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Friday, April 15, 2016

Bernie Sanders does not court the Israel lobby's billionaire mega-donors. He can speak his conscience.

Bernie Is Speaking the Truth About Israel-Palestine

During last night’s heated Democratic debate in Brooklyn, Senator Bernie Sanders came out firing on Israel. A candidate who initially sought, seemingly at all costs, to avoid foreign policy altogether finally spoke out on the most politically charged issue of global affairs in Washington—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and he took it by the horns.

That’s why it was so disappointing that, only a few hours earlier, the Sanders campaign suspended one of its young staffers, Simone Zimmerman, who served only briefly as its Jewish outreach coordinator. (Disclosure: I edited Zimmerman at a blog where I worked in 2013, and we have remained friends.) Zimmerman’s sin was to call the right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an “asshole,” adding “Fuck you, Bibi,” using his nickname, for good measure, in a Facebook post last winter, when she was all of 24 years old.

At the time, Netanyahu was coming to Washington to marshal support against the Iran nuclear deal, claiming to speak on the behalf of all “Jewish People” everywhere, not just Israelis. Zimmerman, who has been deeply involved for years in Jewish and liberal pro-Israel activism—often critical, though it may be—took umbrage at the notion, resulting in her expletive-laden post on social media. Within half a day, Zimmerman edited the Facebook post to remove the curses—mentioning in a comment that she did so to “reflect the seriousness with which I take this issue”—but not soon enough. Someone had screen-captured the original text, and lay in waiting for more than a year to leak it to the McCarthyite smear artists at the right-wing Washington Free Beacon (one only needs to scan the post, where liberal Zionist groups are derided as anti-Israel, to see what ideologues this lot are).

In the Brooklyn debate, however, Sanders sounded not unlike his erstwhile staffer. He doubled down on his condemnation of Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza as a “disproportionate” response to sporadic terrorist attacks, leaving too many innocents dead. He expressed dismay that the Palestinian economy, especially in Gaza, was so dismally in the gutter. Like Zimmerman, Sanders supports the two-state solution, but clearly finds the indignities of the half-century-long occupation too much to bear silently. And then Sanders took this most impolitic of shots, by elite Washington standards: “There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.” In more crass terms, fuck that asshole.

Sanders’s statement reflects an obvious truth, but one that politicians aren’t supposed to utter. All indications are that, when it comes to justice and peace, Netanyahu is right (correct) very little of the time. That much is readily evident in the flare-ups of violence in Gaza. It is evident in his lackluster attempts at peace-making, and his constantly unfolding counterproductive policies. It is evident in the right-wing prime minister’s racist electioneering and disavowal of the two-state solution. And it was perhaps most evident to the United States in Netanyahu’s approach to the Iran deal, in his posture of belligerence and bald-faced interference in our national debate.

Even as mainstream liberals supported the Iran deal, however, they were not supposed to go therewhen it came to Netanyahu. Just ask Hillary Clinton: She has made mending fences with Netanyahu a centerpiece of her Israel policy. Rehabilitating Netanyahu’s bruised image among American liberals became the business of a think tank dedicated to electing Clinton. In Brooklyn on Thursday night, Isaac Chotiner wrote at Slate, Clinton’s talking points “sounded like a back issue of Commentary.”

And why not? Clinton’s top donor, Haim Saban, shares some of Netanyahu’s more noxious views. His top priority—his only priority, according to a 2010 New Yorker profile—is Israel, and it shows: Saban displays a willingness, all too common among the Democratic Party’s unreconstructed pro-Israel hawks, to bend over backwards in an attempt to play nice with the right wing of the pro-Israel community. Saban—and by extension Clinton, who rarely speaks about Israel in a way that would contrast starkly with her billionaire backer—cannot be described by the cliché “Israel, right or wrong”; he, too, is at home with the mantra of the Commentary crowd, one that declares, “Israel, always right!”

This is not Bernie Sanders’s milieu. He does not court the Israel lobby’s billionaire mega-donors. He can speak his conscience. And that’s what makes his caving in on Simone Zimmerman so jarring—especially amid the stark contrast of his fine debate performance. In the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Bernie Sanders sounded like a leader on this issue: He may not have a majority, or even a majority of Democrats, behind him, but he spoke truths about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that needed to be spoken. This kind of honesty on the topic—that Palestinians have rights, that Israel is responsible for violating them—is almost nonexistent on the national political stage, whether among Republicans or Democrats.

Showing this sort of leadership may be “bad politics,” but the great struggles in the name of liberal values are rarely easy in light of electoral politics. Clinton will likely end up winning New York’s Jewish vote and the primary, and then the Democratic nomination. Yet, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she shows no glimmer of leadership when it comes to, as Sanders put it, the pursuit of peace and justice. But Simone Zimmerman has, and for that she has been cast into the wilderness.


  1. Anyone who supports an Arabstinian state supports a misogynist, racist, apartheid, aggressive, and genocidal state. Along with the religious insanity from which it all grows.

    The women get the Sharia shaft, other races get the shaft, no one but moslem/arabs can enter there, it will be armed to the teeth, with the objective of pushing the Israelis into the Mediterranean Sea.

    A madhouse, in other words.


    Near riot occurring outside of Trump event going on now.

    "If totalitarianism comes to USA it will come from the Left, not the Right"

  2. Hillary Clinton may have foreign policy experience, but it is experience comprised of disaster after disaster.

    In an interview with the New York Daily News, journalist Juan González dug a skeleton out of Clinton’s closet: He asked the presidential candidate about her role in the coup in Honduras.

    In 2009, the Honduran military overthrew the democratically elected government of President Manuel Zelaya. The populist left-wing leader was woken up in the middle of the night, kidnapped and whisked away from his own country.

    The international community immediately condemned the coup. The U.S. response was quite different. The Obama administration, and particularly the State Department under the leadership of Hillary Clinton, defended the coup.

    Clinton, a committed hawk and firm believer in U.S. empire, played a uniquely hands-on role in the coup, just as she did in the equally disastrous war in Libya.

    Emails released from Clinton’s time as the secretary of state show that some of her top aides urged her to dub the putsch a military coup and to cut off U.S. aid. She refused to do so.

    Instead, the U.S. defied the Organization of American States and pushed for the world to recognize the coup government.

    Zelaya, a left-wing leader who challenged the interests of Western corporations, was never reinstated. In 2013, current President Juan Orlando Hernández kicked off his reign with the slogan “Honduras is open for business.”


    1. {...}

      Today, Honduras has a violent, repressive and incredibly corrupt government. Renowned activists like environmentalist Berta Cáceres are murdered in cold blood, and with complete impunity. Activists say death squads are back — a chilling ghost from a bloody Cold War past.

      From the 2009 coup until 2012, the U.S.-backed Honduran regime killed more than 300 people.

      Honduras soon earned a dubious honor: From 2012 to 2014, it was the murder capital of the world.

      Clinton has responded to this tragedy — described in a New York Times op-ed as “a mess made in the U.S.” — with whitewashing and sheer fabrication.

      “I didn’t like the way it looked or the way they did it, but they had a very strong argument that they had followed the Constitution and the legal precedents,” Clinton said of the 2009 coup in her interview with the Daily News.

      “I think we came out with a solution that did hold new elections, but it did not in any way address the structural, systemic problems in that society,” she added, expressing “concern that it’s not just government actions — drug gangs, traffickers of all kinds are preying on the people of Honduras.”

      Experts disagree, and say Clinton is trying to rewrite history.


  3. Netanyahu Claimed That New Building Plans Wouldn’t Expand Israeli Settlements; Aerial Photos Prove Otherwise

    Netanyahu’s office claimed that plans approved this week were for renovation of existing buildings, but Haaretz checked – and it turns out the prime minister got it wrong.

    read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.714542

  4. The Bernie Sanders Miracle: American Crowd in Brooklyn Cheers Palestinian Dignity

    By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

    The Democratic debate in Brooklyn last night took an unusual turn when a grumpy old Jewish American upbraided a slightly younger Illinois Methodist for not respecting the dignity of the Palestinian people.

    BLITZER [Used to work for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobby] : . . . Senator, let’s talk about the U.S. relationship with Israel. Senator Sanders, you maintained that Israel’s response in Gaza in 2014 was, quote, “disproportionate and led to the unnecessary loss of innocent life.”


    What do you say to those who believe that Israel has a right to defend itself as it sees fit?

    SANDERS [former kubbutznik, i.e. left wing Zionist annoyed by the rise of the far right wing Likud Party]: Well, as somebody who spent many months of my life when I was a kid in Israel, who has family in Israel, of course Israel has a right not only to defend themselves, but to live in peace and security without fear of terrorist attack. That is not a debate.


    But — but what you just read, yeah, I do believe that. Israel was subjected to terrorist attacks, has every right in the world to destroy terrorism. But we had in the Gaza area — not a very large area — some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed.

    AUDIENCE MEMBER: Free Palestine!

    1. It has been clear for some years that the far-right Likud government’s policies are unacceptable to most Americans, including to most Jewish Americans. Our political class and the AIPAC lobbyists have tried to obscure this truth just as they obscure climate change.

      In response to Sen. Sanders’s comments, Jewish Voice for Peace issued this statement:

      Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace: “It was heartening to hear the beginning of a much needed conversation about Israel’s disproportionate use of force against Palestinians in Gaza during the Democratic debate tonight. Today showed that the movement for Palestinian rights is shifting the discourse at the highest political levels. However, there is still a long way to go before we see our political leaders take courageous steps not just to recognize the humanity of Palestinians but to take action to secure their rights.”

      What Sen. Sanders is saying is that the status quo is not sustainable. Sen. Sanders is right.

    2. America kills thousands more arabs than Israel does and these arabs do not shoot rockets into America,

      No the Palestinians are not heroes nor seeking dignity, they are seeking the death of Jews.

      And to claim otherwise is a lie.

    3. It's time to treat the Palestinians as the Americans treat ISIS.

      After all they are cut from the same cloth.