Asked Monday if he agreed with his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, that there is a link between anti-Semitism and the BDS movement, Senator Bernie Sanders answered in the affirmative.
“I think there is some of that, absolutely,” the senator said.
“Israel has done some very bad things, so has every other country on earth,” Sanders elaborated in an interview with Chris Hayes on MSNBC. “I think the people who want to attack Israel for their policies, I think that is fair game. But not to appreciate that there is some level of anti-Semitism around the world involved in that I think would be a mistake.”
Sanders said that Israel has the right to exist and “has got to be defended,” but “you cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people.”
The US needs to adopt a much more “even-handed approach” than it has exhibited until now in the Middle East, he explained, and while Iran’s support of terrorism must be stopped, Saudi Arabia’s support of terrorism must also be addressed.
Asked if the US should be “neutral” as regards Israel and the Palestinians, Sanders pointed to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “When you look at somebody like a Netanyahu, to simply not understand that this is a right-wing politician… A guy who kind of crashed the United States Congress to give his speech there, ignoring President Obama, not even consulting with him, using it for political purposes back home, a guy who has supported the growth of settlements.”
He accused Israel of an “overreaction” and of the “destruction of Gaza” that went “too too far” and involved “bombing schools” and “terrible damage.”
Sanders affirmed that Judaism has shaped his political worldview.
“I would say that being Jewish, what has been most significant in my life is understanding what a Hitler, what horrible politics can mean to people, and I think that’s been one of the motivating factors in my life in fighting against racism and bigotry of all kinds,” he said. “Because when it gets out of hand, as we have seen, it obviously has unbelievable repercussions.”