Bernie Sanders Issues Scathing Rebuke of Israel

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told NBC News’ Meet the Press on Sunday morning that “Israel should not be receiving another nickel in U.S. military aid” amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The senator’s comments come at a time when Israel is preparing to launch a ground invasion into the densely-populated southern Gazan city of Rafah where more than 1.3 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering, according to the Associated Press.

As Israel’s biggest ally, the U.S. has provided the country with around $300 billion in economic and military assistance since its founding, according to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) think tank. On Friday, the Biden administration said Israel’s use of U.S.-supplied weapons in Gaza may have violated international humanitarian law.

The findings came in a U.S. State Department report to Congress, which noted that due to wartime conditions, officials had not found specific instances that showed Israel had violated terms of U.S. weapons agreements, but “it is reasonable to assess that [U.S.-made] defense articles…have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its [international humanitarian law] obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm.”

According to the report, Israel has “the knowledge, experience, and tools to implement best practices for mitigating civilian harm in its military operations,” but noted that “the results on the ground, including high levels of civilian casualties, raise substantial questions as to whether the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] is using them effectively in all cases.”

Sanders, who is Jewish and an independent who caucuses with Democrats and frequently votes in line with the party, has been vocal about addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The crisis stems from Israel’s military response to Hamas’ October 7, 2023, attack on Israel, which killed 1,200 people and more than 200 hostages taken from Israel. Over the past seven months, Israel’s military incursion into Gaza has displaced over 1.4 million Palestinians and killed over 34,500 people, according to the AP.

Newsweek has reached out to Sanders, the White House Press team, and the Israeli Defense Forces for comment via email.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, is seen during a hearing on March 14 in Washington, D.C. Sanders told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning that “Israel should not be receiving another nickel…

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Image

“The facts are quite clear: Hamas is a terrible, disgusting terrorist organization that began this war. But what Israel has done over the last seven months—it has not just gone to war against Hamas—it has gone to war against the entire Palestinian people,” Sanders said, describing the devastation of the conflict as “absolutely catastrophic.”

He also highlighted the disproportionate effects on women and children, who make up two-thirds of the casualties, and pointed out the widespread bombing of universities, decimation of infrastructure, and the “systematic destruction of the health care system there.”

“That is not the way you conduct a war in a civilized society, to the degree that war is civilized,” Sanders said of Israel’s military action. “The Foreign Assistance Act is very, very clear…any entity, any state, that blocks U.S. humanitarian aid is in violation of law and should not continue to receive military aid from the United States, that is precisely what Israel has done.”

Last week, President Joe Biden paused an arms shipment of around 3,500 bombs to Israel over the potential Rafah invasion. In a CNN interview with host Erin Burnett on Wednesday, Biden said “civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs,” referring to the shipment’s 2,000-pound bombs. The president warned that he might continue to pause future shipments, “If they [Israel] go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Biden’s decision to halt the bombs shipment to his country during a recent interview with “Dr. Phil” McGraw.

“We are doing everything we can to let the people leave, with amazing efforts. But, I think also that this is precision—precision weapons. So, in fact, if you want to avoid civilian casualties, you need these weapons, rather than imprecise weaponry,” the prime minister said.

Meanwhile, a February 2024 Pew Research Center poll found 36 percent of Americans favor providing U.S. military aid to Israel, while 34 percent oppose it. Another 14 percent neither support nor oppose military aid, and the remaining 15 percent are unsure. The poll also shows that only 20 percent of Americans favor a major diplomatic role for the U.S. in resolving the war, 35 percent prefer a minor role, and 27 percent believe the U.S. should play no role at all.

In addition, a March 2024 Gallup poll shows that many Americans have changed their views on the war since November. In November 2023, 50 percent supported Israel’s military action, and as of March, only 36 percent do.

Correction: 5/12/24, 6:16 pm E.T.: This article has been updated to reflect the amount of aid Israel received from the U.S. since its founding.