Bernie Sanders Carries Palestinian Cause into Democratic Fight

Muslim Bernie Sanders supporter (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)
Jae C. Hong / Associated Press
San Bernardino, CA

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has shaken up the Democratic Party’s internal debate about Israel, appointing known pro-Palestinian activists to the party’s platform committee and stating his intention to give the “Palestinian people the respect that they need.”

During a rally in San Bernardino last week, a group of three hijab-wearing Afghani-American women told Breitbart News that they support Sanders for “his positions on Israel and Palestine and Muslims in America.” Asked what was so appealing about his positions, Sara, 22, said: “He’s not necessarily siding with one state, whether it be Israel or Palestine, and he’s actually giving a voice to Palestinians. Personally, I’ve never heard a politician speak out on behalf of the Palestinians.”

San Bernardino was the site of the devastating December 2 terrorist attacks carried out by radical Islamists Syed Rizwan Farook and his accomplice wife Tashfeen Malik, leaving 14 dead. Oddly, however, during his speech in San Bernardino, Sanders failed to mention the terrorist attack.

In 2012, the Democratic National Convention saw an embarrassing floor fight over Israel, as party officials rushed to rewrite the platform, which had excluded traditional pro-Israel planks. Sanders’s efforts to flex his political muscle within the party promises a new fight in 2016.

The Los Angeles Times previewed the coming fight, which has pro-Israel supporters of Hillary Clinton nervous. Sanders, who is Jewish and spent a significant amount of time living on an Israeli kibbutz, told the Times, “I believe that for too long our country and our government have not given the Palestinian people the respect that they need,” adding, “that may require a little butting of heads.”

His controversial stance on Israel follows a controversy over his former Jewish outreach coordinator, Simone Zimmerman, whom he fired after some of her comments came to light. She had previously accused Israel of waging “a crime against humanity” in defending itself against attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz