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Sanders Says US Must Condition Aid to Israel to Rein In “Racist Government”

“You cannot demean the Palestinian people there. You just can’t do it and then come to America and ask for money.”

Israeli forces detains 7 Palestinians, 5 of which are children at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem on February 18, 2023.

As the Israeli government, run by far right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, advances even further in its violence and inhumanity against Palestinians, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is calling for the U.S. to attach strings to its aid to Israel in order to combat the country’s suppression of Palestine.

Speaking with CBS News this week, Sanders said that it is unacceptable for the U.S. to give Israel money just for the country to turn around and use that money to commit acts of atrocity.

“I am very worried about what Netanyahu is doing and some of his allies in government and what may happen to the Palestinian people,” he said. “The United States gives billions of dollars in aid to Israel. I think we’ve got to put some strings attached to that and say you cannot run a racist government. You cannot turn your back on a two-state solution. You cannot demean the Palestinian people there. You just can’t do it and then come to America and ask for money.”

The senator said that he may soon introduce a bill to place conditions on U.S. aid to Israel.

“Whether it’s Saudi Arabia or other authoritarian societies, if a government is acting in a racist way and they want billions of dollars from the taxpayers of the United States, I think you say, ‘Sorry, but it’s not acceptable. You want our money? Fine. This is what you got to do to get it,’” he continued.

The U.S. gives over $3 billion to Israel each year, on top of sales to the right-wing government for military equipment like F-35s, a fighter jet that is estimated to cost the U.S. and taxpayers $1.7 trillion over its lifetime. As of February 2022, the U.S. has given $150 billion to Israel in total — aid that is directly responsible for the death and displacement of Palestinians. Experts like American intellectual Noam Chomsky have said that, without U.S. aid, much of Israel’s current militaristic capability would be eroded.

The U.S. has increased its financial and diplomatic support of Israel in recent years, even as Netanyahu has propelled the government further to the right; though the coalition of Netanyahu, who was sworn in for a sixth term in December, has essentially called for the cleansing of Palestinians from Palestine, the Biden administration has continued to affirm its staunch support of Israel and has maintained Trump administration policies that tacitly or outright endorse the apartheid.

Ending aid to Israel is a nonstarter among both Republicans and Democrats, who are united in their complicity in — and fueling of — Israeli apartheid. As Sanders pointed out, this is in part due to fact that the pro-Israel group AIPAC has actively worked to suppress progressive voices in Congress that express support for Palestinians.

“The way I look at AIPAC now, in terms of their political activities — this is not even just a pro-Israel group. This is a corporate PAC, sometimes getting money from Republicans, sometimes supporting extreme right-wing Republicans,” he said. “So what really upset me very much is that in many of these primaries, we had great candidates, young people, often people of color, and yet AIPAC and other super PACs spending millions of dollars trying to defeat them.”

Sanders’s comments stand out in their novelty. While many leftists and Palestinian rights advocates have long called for the U.S. to end its aid to Israel entirely, arguing that no amount of persuasion could convince Israel to end its violent occupation of Palestine, conditioning aid is an extremely rare position for a sitting member of Congress to take, especially in the Senate.

Only a few members of Congress have even touched the issue; the only bill that’s been introduced on conditioning aid has been from Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), who in 2021 introduced legislation to ensure that U.S. aid would not be used to harm Palestinian children or further Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and annexation of other Palestinian lands. Though the bill had about a dozen cosponsors in Congress, it ultimately went nowhere.

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