No Reward for Sanders’s Israel Stance

Exclusive: Sen. Sanders showed guts when he broke from the political lock-step of unrestrained praise for Israel, but his loss in the New York primary shows there’s little reward for such courage, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

So much for political bravery! Sen. Bernie Sanders had the audacity to say that the Palestinians are human beings, that there are two sides to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “not right all of the time” – and lost the New York primary by more than 15 percentage points.

Obviously, there were many other factors, including the tightly closed rules for the New York primaries, requiring voters to have declared their party affiliation by last October or be barred from participating.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. (NBC photo)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. (NBC photo)

But still New York Democrats did not appear to reward Sanders for breaking with Official Washington’s orthodoxy on Israel, which holds that the only permissible political stance is total obeisance to Netanyahu and his government. Whether Sanders’s stance hurt him may be debatable but the election result could resonate nonetheless with future candidates who might be more chary about taking a more even-handed position on Israel-Palestine.

In one of the sharper exchanges from last Thursday’s Democratic debate, Sanders, who is Jewish and once worked on an Israeli kibbutz, chided his rival, Hillary Clinton, for appearing before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last month and giving a speech that “barely mentioned the Palestinians.”

While political insiders gasped at his heresy, Sanders plunged on, “All that I am saying is we cannot continue to be one-sided. There are two sides to the issue. … 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.”

By contrast, former Secretary of State Clinton and the three remaining Republican candidates, including front-runner Donald Trump, went politically prostrate before AIPAC, competing to see who could out-pander the others.

Clinton Prevails

Despite serious efforts by Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, Clinton appeared to come out on top in the pander-off, perhaps partly because she is more experienced at telling Israel’s right-wing government what it wants to hear. She depicted Israel as an innocent victim in the Mideast conflicts facing unconscionable challenges from Iran, the Palestinians and global activists seeking to put pressure on Israel through a program of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

“As we gather here, three evolving threats — Iran’s continued aggression, a rising tide of extremism across a wide arc of instability, and the growing effort to de-legitimize Israel on the world stage — are converging to make the U.S.-Israel alliance more indispensable than ever,” she declared.

“The United States and Israel must be closer than ever, stronger than ever and more determined than ever to prevail against our common adversaries and to advance our shared values. … This is especially true at a time when Israel faces brutal terrorist stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks at home. Parents worry about letting their children walk down the street. Families live in fear.”

Clinton promised to put her future administration at the service of the Israeli government. “One of the first things I’ll do in office is invite the Israeli prime minister to visit the White House. And I will send a delegation from the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs to Israel for early consultations. Let’s also expand our collaboration beyond security,” Clinton said, adding:.

“The first choice is this: are we prepared to take the U.S./Israel alliance to the next level?”

Clinton’s one-sided presentation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fit with her longstanding approach to the Middle East, where she has either actively supported or quietly accepted Israel meting out military retribution on the region’s Arabs, even when justified by clear-cut bigotry.

For instance, in summer 2006, as a Senator from New York, Clinton shared a stage with Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman while Israeli warplanes pounded southern Lebanon, killing more than 1,000 Lebanese. Gillerman was a well-known Muslim-basher who had once quipped, “While it may be true and probably is that not all Muslims are terrorists, it also happens to be true that nearly all terrorists are Muslim.”

At a pro-Israel rally with Clinton in New York on July 17, 2006, Gillerman proudly defended Israel’s massive violence against targets in Lebanon. “Let us finish the job,” Gillerman told the crowd. “We will excise the cancer in Lebanon” and “cut off the fingers” of Hezbollah.

Responding to international concerns that Israel was using “disproportionate” force in bombing Lebanon and killing hundreds of civilians, Gillerman said, “You’re damn right we are.” [NYT, July 18, 2006]

Clinton did not protest Gillerman’s remarks, since doing so would presumably have offended an important pro-Israel constituency.

Clinton has learned those lessons well. They may have helped her trounce Sanders in the crucial New York primary, pulling her close to clinching the Democratic nomination. By contrast, Sanders might have won scattered praise for political courage but his bravery clearly did not turn around the New York race.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

29 comments for “No Reward for Sanders’s Israel Stance

  1. Wm. Boyce
    April 22, 2016 at 11:22

    I heard an interesting interview with a NY elections expert on “Democracy Now.” NY has some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country, more so even than other states that have recently passed laws designed to suppress voter turnout. No same day registration, long-before election deadlines to register, removal from the voting rolls if the board deems that you are “inactive” as a voter, etc.

    So even if Sanders had a surge in young and/or first -time voter support, it wouldn’t have shown up in the voting as it has in other places with easier, more democratic voting laws. I think that was a far bigger factor than his courageous statement of truth on the Israel/Palestine issue.

    • filosofoeduardo
      April 24, 2016 at 03:35

      Results in some other states tend to support this assertion. For the betterment of American society and the USA as a nation (I say this as a non-American, one of that majority of ‘others’ in the world who, regardless of our ineligibility to participate even indirectly in US elections, are nonethless even more affected by US foreign policy than US citizens themselves), it is probably the way to best view this outcome.

  2. Kate Gowen
    April 21, 2016 at 13:51

    Surely the more important factor was electoral malfeasance– like Arizona on steroids. Where were the swarms of enraged Zionists at his YUUGE NY rallies, otherwise?

  3. Eddie
    April 20, 2016 at 22:03

    More and more I’m becoming convinced that the majority of the US voters are immune-to (perhaps downright averse-to?) reasoned, humane discussions and solutions, because if they were so inclined we wouldn’t even be having these discussions or reading these websites. It appears that the majority of voters will only make course-corrections due to MAJOR, DRAMATIC events (i.e.; The Great Depression, WWI, WWII, Vietnam ‘War’, 9/11, etc, etc).

  4. David G
    April 20, 2016 at 20:28

    Well, we don’t really know that there was no reward for Sanders’s evolved stance on Israel/Palestine. A lot of people are still voting for him, and that may be one of the reasons. Indeed, his young supporters may demand it, in which case one could say his statements running up to the NY primary were calculated.

    I don’t go so far as that, though. While public opinion on Israel is moving in a less blindly supportive direction, and one honestly has to see Sanders’s statements in that light, for him to go into the primary in New York (of all places), making what appear to be some of the the most pro-Palestinian, Israel-critical statements of his career took political courage and is a demonstration of his character.

    Good for Bernie! And good things may yet come of it.

  5. Ausmar
    April 20, 2016 at 19:27

    Let’s look at the bright side. Regrettably, Clinton will win this election, but she belongs to a politically doomed generation. Bernie Sanders has inspired a very large pecentage of young voters who share a deep sense of justice and fairness, and they will inherit the government. Israel, with a two state solution now all but impossible, will be a failed state: like former South Africa, it will fall under the weight of an unsustainable apartheid. And history will judge Clinton and the American establishment for their shameful support of it.

    • Alexande Millerr
      April 20, 2016 at 22:22

      I don’t hate Jews but I certainly do hate what the Israeli regime has been doing and that regime, I might add, does not have the support of a lot of Jews both inside and outside of Israel. I’ve thought that, while I don’t hate Jews, I’ve been thinking that this this claim of being God’s chosen people is a pretty racist concept that sounds very similar to the Nazi concept of an Aryan Master Race and don’t get me started on the Christian Zionist Cult which I don’t think Christ would want anything to do with.

  6. Daithi Buckler
    April 20, 2016 at 19:10

    Bollocks LFueur absolute Bollocks,Google that

  7. L Feuer
    April 20, 2016 at 16:33

    Zionism is the belief that Jews deserve a homeland in their historical territory, to which the Jewish people have clung for two millenia.

    What is the Israeli terrorism? The fight to survive in a huge sea of hatred, rejectionism and military threats?

    The denial of Jews to have the right to defend themselves is nothing short of rank antisemitism.

    • Dr. Ibrahim Soudy
      April 20, 2016 at 19:06

      At least have the courage to use correct terminology and not follow others when they do wrong. Why cannot you use “anti-Jewishness” instead of “antisemitism”?! Is it because you know that the latter is an effective weapon to stop criticism of the Zionist Entity?! The REAL Antisemitism is what ISRAEL is doing to the Palestinians who are real Semites.

      Here are some good references for you and all written by decent Jews:

      – The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.
      – Goliath- Life and Loathing in Greater Israel
      – The General’s Son.
      – The Invention of Israel
      – The Invention of the Jewish People
      – Why I stopped being a Jew.
      – The Wandering Who?
      – Deir Yassin Remembered.


      If “God” has given that piece of land to the Jews, does that mean that they have no right to live anywhere else?! If “God” has given them a piece of land for them then they should have no right for anywhere else by the same argument?!

    • alexander
      April 20, 2016 at 20:29

      I quite agree with everything you say,

      Israel certainly has every right to exist, and most certainly has a right to defend itself when it is attacked. I don’t think there should be a debate about that.

      In my mind these things were never the issue, and they never will be.

      The question I have for you, is, does Israel have a “peace plan” ?

      Because if it does, I have not seen it, have you ?

      If there is real integrity to what you say then let Israel propose a just and reasonable resolution to its conflicts, then few would doubt , if such a plan existed, that Israel truly stands for peace.

      • April 20, 2016 at 21:39

        I see the “logic” of your argument. Zionist thieves have every right to “defend” what they have stolen. Furthermore, the people Zionists have looted, dispossessed, maimed and killed have no right to protest their victimization by theiving, crusading Zionists. After all, what do subhuman goyim have to complain about when the self-described “chosen people” and “master race” have decreed their exceptional right to whatever they desire from whomever else has it? Yes, I do believe I’ve gotten your point.

    • portia2
      April 20, 2016 at 22:55

      You can’t expect much from the citizens of New York, who let a Jew take away their ‘big pop!’

    • John
      April 20, 2016 at 23:38

      Ahh, the great promise land or should we say the land of Canaan….which at the time of the “great slaughter” belonged to the Canaanites. The Canaanites were semitic people because they spoke semitic language…..It was the Israelites who slaughtered the people of Canaan. The Israelites said their god “Yahweh” gave them the land so they took it upon themselves to slaughter every man woman and child….even the livestock…..Looks like the slaughter is still going on……Looking forward to your reply

    • Dosamuno
      April 21, 2016 at 07:31

      Israel is a theocracy and an apartheid state. It is hypocritical to criticize Saudi Arabia and Pakistan but defend Israel. It is hypocritical to condemn apartheid in South Africa and condone it in Israel.

      The creation of Israel has as much to do with Christian Zionism as it does with Jewish Zionism. It has nothing to do with the Holocaust or two thousand year old delusions.

      Christian Zionism has its roots in The Reformation in 16th Century Europe. At the heart of Christian Zionism is the belief that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ cannot occur until all Jews have returned to the Israel of Genesis—all the territory between the Nile and the Euphrates, and their conversion to Christianity.

      Arthur Balfour shared these beliefs.

      Even today, much of Israel’s political muscle stems from the 40 or 50 million Christian Zionists in the United States.

      The goals of Zionists, Christian or Jewish, coincided with British imperial interests in the 19th and 20th centuries such as the protection of The Suez Canal, protection of British enterprises that extracted and exploited the vast mineral resources of the region, and strategic concerns. Today, Zionist goals would coincide with American interests. That’s why the U.S. government pours about 6 billion dollars a year into this vile little theocratic apartheid rathole.

    • Larry
      April 21, 2016 at 12:45

      The only “denial” in your argument is your own ostrich-like denial of the reality of what Israel has become. No one gets to have an excuse to perpetrate violent oppression forever, no matter how unjust the violent oppression that happened to them.

    • Rob Roy
      April 21, 2016 at 18:29

      Defend themselves against what? The Palestinian body count in the 51 day war on Gaza was over 2100 (541 were children who are deliberately targeted). The count for Israel 78 and those were over 90% military personnel….Hamas could have killed everyone in a kibbutz nearby but killed only five soldiers in a camp. They don’t target civilians, unlike the IDF. The Palestinians live under illegal occupation, their orchards are uprooted, their land stolen, their cattle and sheep stolen, their children’s schools stink-bombed, their children arrested and tortured, their citizens beaten and shot at whim, their money withheld….i.e., it is they who have the right to defend themselves against the Israelis. I’ve been there and seen it all. People can’t get passports, they are treated like garbage at checkpoints. Go there yourself. Open your eyes and your mind and stop using the same old propaganda talking points automatically.
      P.S. Bernie lost in New York because 27% of LEGAL voters were turned away from the polls. People wanted him to win more than ever since he stood up for seeing Palestinians as human beings.

      • Rob Roy
        April 21, 2016 at 18:33

        My note above was written in response to L Fueur.

    • dahoit
      April 23, 2016 at 12:42

      For 70 years the Zionists have treated the victims of their highway robbery with hatred,contempt and violence.
      They defend themselves against their own rank inhumanity.
      It might have been different,alas.

    • Cal
      April 24, 2016 at 19:08

      Oh brother! Long ago I said Zionism was a “Cult”…..I more convinced every day that is what it is.
      It was Jackie Rose in the ‘Question of Zion who first called it a cult and said like other cults it attracted misfits of society, people who deep down feel insecure and inferior and therefore seek to join with what they feel is a ‘powerful’ group to make themselves feel special and add to a feeling of worth and identity.
      Zionism has no regard for ‘real history’—they ‘make up’ their history and use bible myths—-they have no regard for truth… gotta be deep into the cult to be as ignorant of history and in blind denial to what is in front of your face as these Zionist are.

      Jews did not cling to Israel for 2 millennia—-Jews moved in and out of countries all over Europe for 2 millennia—they did not stay in Palestine. The British 1939 census of Palestine showed that there were 689,000 Muslims, 58,000 Christians and only 8 to 12 thousand Jews in Palestine—–by 1948 Jews had less than a hundred thousand more and were still the minority in Palestine.

      So much for clinging to their historical homeland. .

  8. Gregory Kruse
    April 20, 2016 at 16:22

    I don’t care if it did cost him NY. Somebody has to say these things.

  9. incontinent reader
    April 20, 2016 at 15:16

    This reader, for one, thinks that whether or not Bernie ‘wrote his epitaph in the campaign’- he has cut an opening, not only in the wall of self-censorship and obeisance to the neocon line on Israel, but to the corruption and hijacking of the system generally. After all, don’t forget that over 100,000 votes in Brooklyn alone were purged, just as thousands were in Arizona as voters there were even denied access to voting stations, and hundreds of thousands more may suffer the same in California and Pennsylvania. Don’t think that people don’t remember being disenfranchised, just as they don’t forget being foreclosed out of their homes.

    So, if the Democratic Party leadership continues to game the system to elect a serial war criminal who also compromised national security, while attempting to privatize the State Department for her own and her handlers’ benefit, it better not complain when disaster hits and thousands hit the streets, just like those did earlier this week in the nation’s capital- whether they are from the same generation of the millions who did the same during the Vietnam War, or are the young- i.e., the next generation that will be inheriting the government- who have gotten the message and are putting their shoulder to the wheel in more and more creative ways.

    • incontinent reader
      April 20, 2016 at 15:31

      And if perchance Hillary Clinton is elected President, my guess is that her Administration will be a troubled one in a country that will be mired in a depression worse than what the country endured from 1929 to WWII, and that could even be rife with violence in the same way as the violence she has spread, and will continue to spread throughout the rest of the world. My guess is that it will only be a matter of time before the chickens come home to roost, but it won’t be ‘foreign terrorists‘ that shake the system, but the American citizen rising to the occasion that will do it, and no amount of propaganda and Administration ‘con’ will be able to stop it.

      • elmerfudzie
        April 23, 2016 at 01:54

        Incontinent reader, if Hillary takes office, the old 60’s phrase “duck-and-cover” will return to our national vocabulary and will compound those fears our children already have about the world around them….speaking of vocabulary, when you used the word, obeisance, I had to look it up!. Seems as tho your education was and remains better than mine!…keep typing!

      • Cal
        April 24, 2016 at 19:35

        ” incontinent reader
        April 20, 2016 at 3:31 pm

        ”And if perchance Hillary Clinton is elected President, my guess is that her Administration will be a troubled one in a country that will be mired in a depression worse than what the country endured from 1929 to WWII, and that could even be rife with violence in the same way as the violence she has spread, and will continue to spread throughout the rest of the world. My guess is that it will only be a matter of time before the chickens come home to roost,…..”

        I have been having the same thoughts/fears for a while . Too many people think that a collapse like the USSR’s cant happen here, I think it can. Lately I have been talking to my brothers and cousins about adding onto our ancestral 1702 farm house that we have kept in the family or building some cottages on the farm to accommodate more of the family. At least we would be able to grow our own food and crops to survive on. That is how my grandfather and his 7 children survived the great depression.
        Don’t want to sound like a crazy survivalist but do think people should consider or think about what they would do if US crashed and people had to load up a wheelbarrow of money to buy one loaf of bread.

    • incontinent reader
      April 20, 2016 at 16:14

      I meant to say ‘over 100,000 voters were purged from the registered voter lists for Brooklyn alone’. Furthermore, there were reports that a number of voting machines were programmed to default to a vote for Hillary, and it’s not hard to wonder who was responsible for that.

  10. Peter Loeb
    April 20, 2016 at 14:18


    Born in Manhattan (a “suburb” of Brooklyn), I have never been to
    Prospect Park.

    Bernie Sanders’ remarks on Palestinians in Prospect Part were
    to tell the truth far short of any appraisal based in realty.

    If Sanders realized in his heart and in his political soul that he was
    heading for a loss of the Democratic Nomination for President, he
    made an attempt to give a small ray of hope to many of us.
    Forget New York State! Forget even the US Presidency! Senator
    Sanders at Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY, wrote his epitaph as
    one who at least tries to tell some truth. What a noble epitaph for
    a candidacy…for a human being.

    One can see it as proof positive of the Israeli grip on the US and
    its foreign and domestic policies. As Robert Parry writes, it
    certainly will put fear in the hearts of American politicians.
    For most it is perhaps safer to cower before powerful oppressors.

    As such, it must open many to a serious discussion of how to
    meaningfully respond to this “new norma”l whoever becomes

    For many, Senator Sanders stood up and said out loud that those
    of us who acknowledge the evil of Zionism, its exclusivism, and
    its vaunted terrorism are not fools.

    Yes, of course, many will say that if only Bernie had not said what
    he said…and so forth. Baloney!

    Bless him for his courage.

    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  11. Joe Tedesky
    April 20, 2016 at 13:43

    Here’s a big part of the problem; today on the View young Raven Symone stated how over the weekend she discovered that there were others running in the U.S. Presidential race. Yes, Raven uncovered that there were candidates such as Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein. After one of the panel members made a joke about Gary Johnson’s name sounding like something off of Family Guy, and ignored Raven’s comment blaming the media for not reporting on these other candidates, the panel blew Raven off, stating we need someone who will win. Since the girls on the View make no bones about bashing Trump, their final comments to Ms Symone was a plug for Hillary without even mentioning her name.

    What Bernie did, by his bringing up the plight of the Palestintian’s took real courage. My hope is that America’s youth will continue to evolve through their progressive introduction to politics, and continue with the inspiration by which Sanders gave them.

    I know many of you feel as I do, that a Hillary Clinton presidency will certainly be a real worldwide disaster. At this moment I am very disappointed by the outcome of the New York primary. This one really hurt. Hillary is one over achiever who appears to want this presidency to bad. At least Bernie displayed by his rhetoric and demeanor that he was in it for the good of the commons. On the other hand Clinton gives me the impression that this is all about her. So, get ready to fight more wars for dear old Israel.

    • JWalters
      April 21, 2016 at 18:49

      Remarkably, many professional pundits also said Bernie’s statements about Israel and Palestine took real courage. By this assessment they implicitly acknowledged the dangers to those who say such things. They explained why they and their colleagues in the establishment media never say them. And why they barely even discuss them even while praising Bernie’s courage for speaking the truth on this topic. They indirectly told us how locked-down the discussion is on the topic of Israel, and therefore how much control Israel exerts over America’s political discussion. This is why patriotic Americans need sites like Consortium News, and need to be informed about sites like Consortium News by those who are aware. They need to learn the unpleasant truth that the establishment news cannot be trusted on key issues. Hillary has conclusively demonstrated her commitment to corruption on this issue, but most American may never know that.

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