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Bernie Sanders and the Zionist narrative

November 7, 2023 at 3:54 pm

US Senator Bernie Sanders. [ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/ANP/AFP via Getty Images]

Whenever politicians appear to distance themselves temporarily from the mainstream narrative on Israel, one would do well to be prudent before deciding where their loyalties truly lie, and let the alignment with Zionism reveal itself in due course.

“I don’t know how you can have a permanent ceasefire with an organisation like Hamas which is dedicated to turmoil and chaos, and destroying the state of Israel,” said US politician Bernie Sanders in an interview with CNN. If there is no ceasefire, how can Sanders argue for a humanitarian pause? And what is humanitarian about a lull that provides temporary relief before Israel embarks on the next phase of its murderous bombing campaign in Gaza? Is it “hope”, which Sanders has the audacity to mention as being the ambiguous construct to be given to the Palestinians by the international community, always within the context of the two-state compromise?

The Zionist narrative, which the world promotes even as calls for a ceasefire increase, forms the premise of Sanders’s comments. In 2021, he penned an op-ed in the New York Times that called for the recognition of Palestinian rights and lives while upholding Israel’s “absolute right to live in peace and security”. Israel’s so-called rights are rooted in its colonial framework; Sanders’s attempt at equivalence between the colonised and the coloniser is evident even in the language used: the humanitarian versus the political.

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In 2019, Sanders suggested that the US should curb its military aid to Israel based on its treatment of Palestinians in Gaza. “I think it is fair to say that some of that should go right now into humanitarian aid,” Sanders added while speaking at J Street’s national conference.

During a presidential debate in the same year in Atlanta, Sanders embarked on another contradiction: “It is no longer good enough for us to be pro-Israel, I am pro-Israel, but we must treat the Palestinians with the dignity they deserve.” Being pro-Israel is being pro-colonialism, for the simple reason that Israel is a colonial enterprise that thrives upon the dispossession of the Palestinian people.

There is nothing about Israel which is not connected to the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestinians known as the 1948 Nakba, the ethnic cleansing that has never ended.

Now that Israel has given the world a view of what the Nakba looks like, this time complete with precision strikes that have killed over 10,000 civilians but failed to take down Hamas, what is Sanders truly advocating? What humanitarian pause does he envisage, for example, given that Israel is dropping bombs on hospitals in Gaza? One hundred Israeli doctors have signed a petition calling for Israel to bomb Al-Shifa Hospital, claiming that it harbours Palestinian resistance groups.

READ: Nurse describes havoc of Gaza ambulance convoy hit by Israeli strike

What is humanitarian about the humanitarian pause that Sanders claims to want, when the underlying message is a green light for Israel to destroy Gaza under the pretext of destroying Hamas? Considering the aftermath of the bombing, which Israel is already hinting at, what is Sanders’s stance over Netanyahu’s plans for Israel’s possible physical re-occupation of Gaza “for an indefinite period” under the pretext of the colonial security narrative?

There is no way that Sanders can gloss over Israel’s colonial violence, not even with rhetoric about humanitarian pauses. Besides the fact that Sanders’s statement was too little, too late, it would benefit Palestinians if fewer people jumped on the adulation bandwagon for statements that look at the colonised through a colonial humanitarian lens.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.