Bernie Sanders, Israel, Palestine, and Me

I need to make a few things clear, here.

Today, I saw a meme on Facebook that said something along the lines of: “How to Make Young Liberals Vote for Palestinian Genocide” with an image of Bernie Sanders and a speech bubble that said “Free College.”

This meme is both offensive and factually incorrect. It implies that Bernie Sanders is anti-Palestine. He isn’t. But he’s not anti-Israel either. It is possible to be both pro-Israel and to recognize what’s going on with the Palestinians at the same time, and that as a displaced group, they deserve a two-state solution, which Sanders supports. So let’s go down this list of reasons why I am pro-Israel (and pro-Bernie Sanders) and why I feel a two-state solution is the correct solution here.

  1. As I have said before, you cannot expect a nation not to defend against armed insurrection at its borders. This is especially true when said nation is in a war-torn and violent area, such as the Middle East. Let’s be real, here, okay? If we told the armed forces of Libya to stand down, do you really think they’d listen? How about the armed forces of the Ukraine? Please recognize that saying “Israel has to be the one to stop shooting” is ridiculous on its face. Israel is under attack, both by terrorist groups and by front groups for Arabic nations in the region that want Israel to stop existing. It has a right to defend itself.This does not mean that I support any of the terrorist actions undertaken by Israeli settlers in the West Bank or in Gaza. I don’t. Those settlers should be ashamed of themselves, and they should voluntarily repatriate themselves into the inside borders of Israel. However, it must also be said that…
  2. Palestine is not a real place. It has no historical nationhood. It is not an ethnicity. “Palestine” was a label placed on the area that is now Israel and the West Bank and Gaza, first by the Romans when they occupied it, and more recently by the British when they occupied the Middle East as a functionary of the United Nations. “Palestinian” is a political label, not an ethnic one. There were plenty of Jewish Palestinians right there in the same area as the Arabic/Muslim Palestinians. What the media are calling “Palestinians” are simply Arab Muslims who lived in the same area that is now Israel. Most of them are not from that area; they are from the Arabic nations surrounding that area.
  3. Israel fought wars for that land, won those wars, and by the standards of war recognized around the globe, that land is and has been Israel’s since 1948. At the time the wars were fought, the Arabic nations surrounding the area that is now Israel could have absorbed the Arabic refugees from those wars. They actively refused to.You know why? Because their goal is to make things as difficult for Israel as possible and to, ideally, wipe Israel off the map.
  4. Saying you will not vote for Bernie Sanders for President in America, because he has voted for Israeli funding packages in the past is being incredibly blind. Let’s be clear about this: An American politician cannot make another country do what he wants it to do. There is no magic wand labeled “American President” that can somehow convince Netanyahu and Hamas to work for a peaceful solution here.Nevertheless, Sanders has stated his support for a two-state solution. It is documented that he said this in August: “Palestinians are entitled to a state of their own, and the United States should do what it can to make sure that state has a strong economy. Israel is entitled to live in security, not be attacked.” 

    Can he force Netanyahu to accept a two-state solution? No. Can he force the Arabic world around Israel to accept a two-state solution? No. Can he make sure Israel continues to exist? Yes.

    So what, exactly, would you expect him to do in order to get that two-state solution in place?

  5. I had an acquaintance say “Voting for Bernie Sanders when he has supported funding for Israel is exactly like voting for an anti-GLBT politician when you’re GLBT.” Sorry. No. That’s incorrect. Americans, no matter how much we think we can, cannot make other countries do anything that they won’t already do. Trying to compare a foreign-policy issue (Israel and Palestine) to a domestic issue (LGBT rights in the United States) does not fly. They are not comparable.A person who votes against my rights here at home has power over that situation, and they will not get my vote. A person who states that they think that another country should take certain actions has done as much as they have the power to do, and if I agree with their position, they will get my vote.

This really is not that difficult to understand. What’s driving me wild is how other people think this is simple: you should only vote for a politician who will somehow fix the situation in Israel. Well, that’s fine, but you need to understand that it’s unrealistic. Americans (and people from anywhere else, frankly) can’t fix the problems in Israel. We can advocate for a certain solution, but apart from that, there is nothing else we can reasonably do about this issue. Hamas is part of the problem, and nobody seems to be talking about that. The Arabic nations surrounding Israel are also part of the problem, but nobody seems to be talking about that, either.

Everyone has to own their own responsibility, here. It’s not just Israel’s responsibility. Other nations are contributing to the problem, too. And despite what many Americans seem to think, America can’t make Israel do anything that Israel isn’t already prepared to do.

So get off your BDS high horses and look at reality, please, because there are three basic options and none of them lie in the hands of an American politician:

  1. A two-state solution is reached, and Israel and the Palestinians have a truce. Israeli settlers are withdrawn from the newly established Palestinian state’s territory and repatriated to other areas in Israel, and Palestinians stop attacking Israel with guns, knives, and rockets.
  2. Israel throws all Palestinians out of the area claimed by Israel and the Arabic nations absorb the refugees, as they should have done back in 1948.
  3. Israel ceases to exist and the Arabic nations around it overrun it and kill all Israelis.

That third option? That is never going to happen. Jews all over the world need a place that is a refuge in times of trouble, where we won’t be carted away to extermination camps again. That place is Israel.

So pick one of the other two. But get this straight: you have no influence over what happens. 

And neither does Bernie Sanders.

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