Bernie Sanders: On Anti-Semitism, Israel, and the Palestinians

Bernie Sanders, Common Dreams, February 28, 2017

Speech to this year’s J Street conference

Sen. Bernie Sanders delivers a speech during J Street’s 2017 National Conference at the Washington Convention Center on February 27, 2017. (Photo: Mark Wilson/AFP)

Thank you for inviting me to address you here today. It’s a pleasure to be here with J Street, which has been such a strong voice for saner, more progressive foreign policy ideas. And I am delighted to be in the company of friends from the Middle East and all over the world who I know will continue the struggle for a world of peace, justice and environmental sanity.

Let me begin by noting that in the last several months, since Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race, there has been a significant outbreak of anti-Semitism here in our country. I am very alarmed by the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, with Jewish Community Centers being threatened around the country, and with the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League receiving a bomb threat last week.

When we see violent and verbal racist attacks against minorities – whether they are African-Americans, Jews, Muslims in this country, immigrants in this country, or the LGBT community, these attacks must be condemned at the highest levels of our government.

It was rather extraordinary that in the White House’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, the murder of 6 million Jews was not mentioned by the Trump administration. I hope very much that Pres. Trump and his political advisor Mr. Bannon understand that the world is watching: it is imperative that their voices be loud and clear in condemning anti-Semitism, violent attacks against immigrants in this country, including the murder of two young men from India, and all forms of bigotry here and around the world. This country has struggled too long against racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia. We will not go back. We are going to go forward and fight discrimination of all forms.

I must say that I also found it very troubling that, at a recent press conference, when President Trump was given an opportunity to condemn the bigotry and anti-Semitism that has arisen in the wake of his election, he chose to respond by bragging – incorrectly, by the way – about the size of his Electoral College victory. Our society is still riven by tensions from the campaign, and Americans need a president who will try to bring us together, rather than boast about his political victory.

Let me take this opportunity to thank J Street for the bold voice that they’ve provided in support of American leadership in the Middle East and efforts towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I understand that, given the political climate in this capital, that has not always been easy. I also applaud them for being part of a broad coalition of groups that successfully fought for the historic nuclear agreement between the U.S. and its partners and Iran.

That agreement demonstrated that real American leadership, real American power, is not shown by our ability to blow things up, but by our ability to bring parties together, to forge international consensus around shared problems, and then to mobilize that consensus to address those problems.

For many years, leaders across the world, especially Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had sounded the alarm about the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. What the Obama administration was able to do, with the support of groups like J Street and others, was to get an agreement that froze and dismantled large parts of that nuclear program, put it under the most intensive inspections regime in history, and removed the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon from the list of global threats.

As a member of the United States Senate, I hear a whole lot of speechifying. I hear from many of my colleagues how “tough” the United States has got to be, and how, at the end of the day, military force is what matters.

Well, I say to those colleagues, ‘It’s easy to give speeches in the safety of the floor of the Senate or the House. It’s a little bit harder to experience war and live through the devastation of war. I recall vividly all of the rhetoric that came from the Bush administration, that came from my Republican colleagues, and some Democrats, about why going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do. Well, it wasn’t. In fact, it is one of the great tragedies of modern world history.

Today it is now broadly acknowledged that the war in Iraq, which I opposed, was a foreign policy blunder of enormous magnitude. The war in Iraq led to the deaths of some 4,400 U.S. troops and the wounding, physical and emotional, of tens of thousands of others—not to mention the pain inflicted on wives and children and parents. The war in Iraq led to, conservatively speaking, the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and the wounding and displacement of many more. It created a cascade of instability around the region that we are still dealing with today in Syria and elsewhere, and will be for many years to come. And, by the way, that war in Iraq cost trillions of dollars—money that should have been spent on health care, education, infrastructure, and environmental protection.

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Michael Bennett boycotts trip, says he won’t be used by Israel

Steve Almasy, CNN, February 12, 2017

Michael Bennett enjoyed his brother’s recent Super Bowl victory along with actor Mark Wahlberg.

(CNN) — Michael Bennett, a Pro Bowl defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks, is one of the NFL’s most outspoken players on social issues.

And once again he is in the middle of a controversy after announcing he was withdrawing from a overseas trip hosted by the Israeli government.

Bennett will be joined on the sidelines by at least one other player who objects to what the players say is Israel using them as political tools.

Bennett, whose brother, Martellus plays for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, tweeted Friday that he had been looking forward to the trip next week.

But he read an article in an Israeli newspaper, he said, where a Israel’s Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan was quoted as saying: “The ministry which I lead is spearheading an intensive fight against the delegitimization and BDS campaigns against Israel, and part of this struggle includes hosting influencers and opinion-formers of international standing in different fields, including sport.”

BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions, and is a movement that aims to end what it sees as “international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.”

Another Israeli official said he hoped the players would become ambassadors of goodwill for Israel.

It caused Bennett to change his mind.

“I will not be used in such a way,” he wrote.

March 15, 2017
Film: Occupation of the American Mind

Occupation of the American Mind (2016)
Marquee Theater
Union South, UW-Madison
7:00 pm

Doors open 30 minutes before showtime and will be seated on a first-come, first-served basis.

USA | 82 min | NR | DVD | Dir. Loretta Alper

The Occupation of the American Mind explores how the Israeli and US governments and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces to shape US media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Israel’s ongoing military occupation of Palestinian territory and its repeated invasions of the Gaza strip have triggered a fierce backlash against Israeli policies virtually everywhere in the world — except the United States. The Occupation of the American Mind takes an eye-opening look at this critical exception, zeroing in on pro-Israel public relations efforts within the U.S. The film explores how the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces, often with very different motives, to shape American media coverage of the conflict.

A discussion will be held after the film led by Deepa Kumar, Professor of Media Studies, Rutgers University, and Allen Ruff, host of WORT’s A Public Affair.

Presented by the Wisconsin Union Directorate (WUD) Film Committee and the A. E. Havens Center for Social Justice. See WUD Film’s current and upcoming schedule. All films are shown in The Marquee Theater on the second floor of Union South.

The UW-Madison Havens Center’s Annual Film Series explores important contemporary social topics from critical perspectives. For a complete list of all the films, and other Havens Center events, please see: http://www.havenscenter.org/.

WKOW 27: Locals React to Trump and Netanyahu News Conference

Madison-Rafah member Samir El-Omari is quoted in the article and appears on camera at 1:03.

WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Hunter Saenz, WKOW.com, February 15, 2017 11:55 PM

MADISON (WKOW) — For decades, both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the U.S. have tried forming a peaceful solution involving both nations being recognized. That is, until today when President Donald Trump said he "can live" with a one-state solution. 

"So I’m looking at a two-state and a one-state and I like the one that both parties like," said Mr. Trump during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

The president’s words drew mixed reaction from Madison Rabbi Jonathan Biatch. 

"At least from the United States’ point of view, that they’re not going to impose a settlement on them. I think it’s important the two parties create their own agreement," Biatch said. 

But Rabbi Biatch is concerned about Mr. Trump being open to a one-state solution. 

"For the original purposes that Israel was created, I think that that is a very dangerous option," he added. 

He cited the growing population of Palestinians, claiming if a one-state solution passed, the future of Israel would not be a Jewish state. 

But Palestinian Samir El-Omari believes the region does need help from the U.S in reaching a deal.

"I’m a one state believer, since a long time, but I want a democratic state. Not an apartheid state that Israel is trying to build," he said.

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White House warns Israel on settlements

Trump was reportedly blindsided by Israel’s announcement of 5,500 new housing units to be built in the West Bank

Jordan Fabian, The Hill, 02/02/17

The White House on Thursday warned Israel to stop settlement announcements that could undermine peace with the Palestinians, according to the Jerusalem Post. 

The surprising statement comes as President Trump signaled he would depart from former President Obama’s Israel policy and forge a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a strong proponent of settlements. 

But Trump was reportedly blindsided by Israel’s announcement of 5,500 new housing units to be built in the West Bank, which would have been the first new settlement in around 20 years. 

“As President Trump has made clear, he is very interested in reaching a deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is currently exploring the best means of making progress toward that goal,” an official told the paper. 

“With that in mind, we urge all parties from taking unilateral actions that could undermine our ability to make progress, including settlement announcements,” the official added. “The administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward.”

In a separate statement Thursday, the White House made clear its opposition to the recent burst of settlement activity. But in a departure from the Obama administration, the statement does not call settlements an impediment to a two-state solution.

“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”

“The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month.”

Trump’s election is believed to have emboldened Netanyahu’s government, which has moved aggressively to expand its settlement activity.  

Netanyahu is set to meet with Trump at the White House on Feb. 15. 

Trump signaled during the transition he would make moves to align the U.S. closer with Israel’s government.  

He announced his intent to nominate David Friedman, a strong settlement supporter, as ambassador to the Jewish state.

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David Friedman Is Unfit to Be Ambassador to Israel

, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, 31 Jan 2017

DavidFriedman

Donald Trump’s first ten days in office have resulted in a whirlwind of policies that have led to major protests, from blocking refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, to ordering a wall built on the US-Mexico border, to moving forward with the Keystone and the Dakota Access Pipelines, to name just a few.

Amid his flurry of Executive Orders, you may have missed the fact that on Inauguration Day, Trump formally submitted to the Senate his nomination of David Friedman to be US Ambassador to Israel.

In case you haven’t heard of Friedman, here’s what you need to know:

He personally identifies with Israel’s illegal colonization of Palestinian land and raises millions of dollars each year to fund an Israeli settlement.

He opposes Palestinian exercising sovereignty over any portion of their historic homeland and speaks approvingly of Israel’s annexation of the West Bank.

And he’s an ardent advocate of moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizing Israel’s claims to sovereignty over the entire contested city.

These extremist views and actions contradict decades of stated bipartisan US policy. Our ambassador to Israel must uphold US opposition to Israeli settlements, not represent Israel’s settler movement.

Contact your Senators today to tell them that David Friedman is unfit to be Ambassador to Israel and urge them to vote against his nomination.

And after you do so, please spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Here are a few select quotes illustrating Friedman’s extremist views:

  • The idea of a Palestinian state is a “damaging anachronism. It is a discussion of an illusory solution in search of a non-existent problem.” Friedman conspiratorially holds that US support for Palestinian statehood is part of a “scam” designed to “access the wealth of the Persian Gulf.”

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