Hundreds of former delegates to the Democratic National Convention for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) during his 2020 and 2016 presidential campaigns are calling on the senator to demand an Israeli ceasefire in Gaza as progressives and the left grow increasingly frustrated with his refusal to do so.
The letter, first reported by The Intercept, was signed by 330 delegates who are urging Sanders to back a ceasefire, support an end to Israel’s blockade and occupation of Gaza, and call for an end to U.S. funding of Israel’s genocidal war crimes against Palestinians. They also ask Sanders to introduce companion legislation to House lawmakers’ ceasefire resolution, which lawmakers put forward last month with 18 cosponsors.
“Your Presidential campaigns and your legislative work in the Senate have not only reshaped the national discourse regarding Israel’s violent occupation of Palestine, but also bravely confronted Congress’s unchecked support for Israel in terms of military aid and weapons,” the delegates wrote. “We, the undersigned 330 delegates from your 2016 and 2020 campaigns, write to ask that you stand against war and violence once more.”
Indeed, in the past, Sanders has been one of the only voices in Congress — and perhaps the only voice in the Senate — to criticize the U.S.’s relationship with Israel. Just in April, Sanders sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling for the administration to “undertake a shift in U.S. policy” regarding the nation’s support for Israel and to ensure that the U.S.’s endless weapons transfers to Israel weren’t being used to conduct “gross violations of human rights.”
While all of the other signatories of that letter, including lawmakers like Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), have now called for a ceasefire in Gaza, however, Sanders has not — and his refusal to call for a ceasefire has been viewed as a major letdown by many left-wing Americans, many of whom cite Sanders as inspiration for their participation in the political sphere.
Though the delegates do not voice explicit discontent in the letter, the mere existence of the letter from people who have supported Sanders signals displeasure with his handling of the current crisis. A similar letter was sent by nearly 300 former staffers for Sanders’s presidential campaigns in October.
“We’ve progressed beyond the stage of seeking mere condemnations or symbolic gestures. We concur with your assertion that these ‘unspeakable crimes’ must cease and that ‘the bombs and missiles from both sides’ should be halted. But Palestinians require more than just a ‘humanitarian pause,’” the letter writers wrote, quoting phrases that Sanders himself has used in recent weeks.
Sanders’s refusal to call for a ceasefire has been seemingly inconsistent with his own views on the issue. In an op-ed in The Guardian earlier this month, Sanders wrote that the “humanitarian crisis [in Gaza] is dire and getting worse by the minute” and that “A stop to the bombing is critical to save innocent lives and secure the safe return of the hostages.” He added that conditions in occupied Palestine were already “horrific and inhumane” before Israel’s current siege.
And yet, Sanders has not only failed to call for a ceasefire but has explicitly rejected the idea. In an interview on CNN last week, he said, “I don’t know how you can have a ceasefire, [a] permanent ceasefire, with an organization like Hamas, which is dedicated to turmoil and chaos and destroying the state of Israel” — appearing to brush aside the “turmoil and chaos” that Israel has been imposing on Gaza and the occupied West Bank for decades on end.
This is despite the fact that Sanders’s supporters say that his voice, as a Jewish member of Congress, could be crucial in persuading U.S. officials to back a ceasefire. So far, only one senator, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), has called for a ceasefire.
“As a Jewish person of conscience watching Israeli genocide in real time, I say, not in my name, not with my tax dollars, shall Israel bomb and deprive a trapped population, half of them children, of water, food, medicine and fuel,” Marcy Winograd, who was a delegate for Sanders in 2020 and who co-founded the Jewish Voice for Peace chapter in Los Angeles, told The Intercept. “As a Jewish member of Congress, Senator Sanders’ voice would be particularly persuasive in demanding an end to Israel’s violations of international law that shock the world to leave us feeling unmoored from our own humanity.”
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