NEW YORK, NY — In a rare foreign policy interview, Sen. Bernie Sanders claimed the United States is “complicit” in so-called Israeli occupation” and should rethink its military aid to the Jewish state.
Sanders was asked the following question by The Intercept:
But does he accept that the United States is complicit in Israel’s occupation, through its military aid and arms sales? And does he also accept, therefore, that the occupation of the Palestinian territories will never end until the U.S. stops arming and funding the Jewish state?
“Certainly the United States is complicit, but it’s not to say … that Israel is the only party at fault,” the failed 2016 presidential candidate replied. He added that “in terms of Israeli-Palestinian relations the United States has got to play a much more even-handed role. Clearly that is not the case right now.”
Sanders would do well to read this reporter’s list of six reasons the Palestinian narrative of Israeli “occupation” is misleading.
Asked whether he would, as the Intercept phrased the question, ever “consider voting to reduce U.S. aid to Israel — worth at least $3bn per annum — or U.S. arms sales to the Israeli military,” Sanders gave a response that ended with, “So the answer is yes.”
He explained that he would rework U.S. military aid to ensure that Israel, one of the most energy efficient and environmentally-conscious countries in the world, would “work with other countries on environmental issues.” And he said that he would help rebuild Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.
The U.S. funding plays a very important role, and I would love to see people in the Middle East sit down with the United States government and figure out how U.S. aid can bring people together, not just result in an arms war in that area. So I think there is extraordinary potential for the United States to help the Palestinian people rebuild Gaza and other areas. At the same time, demand that Israel, in their own interests in a way, work with other countries on environmental issues.
“So the answer is yes,” Sanders concluded with regard to the question about reducing U.S. aid to Israel.
The socialist-leaning Sanders, who is Jewish, has a troubling record on Israel issues.
Earlier this year, Sanders spoke at an event for the George Soros-funded, pro-Palestinian J Street organization, were he claimed that Israel was occupying “Palestinian territories,” and that this is “contrary to fundamental American values.”
As Breitbart Jerusalem reported, Sanders admitted to seeking foreign policy advice from critics of the Jewish state, including J Street.
In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press last year, Sanders gave the following reply when asked about his plans for Secretary of Defense should he win the Democratic nonination: “We talked to people like Jim Zogby, talked to the people on J Street, to get a broad perspective of the Middle East.”
While the Soros-funded J Street describes itself as a liberal, pro-Israel lobby, it has faced mounting criticism for the policies it advocates, which many argue are harmful to the Jewish state.
In 2009, the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. refused to send its ambassador to J Street’s first national conference, explaining that the organization’s policies could harm Israel’s interests.
J Street supports the international nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heavily lobbied against on the grounds of Israeli and U.S. national security.
President of the Arab American Institute James Zogby – Sanders’ other stated go-to source for foreign policy advice – is notoriously anti-Israel. He refers to the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement as a “legitimate and moral response to Israeli policy.”
In the past, Zogby has attempted to rationalize Palestinian terrorism against Israelis, saying that he was trying to understand “why the perpetrators [of terrorist acts] acted as they did or why there are people whose anger and despair bring them to support this or that crime.”
Zogby, who is of Lebanese descent, has described Hezbollah terrorists as “the Lebanese armed resistance.”
Meanwhile, in a July interview, Sanders was directly asked by Ezra Klein at the left- leaning Vox whether he considers himself a Zionist, meaning supportive of a homeland for the Jewish nation.
“A Zionist? What does that mean? Want to define what the word is? Do I think Israel has the right to exist? Yeah, I do. Do I believe that the United States should be playing an even-handed role in terms of its dealings with the Palestinian community in Israel? Absolutely I do,” he replied.
Again, I think that you have volatile regions in the world, the Middle East is one of them, and the United States has got to work with other countries around the world to fight for Israel’s security and existence at the same time as we fight for a Palestinian state where the people in that country can enjoy a decent standard of living, which is certainly not the case right now. My long-term hope is that instead of pouring so much military aid into Israel, into Egypt, we can provide more economic aid to help improve the standard of living of the people in that area.
During Israel’s defensive war targeting Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip during the summer of 2014, a constituent commended Sanders for not signing a Senate resolution blaming Hamas for the conflict. The constituent asked if Sanders would “go further,” implicitely asking whether Sanders would criticize Israel’s actions during that war.
“Has Israel overreacted? Have they bombed U.N. facilities? The answer is yes, and that is terribly, terribly wrong,” Sanders replied.
“On the other hand – and there is another hand – you have a situation where Hamas is sending missiles into Israel – a fact – and you know where some of those missiles are coming from,” he stated.
“They’re coming from populated areas; that’s a fact. Hamas is using money that came into Gaza for construction purposes – and God knows they need roads and all the things that they need – and used some of that money to build these very sophisticated tunnels into Israel for military purposes.”
Haaretz featured an article pointing out Sanders’ lack of participation in organized Jewish life and questioned whether he was an atheist.
Sanders has stayed far away from organized American Jewish life both personally and professionally, and the U.S. Jewish establishment in turn had a hard time regarding as one of its own a secular socialist congressional iconoclast who has never belonged to a synagogue, never appeared at pro-Israel rallies or AIPAC events, and has refrained from returning to the Jewish state since his now- infamous kibbutz stint in the 1960’s.
When, last fall, Sanders was asked on-camera whether he believed in God – by, of all people, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel – he avoided directly answering the question, and invoked none other than the Pope in his answer: “I am who I am, and what I believe in and what my spirituality is about is that we’re all in this together. I think it is not a good thing to believe as human beings we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people, and this is not Judaism. This is what Pope Francis is talking about, that we cannot worship just billionaires and the making of more and more money.”
Sanders Volunteered in Israel for Marxist Revolutionary Group
Breitbart Jerusalem previously reported that in 1963 Sanders volunteered at a kibbutz in northern Israel as the guest of a Marxist-socialist youth movement with a revolutionary mission.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Israeli reporters were searching for the name of the kibbutz on which Sanders spent several months in 1963. The politician, who has not been shy about his affinity for socialism, was reluctant to disclose much about his Jewish upbringing or his time in Israel, where he traveled with his first wife, Deborah Shiling.
Sanders’ presidential campaign conspicuously refused to answer inquiries about the identity of the kibbutz.
Last February, Jerusalem Post Intelligence and Security columnist Yossi Melman revealed that Sanders volunteered the information about the kibbutz during an interview with the reporter in 1990, while Melman was the intelligence correspondent and analyst for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.
The 1990 interview, discovered in the Haaretz archive, cites Sanders saying that in 1963 he spent several months at Kibbutz Sha’ar Ha’amakim in northern Israel as a guest of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement, which was affiliated with the kibbutz.
The information garnered some media attention from Israel-themed outlets.
Yet not a single news report reviewed by Breitbart News mentioned that Hashomer Hatzair was an openly Marxist movement that sought to use Zionism as the first stage of a utopian plan for Israel. The second stage was to be a revolution that would transform Israel into an Arab-Jewish socialist paradise.
Hashomer Hatzair is still around. It currently identifies as a progressive Zionist organization and is a member of the International Falcon Movement–Socialist Education International.
Hashomer Hatzair runs a youth program in the U.S. that says it “encourages youth to build progressive Jewish values, explore connections to Israel and the Jewish community, and develop a commitment to social, environmental, and economic justice.”
The organization, founded in Europe in 1913 to prepare young socialists for the move to Mandatory Palestine, has rebranded its mission numerous times. It was once a revolutionary Marxist organization.
Movement members first settled in Mandatory Palestine in 1919 and seven years later founded several kibbutzim as well as a political party called the Socialist League of Palestine.
In a lengthy history for the Van Leer Jerusalem Foundation, Hebrew University Political Science Professor and prolific author Shlomo Avineri in 1977 documented the Marxist revolutionary ideology of the Hashomer Hatzair movement.
In a 404-page work titled, “Varieties of Marxism,” Avineri recounted the Marxist “baptism” of Hashomer Hatzair, which he referred to as HH, in the 1920s as “one of the most exciting intellectual chapters in the modern history of Zionism and Palestine.”
It bears testimony to the historical essentiality of Marxism in those years, which saw a new wave of Marxism that was to grow and intensify until it reached its political peak in the 1950s, whereupon it would disintegrate in face of political reality.
Unlike other pragmatic socialist movements at the time, Hashomer Hatzair “refused to accept constructivism as the main content of class war in the Palestinian reality, or to contend that socialism could be realized without revolution.
Hashomer Hatzair saw Zionism, or support for a Jewish national homeland, as an entryway into the Jewish state in order to accomplish a socialist revolution in two phases. It enumerated this mission by creating its own “Etapist Theory,” according to which “Jewish socialist society would be realized in two stages,” wrote Avineiri.
The historian elaborated:
In the first stage, the Jewish national home would be established in Eretz Israel, based on a productive and self-sufficient economic foundation. In the second stage, the social revolution itself would be accomplished.
The function of the Zionist movement and Zionist cooperation was limited to the first stage only; it would be terminated after the economic, cultural, and political foundations had been laid in Palestine, and after the national funds, based on national donations, were no longer required. Partnership with the Zionists was therefore considered only temporary.
The social revolution was to be realized, however, by the international organization of the workers, i.e. Jewish-Arab collaboration. This “theory of stages” formulated by Meir Yaari had many advantages for HH. It could continue to participate in the Zionist Organization, to build socialist cells within the framework of the existing regime, and, atthe same time, to maintain revolutionary radicalism.
While that radicalism may now be tempered, the group continues to maintain its socialist identity.
In 2008, Haaretz reported on the continuing efforts of Hashomer Hatzair to spread socialism in Israel and worldwide.
The newspaper reported on a world conference marking the movement’s 95th anniversary that attempted to update the organization’s basic tenets. Participants in the 2008 conference could not agree on which style of socialism to adopt. “While Latin American graduates favored classic socialism, the European delegates sided with democratic socialism,” reported Haaretz.
The newspaper continued, quoting a delegate from Argentina:
According to Dana Merweiss, from Argentina, the way to implement socialism today is by education and creating communities with socialist awareness. Levine said the movement in the past required its members to work withinits community, but today “we say we should also work outside our community as part of the fulfillment of the principle of socialism. In Argentina we work in poor neighborhoods, Jewish and non-Jewish,” he said.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.