Bernie Sanders Comes Down Hard on Israel, About Which He Knows Little

by Hugh Fitzgerald

Bernie Sanders doesn’t much care for Israel. Nor does he know much about it. Both his ignorance and his palpable want of sympathy are on display in his recent Op/Ed for the New York Times, where he accepts uncritically the the charges made by Hamas against Israel this past week. He gets so many things wrong, as this article notes: “Bernie’s Bile,” by Jerold Auerbach, Algemeiner, May 16, 2021:

Senator Bernie Sanders, the son of a Polish immigrant father, grew up in Brooklyn and spent a summer working on a kibbutz. That experience seems to have been formative, not only stoking his left-wing politics but poisoning his view of Israel.

His recent column in the New York Times (May 15) lays bare this noxious mixture, also known as Jewish self-hatred, that drives him to castigate Israel. He begins with the commendable, if obvious, affirmation: “Israel has the right to defend itself.” But he quickly segues to the question: “What are the rights of the Palestinian people?”

That leads him to Sheikh Jarrah, a prosperous neighborhood located just north of Jerusalem’s Old City. It has become the spark igniting waves of violence sweeping through Jerusalem, spreading across Israel and triggering a fusillade of rockets from Hamas in Gaza. According to the Sanders narrative, Palestinian families in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah “have been living under the threat of eviction for many years, navigating a legal system designed to facilitate their forced displacement.” Blame falls on “extremist settlers” who “have intensified their efforts to evict them.” But these “extremist settlers” are Yemenite Jews who want their property returned.

Sanders’ indictment provides a classic example of ideology obliterating truth. The four Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah who now face “expulsion” from “their” homes are living on Jewish-owned property in a neighborhood that is the site of the tomb of a renowned Jewish High Priest in the Second Temple era. In 1876 Jews purchased the burial cave and adjoining land, where Yemenite Jewish immigrant families lived until the property was seized by Arabs during Israel’s Independence War. He is oblivious to the 1970 Israeli law that allows Jews to reclaim East Jerusalem property owned by Jews before their forced eviction in 1948.

The property dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is simple: there are four Arab families who are living in property owned by Jews. They have always refused to pay any rent to the owners, even as they admitted, in both 1982 and 2020, that they did not own the land on which they have been living. The “threat of eviction for many years” that Sanders deplores is in fact a point in Israel’s favor; it testifies to the fact that Israel is a government of laws, and the Israeli property owners have had to go through the tedious business of repeatedly presenting their case through various courts “over many years.” And though the Jewish property owners have had their claim upheld at every level so far, there has been no eviction – as Sanders seems to think has already occurred – and there won’t be until the Supreme Court has handed down its decision.

These people Sanders refers to as “extremist settlers” taking over – conjuring up images of wild-eyed bearded “Biblical” Jews at a hilltop outpost in the West Bank – are in fact not individual “settlers” at all, but a Jewish organization, Nahalat Shimon, that owns the properties in question.

In Sanders’ warped view, “extremist settlers” are to blame for the current eruption of violence. These evictions, he claims, are part of “a broader system of political and economic oppression” that includes “a deepening Israeli occupation” — of Judea and Samaria, the biblical homeland of the Jewish people — and “a continuing blockade on Gaza that make life increasingly intolerable for Palestinians.” He ignores the current fusillade of Hamas rockets from Gaza.”

There is “political and economic oppression” in Gaza, all right. But it’s Hamas, not Israel, that is responsible. Hamas has imposed a despotic regime that suppresses all political dissent with violence. The “economic oppression” comes from Hamas, too, whose leaders systematically steal much of the foreign aid that was intended for Gaza’s inhabitants. Just two Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Mousa Abu Marzouk, have each accumulated fortunes of at least $2.5 billion. Another 600 Hamas senior officials have become multi-millionaires from aid money they have diverted. Nepotism is rife; the members of Hamas’ leaders’ extended families are given well-paid government sinecures. All of this angers the population, but they have no way to safely protest.

The eruption of violence in mid-May was a result of several factors. First, there was the cancellation by Mahmoud Abbas of Palestinian elections, and Abbas’ desire to stir up as much trouble as he could in order to make both the Palestinians, and the rest of the world, stop thinking about that cancellation and what it signifies.

Second, Arabs in Jerusalem began to attack defenseless Jews – especially young Orthodox boys – and to share the videos of these attacks via the TikTok app, so that others could enjoy the spectacle of Arabs humiliating and beating Jews. The “sport” of attacking helpless Jews spread around Jerusalem, but after a few days, groups of young, tough Jews, determined to fight back, marched into Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem spoiling for a fight with Arabs, and in some cases those fights began, though the Israeli police did their best to break them up.

Third, in early May, Arabs on top of the Temple Mount threw large rocks on Jewish worshippers 70 feet below at the Western Wall, driving them away from the Wall. Israeli police on the Temple Mount tried to halt the rock throwers; in doing so, they themselves became the target of Palestinians who threw large rocks, and in some cases Molotov cocktails, at them. In an attempt to catch the perpetrators, some members of the Israeli police chased after them, even into the Al-Aqsa Mosque; this intrusion inflamed the Palestinians, and in the ensuing melee several hundred Palestinians were injured, as well as dozens of Israeli police.

Fourth in the midst of this, the Hamas terror group decided to take advantage of the tense situation, and it began its ferocious barrages of rockets into Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Hamas claimed it was only responding to the supposedly “unprovoked” Israeli police “raid” into the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In the first nine days of fighting, Hamas managed to fire nearly 4,500 rockets into Israel, many times more than it had fired in the 50 days of fighting between Hamas and Israel in 2014.

In Sanders’ contrived “reality,” Israel ranks among “similar authoritarian nationalist movements” that “exploit ethnic and racial hatreds in order to build power for a corrupt few.”

The “ethnic and racial hatreds” of which Sanders speaks are, in reality, the “religious hatred” of Jews by Muslims, a hatred inculcated in the Qur’an. Robert Spencer has provided a useful compilation of Qur’anic verses on Jews: “The Qur’an depicts the Jews as inveterately evil and bent on destroying the wellbeing of the Muslims. They are the strongest of all people in enmity toward the Muslims (5:82); as fabricating things and falsely ascribing them to Allah (2:79; 3:75, 3:181); claiming that Allah’s power is limited (5:64); loving to listen to lies (5:41); disobeying Allah and never observing his commands (5:13); disputing and quarreling (2:247); hiding the truth and misleading people (3:78); staging rebellion against the prophets and rejecting their guidance (2:55); being hypocritical (2:14, 2:44); giving preference to their own interests over the teachings of Muhammad (2:87); wishing evil for people and trying to mislead them (2:109); feeling pain when others are happy or fortunate (3:120); being arrogant about their being Allah’s beloved people (5:18); devouring people’s wealth by subterfuge (4:161); slandering the true religion and being cursed by Allah (4:46); killing the prophets (2:61); being merciless and heartless (2:74); never keeping their promises or fulfilling their words (2:100); being unrestrained in committing sins (5:79); being cowardly (59:13-14); being miserly (4:53); being transformed into apes and pigs for breaking the Sabbath (2:63-65; 5:59-60; 7:166); and more.”

Americans, he [Sanders] insists, must cease to be “apologists for the right-wing Netanyahu government and its undemocratic and racist behavior.” In his closing, now familiar, American refrain for oppressed minorities, he insists: “We must recognize that Palestinian rights matter. Palestinian lives matter.” In translation, Palestinians are the new Black Americans, oppressed by white racists — also known as Israelis.

The current Israeli government is shared between parties of the center and the right; if Netanyahu has his way, some of Arab MKs he has been courting will join his faction. Where is the “racism” in any of this? Are Arabs a “race”? Are the Arabs of Mauritania the same “race” as the Arabs of Lebanon? Are the Arabs of Yemen the same “race” as the Arabs of Tunisia? As for the “supposedly undemocratic” nature of the Israeli government, it suffers not from too little democracy but from a surfeit, with four elections held in the past two years. This has led to endless horse-trading among the many parties represented in the Knesset. Arab MKs has been courted by Prime Minister Netanyahu, a development I am sure would puzzle Bernie Sanders, if he were ever to learn of it..

“Palestinian lives matter,” proclaims Bernie Sanders. Have the Israelis ever denied it? It’s not Israel that puts Palestinian lives at risk by placing rockets and other weapons in the midst of civilian areas, even inside schools, apartment houses, hospitals, and mosques. It’s not Hamas, but Israel, that makes endless efforts to reduce civilian casualties among the Palestinians to a minimum, by warning civilians to leave buildings that are about to be targeted. “Palestinian lives matter” to the Israeli doctors and nurses who provide care for Palestinians wounded in war, and for those, too, who need medical care for conditions that the Palestinian hospitals simply lack the expertise to handle.

According to the myopic vision of Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab, Palestinians have been fighting against a population replacement policy in Sheik Jarrah that is illegal under international law. A “one-sided Israeli legal system” allows Jews to settle in homes that they can claim to have at one time been Jewish. Kuttab is oblivious to the reality that these homes were indeed owned by Jews who were driven out by Arabs during Israel’s Independence War.

Daoud Kuttab is mentioned by Prof. Auerbach as an example of a Palestinian’s anti-Israel venom that, while appalling, is no match for Bernie Sanders’ libelous squibs. Kuttab claims that the property dispute over four discrete plots of land in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem is part of a “population replacement policy.” There is no sinister Israeli “population replacement policy.” The 209,000 Arabs of east Jerusalem can rest easy. No one is coming to evict them, the way the Jordanians evicted every last Jew from east Jerusalem in 1948-49. The property dispute in Sheikh Jarrah is between the Jewish owner, an organization with its property deeds and chain of title, and the four Arab families who have admitted, in 1982 and again in 2020, that they do not own the land in question, but for decades have refused to pay rent — no justification has been offered for this — and who now pretend that they are already “being evicted.” There is no eviction taking place; nor — as NPR repeatedly says — have the Arabs already “been evicted.” That can only happen after the Supreme Court issues its decision, concerning exactly four tiny plots, whose owners want to take back from the Arab squatters who refuse to leave. That’s all there is to it — it’s not part of a malicious Israeli plot to “Judaize” east Jerusalem.

A suggestion for Bernie Sanders: this summer, while Congress is not in session, spend a lot of time in a comfortable lawn chair in your Vermont backyard, far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife. Take the occasion to read about the history of Israel and the Palestinians. Start with the following: the Balfour Declaration (1917); the San Remo Conference and Resolution (1920); the Cairo Conference (1921); the League of Nations’ Mandates system; the Mandate for Palestine (1922) together with the maps showing the territory allocated to the Mandate for Palestine; the U.N. Charter, Article 80; U.N. S.C. Resolution 242, together with the detailed explication of its significance by its main author, Lord Caradon; Israel’s three wars of survival (1948, 1967, 1973); the six wars Israel has fought against terror groups (PLO in 1982, Hamas in 2000, 2008-2009, 2014, 2021), Hezbollah in 2006); the wartime career of Grand Mufti Haj Amin el-Husseini in Berlin; the Hamas Charter; Mahmoud Abbas’ Holocaust-denying doctoral thesis; and finally, fifteen passages from the Qur’an, 2:191-193, 3:110, 3:151; 4:89, 5:33, 5:51, 8:12, 8:60, 9:5, 9:29, 47:4, 98:6. That will be enough for now.

Such study should make a deep impression — if he dares to take up the challenge — even on the likes of Senator Bernie Sanders.

First published in Jihad Watch.