only inspired more anti-Israel and anti-semitic sentiment, not only by the Palestinian people but by people all over the world. Sadly, because of a misguided US political system, Israel is viewed by many as the spoiled child of America that is incapable of wrongdoing; a statement which certainly holds a grain of truth.
Instead of our expectation of unwavering support let us stand strong and humbly open our hearts to constructive criticism offered by those without political agenda. When Israel does something great we deserve to be praised; and when we do something misguided we deserve to be criticised, and the same goes for the Palestinians.
Our beautiful nations of Israel and Palestine are capable of lighting the way in a world that has been submerged in darkness. But for this, we need calm, compassion, wisdom, and strength. And we need a US leader who will view this conflict objectively with the genuine goal of bringing peace. That leader is Bernie Sanders.