Sanders & Clinton’s Israel Moment


The Israel moment that happened at the debate in Brooklyn on Thursday was interesting.

It is a sign of the irrationality of the US-Israeli relationship that this is considered, as many commentators have been calling it, a “defining moment”. Joe Conason, in a great post on The National Memo, called it “The most significant moment of the Democratic primary debate in Brooklyn – and perhaps any presidential debate this season”.

It’s amazing, quite simply unfathomable to me that the position taken by Sanders here can be at all controversial.  There is debate on the Israel question in my country, too. But this is quite simply an overwhelmingly mainstream position. It’s hard to disagree with these basic facts. That a peace involves treating the Palestinian people with respect. That being frank and honest about the inhuman and illegal policies of occupation and suppression of the Palestinian people  is the only way forward. I just don’t see that anyone can disagree.

Nor can I see how anyone can reasonably disagree with the proposition that an intensive aerial bombardment of one of the most densely populated areas in the world is a war crime. Israel knew that the civilian losses would be unacceptable. And, as so many times before, as in their prior wars against the Gaza strip, their rules of engagement were not in accordance with international humanitarian law.

These positions should not be in dispute. As Senator Sanders is saying, the only way forward runs through everyone accepting these ideas, and building on this towards some kind of peace and stability.


As it is, the US has accepted the Israeli government’s talking points for decades now. The Israeli campaign of occupation and attrition, eroding Palestinian control of territory slowly but surely, has been a resounding success because of US support, including vetoes in the Security council.

As Conason writes,

Hillary Clinton knows that the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, responsible for the Gaza disgrace and more, is far closer in outlook to the ultra-nationalists who applauded Rabin’s assassination than to the peacemaker whose death she lamented. She knows that Netanyahu’s aim is annexation, not negotiation. She knows that our interests – indeed, those of the entire world — can only be advanced by a just peace that both protects Israel and relieves the suffering of the Palestinian people.

That Secretary Clinton would waver on this, cloud this particular issue, in order to pander to a Christian-Jewish conservative Democrat base quite simply shows a deep lack of character. I accept that some pandering is necessary to win elections. But you don’t pander about war crimes. You don’t turn the unnecessary deaths of literally hundreds of children into election bargaining chips. That’s deeply, profoundly unethical. It shows a lack of spine that is incommensurable with being commander in chief.

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