Editor’s note: The views expressed here are those of the author.
Senator Bernie Sanders is widely seen as the most progressive politician on the national scene, and although he didn’t quite have the name recognition he currently enjoys from his 2016 presidential run, he has consistently been on the right side of the issues for decades. The now-famous picture of Sanders being dragged away and arrested while protesting segregated schooling in Chicago gives a visualization of his consistent dedication to progressive causes.
On issue after issue, Sanders has been on the right side of history, even when those particular ideas or views weren’t popular. His history on civil rights, the environment, the economy, war, healthcare, campaign finance reform, gay marriage, and civil liberties is astounding. That is exactly why his lack of support for the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions), contradicts so much of what he stands for.
The BDS movement is a non-violent protest to the colonization and occupation of Palestinian land by Israel. It was created in the mold of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Yet Sanders, one of the most notable supporters of the Palestinian people in the U.S., stated in a recent interview with AJ+ recently that he didn’t agree with the BDS movement. The most troubling remarks made in that interview were “On the other hand, to see Israel attacked over and over again for human rights violations, which may be true…” Essentially, here Sanders is normalizing or attempting to deflect UN scrutiny from Israel based on relative aspects of human rights violations in the Middle East. It’s a low moment in Sanders’s career and maybe, if he were to familiarize himself more with the movement and the objectives they are trying to achieve, his perspective would be altered.
In addition to this, the fact that Sanders is Jewish would lend further credibility to his criticisms of Israel. The right-wing government of Israel, led by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has continuously defied UN resolutions and has committed an array of war crimes. Although these atrocious acts have occurred under Netanyahu’s watch, the U.S. just granted the biggest aid package to Israel in history, worth approximately $38 billion.
The BDS movement is now global and is increasingly becoming more powerful, bringing Palestinian rights to the forefront of Middle Eastern policy. For those who support Palestinian rights, it is unfathomable to be anti-BDS, as it’s rather apparent there is no other peaceful alternative. Sanders’ repeated platitudes, offered no solutions, and seemingly contradicted his decades-long, non-violent advocacy of progressive issues.
In regard to the BDS movement, he indicated that there is some anti-semitism within the movement, stating, “I think there is some of that, absolutely.” The extreme mischaracterization of calling the BDS movement anti-semitic is an easy way to prevent any meaningful dialogue on the issues raised to occur, which indeed seems to be the objective.