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Sanders: It Is Not Antisemitic to Oppose Israel’s Assault of Gaza

Sen. Bernie Sanders added that there isn’t “any doubt” that Israel is carrying out ethnic cleansing in Gaza.

Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives for a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on February 8, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks smearing thousands of U.S. students who are protesting against Israel’s genocide in Gaza, emphasizing that it is not antisemitic to oppose Israel’s horrific bombing and starvation campaign against Palestinians.

In an interview on CNN on Sunday, Sanders, who is Jewish, condemned antisemitism, citing his own family’s history of being persecuted in the Holocaust. He added that it is not antisemitic to oppose Israel’s U.S.-backed massacre of over 33,000 Palestinians.

“Right now, what Netanyahu’s right-wing, extremist and racist government is doing is unprecedented in the modern history of warfare. They have killed, in the last six and a half months, 33,000 Palestinians, wounded 77,000, two-thirds of whom are women and children,” Sanders said. “When you make those charges, that is not antisemitic. That is a reality.”

CNN’s Dana Bash went on to present Sanders with a clip of a student protester who likened Zionists to other hateful groups like white supremacists and Nazis — groups that Zionists have historically allied themselves with — in a seeming attempt to paint all campus pro-Palestine protesters as antisemitic, as many conservatives and corporate media outlets have been doing.

“I would hope that every American condemns antisemitic discussion. But what I am talking about right now is, what Netanyahu is trying to do very clearly is to say, ‘anybody who criticizes what Israel is doing, you are antisemitic,’” Sanders said. “What I am saying is if you look at the polling, the vast majority of the American people are disgusted with Netanyahu’s war machine in Gaza.”

Later, Bash continued to paint pro-Palestinian advocates as antisemites by showing a clip of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) saying “we should not have to tolerate antisemitism or bigotry for all Jewish students, whether they are pro-genocide or anti-genocide.”

“She said some Jewish students are pro-genocide. Is that something that you’re comfortable with?” Bash said, implying that Omar is antisemitic despite the fact that she explicitly condemned antisemitism in her statement.

“Look, what I think the essential point that Ilhan made is that we do not want to see antisemitism in this country. I think the word genocide is something that is being determined by the International Court of Justice,” Sanders said. “But this is what I will say: I don’t think there’s any doubt that what Netanyahu is doing now, displacing 80 percent of the population in Gaza, is ethnic cleansing.”

The interview came after Sanders posted a video to social media addressed to Netanyahu, saying, “it is not antisemitic to hold you accountable for your actions.”

The senator also clarified in a separate interview with NPR posted on Saturday that he believes that students protesters across the country are not antisemitic for trying to end the U.S.’s support for Israel’s ethnic cleansing campaign.

“Look, antisemitism has always existed. It exists today. And you’re right, it is getting worse. Islamophobia is getting worse. And we’re living at a time when bigotry is on the rise,” he said. “But to suggest that when you have a significant majority of the American people who, among other things, do not want to support more U.S. military aid to Netanyahu’s war machine, we’re not going to suggest that all of those people are antisemitic.”

Last week, Netanyahu attacked the American student protesters, claiming without evidence that they represent “antisemitic mobs” and drawing comparisons between the anti-genocide protest encampments and the Holocaust. These remarks have been widely denounced by pro-Palestinian advocates, who say that Netanyahu is trying to distract from the daily atrocities that Israel is carrying out in Gaza and the West Bank.

“His number one goal is, you know what he’s doing over there and anything that harms or helps or makes it harder for him to achieve that goal, he’s going to distract from,” said Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pennsylvania) in an interview on CBS on Sunday. “But this idea that every criticism of Israel is antisemitic is dangerous.”

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