Sanders v. Clinton on Palestine: No Contest

The California Democratic Primary is this Tuesday, June 7. Whatever “The Movement” means to you, if you care about human decency and international human rights we need a Sanders victory and a Clinton repudiation in California on June 7—and beyond.

It is my view that the Israeli government, with the active support and military aid of the U.S. government is committing human rights abuses and genocide against the Palestinian people. I believe that Hillary Clinton is aggressively, willfully, and consciously aiding and abetting that genocide and must be defeated in California and at the Democratic Convention. I admire and support Senator Sanders for his courageous challenge to the American Israel Political Action Committee, his support for human rights and fair treatment for the Palestinian people, and his open challenge to Hillary Clinton on Israel and Palestine. I do not expect him to share all of my views but I do wish him well and will work for his victory.

Four Reasons We Need a Sanders Victory and Clinton Defeat in California

When I first began this article I planned to write an article with the above title. I planned to make four major arguments.

*Bernie Sanders is courageously defending Palestinian human rights and standing up to the powerful Israeli lobby while Hillary Clinton is defending the Israeli occupation of Palestine, slandering the integrity of the Palestinian people, and calling for repression against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement

*Sanders, despite weakness in consciousness and content on civil rights and Black Liberation has gained the support of progressive and radical Black organizers, intellectuals, and artists—including Cornel West, Spike Lee, and Erica Garner, Eric Garner’s daughter whose video in support of Bernie Sanders is one of the most moving civil rights arguments today. By contrast, Hillary and Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment are super-predators against the Black Community and the Black Nation and have a long, conscious history of encouraging mass incarceration.

*Sanders is challenging the ideology of the U.S. as a center of counterinsurgency against Third World Countries in Iraq and Libya while Clinton has a long history as a super-hawk to the right of even President Obama.

*The Sanders campaign is refusing to capitulate to the Clinton machine and the Democratic Party establishment and plans to bring a real political struggle into the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. He also has a real chance to win—and if not, to keep the pressure on Clinton and force substantial and enforceable concessions.

But in my work preparing for this article and reading and re-reading the speeches and public statements of Sanders and Clinton on Palestine, Israel, and the Middle East I was so appreciative of Sanders courageous stand on Palestine and so terrorized by Hillary Clinton’s bellicose, racist, white settler state rants that I wanted to make the focus of this article the life and death struggle of the Palestinian people and the great opportunity to elect Sanders and defeat Hillary Clinton. I will defer the other three arguments to a future follow-up article before Tuesday’s vote.

I have to assume that many of you are already heartbroken and outraged by the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and its subjugation of Palestinian people. Since the formation of the Israeli state in 1948 and the Nakba—the expulsion of an estimated 700,000 Palestinians– there has not been a “two state solution” but an Israeli occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people. I urge you to read my article in CounterPunch—Palestine Will Win—Solidarity from a Self-Respecting Jew that elaborates my point of view. I also urge you to read The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe a courageous history by an Israeli Jew that traces Israeli racism and settler state politics from the inception of the Zionist plan for Palestine.

The Summary of my position is simple—Bernie Sanders has stood up to the American Israel Political Action Committee, affirmed the humanity of the Palestinians, and stood up to the
katrinaslegthreats of the pro-Israeli lobby and the Black List of any candidate who challenges the criminal occupation of Palestine. By contrast, you have to listen to Hillary Clinton’s demagogic and racist speech to AIPAC where she raised her voice to a false crescendo, compared herself to Golda Meier, did character assassination of the Palestinian people, attacked the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, promised even more military aid to Israel, and promised that the U.S. and Israel would march hand and hand into the promised land with a military cadence that would make a Prussian marching band proud. I have made my assertions clear. I will quote in considerable detail below statements from the speech Bernie Sanders proposed to deliver to AIPAC and Hillary Clinton’s speech to AIPAC. Then, you will make up your own mind.

The Larger Frame

This election follows more than 7 years of Barack Obama, one of the most hopeful in tone and reactionary in content political experiences of my and millions of others lifetimes. In many ways, the entire U.S. presidential election process is a mirage and deception. In a society where the Pentagon has a budget of almost $1 trillion, 1 Million Black people are in prison, unregulated capitalism is going berserk, people are losing their jobs, losing their homes, and losing their minds the illusion of “Vote for Me and I’ll Set you Free” is just that. Since the U.S. government repressed and suppressed the mass revolutionary movements of the Two Decades of the Sixties there has not yet emerged a new unified mass revolutionary movement in which to situate a presidential election. As such, many people place all their hope in the every-four-year charade because they just have no hope about themselves or a plan to change society.

While Bernie Sanders’s call for a revolution is often limited to a general critique of Wall Street and a white, social democratic populism his campaign has really evolved more than I had originally anticipated. While Bernie Sanders may not yet break up the banks he is creating one of the most radical, structural, and ideological challenges to the Democratic Party establishment in recent memory—and in so doing is challenging one of the two political arms of Wall Street—the mainstream Democrats and the Clinton Machine. It is in his break with the imperialist worldview of the Democrats and his courageous and consistent statements in support of Palestinian human rights and self-determination that Sanders has given his campaign its most compelling revolutionary reality.

The New York State Democratic Primary and the Ritual Madness of AIPAC Pandering.

The New York City metropolitan area is home to the largest Jewish community outside Israel. There are 1.5 million Jews in New York City out of a population of 8 million—approximately 18 percent of the population. Every four years, the Democratic presidential contenders use the New York primary to make the most outrageous, racist, statements in support of Israel and against the Palestinian people. “If I am elected I will give the entire U.S. defense budget to Israel.” “Oh yeah, I will have a first strike against un-armed Palestinians and give Israel a state of its own in New York.” It is truly funny if you like genocidal settler state humor.

The assumption of course, a false and cynical one, is that Jewish voters love Israel and support or condone all of its abuses. This view is put forth aggressively by the power of AIPAC—the American Israel Political Action Committee. AIPAC and the National Rifle Association have more money and more power than God and just like the NRA, AIPAC is famous for rewarding its friends and punishing its enemies—which people on the Left need to carry out as well.

In The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer and Harvard University Kennedy School of Government professor Stephen Walt write

“AIPAC’s success is due to its ability to reward legislators and congressional candidates who support its agenda, and to punish those who challenge it. … AIPAC makes sure that its friends get strong financial support from the myriad pro-Israel PACs. Those seen as hostile to Israel, on the other hand, can be sure that AIPAC will direct campaign contributions to their political opponents. … The bottom line is that AIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on the U.S. Congress. Open debate about U.S. policy towards Israel does not occur there, even though that policy has important consequences for the entire world. No one stands up to AIPAC we are told. Many of its bills pass unanimously in Congress—including bills condemning reports of human rights abuses by the Israeli’s against the Palestinians.”

But over the last years people are standing up to AIPAC—just not, until Sanders, in a presidential election contest. These new developments have been encouraged by an international movement to challenge and change Israeli policy—the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement. Initiated in 2005 from appeals from the Palestinian people, its organizers explain

“On July 9 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice’s historic advisory opinion on the illegality of Israel’s Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), a clear majority of Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognized in full compliance with international law. The campaign for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is shaped by a rights-based approach and highlights the three broad sections of the Palestinian people: the refugees, those under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Israel. The call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:

*Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;

*Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

*Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”

The BDS call was endorsed by over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements. The signatories represent the refugees, Palestinians in the OPT, and Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

In the New York Democratic Primary Bernie Sanders, a Jew, one who had lived in a kibbutz in Israel, stood up to AIPAC, stood up to the Israeli Government, stood up to reactionary forces in the Jewish community, humanized the Palestinians, chastised Israel for its abuses, and did so with no clear electoral calculation. By contrast, Hillary Clinton allied with the most reactionary forces in the U.S. and Israel, demonized the Palestinians, justified Israel’s attacks on civilians as self-defense against “terrorists,” compared herself to Golda Meier, and attacked Sanders for “neutrality” and lack of support for Israel. And yet, under these circumstances, Sanders did great in New York. Hillary Clinton, who had been a two-term Senator from New York, got 58 percent of the while Sanders won a very impressive 42% of the vote and 44% of the delegates.

The Candidates in Their Own Words

Bernie Sanders

On not just being friend to Israel, but also to Palestinian people

“To be successful, we have to be a friend not only to Israel, but to the Palestinian people, where in Gaza, they suffer from an unemployment rate of 44 percent – the highest in the world – and a poverty rate nearly equal to that. There is too much suffering in Gaza to be ignored. The road towards peace will be difficult. We all know that. I cannot tell you exactly how it will look – I do not believe anyone can – but I believe firmly that the only prospect for peace is the successful negotiation of a two-state solution.”

Peace will mean stopping the Israeli settlement and occupation

“Peace will mean ending what amounts to the occupation of Palestinian territory, establishing mutually agreed upon borders, and pulling back settlements in the West Bank, just as Israel did in Gaza—once considered an unthinkable move on Israel’s part. That’s why I join much of the international community, including the U.S. State Department and European Union, in voicing my concern that Israel’s recent expropriation of an additional 579 acres of land in the West Bank undermines the peace process and, ultimately, Israeli security as well. It is absurd for elements within the Netanyahu government to suggest that building more settlements in the West Bank is the appropriate response to the most recent violence. It is also not acceptable that the Netanyahu government decided to withhold hundreds of millions of Shekels in tax revenue from the Palestinians, which it is supposed to collect on their behalf.”

Peace will mean stopping the economic blockade and recognizing Palestinian water rights

“Peace will also mean ending the economic blockade of Gaza. And it will mean a sustainable and equitable distribution of precious water resources so that Israel and Palestine can both thrive as neighbors. Right now, Israel controls 80 percent of the water reserves in the West Bank. Inadequate water supply has contributed to the degradation and desertification of Palestinian land. A lasting a peace will have to recognize Palestinians are entitled to control their own lives, and there is nothing human life needs more than water.”

“Peace requires both sides to adhere to international humanitarian law. Peace will require strict adherence by both sides to the tenets of international humanitarian law. This includes Israeli ending disproportionate responses to being attacked, even though any attack on Israel is unacceptable. However, let me be very clear: I – along with many supporters of Israel – spoke out strongly against the Israeli counter attacks that killed nearly 1,500 civilians, and wounded far more. I condemned the bombing of hospitals, schools and refugee camp.”


Sanders documents the unbearable poverty that Israel, one of the richest and most conspicuous consumption nations in the world, is imposing on the Palestinians. His use of very specific terms— “Occupation.” “Settlements” “withholding Shekels and tax revenue” “expropriating 579 acres of land in the West Bank” confiscating “precious water resources” “degradation, desertification” Israel has 80% of the water.” “Violating international law. “Killed 1500 civilians, wounded far more, bombing of hospitals, schools, and refugee camps.” Represent a coherent and compelling indictment of Israel as a society as well as its policies. While it is not necessarily his intent, Sanders statements reinforce the charges of many that Israeli policies represent crimes against humanity that can and must be brought in front of the United Nations. (Spoiler alert. When we get to Hillary Clinton’s statements note that she explicitly promises the Israelis she will block any efforts to bring these human rights abuses to the U.N. Security Council.)

His movement is not taking place in a vacuum. Even establishment Democrats are having a backlash against AIPAC and Israel as they are increasingly allied with right-wing Republicans. His views are also a reflection of many of his supporters, including organizers of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement and the growing rejection by Jewish activists of Israel’s efforts to manipulate anti-Nazi sentiments to justify its own abuses of the Palestinian people. Given today’s time, place, and conditions the Sanders Campaign is carrying out a revolution of values and politics on Palestine and international human rights that challenge not just Israel but the U.S. government. And from there, create space and energy to challenge U.S. racism and climate crimes and build a real climate justice revolution.

Hillary Clinton in Her Own Words

Clinton criticizes Sanders for “walking away” from Israel and being “dangerously wrong” about military policy

“As AIPAC members, you understand that while the turmoil of the Middle East presents enormous challenge and complexity, walking away is not an option. Candidates for president who think the United States can outsource Middle East security to dictators, or that America no longer has vital national interests at stake in this region are dangerously wrong. It would be a serious mistake for the United States to abandon our responsibilities, or cede the mantle of leadership for global peace and security to anyone else.”

Clinton supports Israeli Hawkish Policy against Iran

“As we gather here, three evolving threats — Iran’s continued aggression, a rising tide of extremism across a wide arc of instability, and the growing effort to de-legitimize Israel on the world stage — are converging to make the U.S.-Israel alliance more indispensable than ever. The United States and Israel must be closer than ever, stronger than ever and more determined than ever to prevail against our common adversaries and to advance our shared values.”

Comment This is a dig at President Obama who negotiated with Iran and avoided a military showdown despite Israel’s pressure to provoke a regional or even world war. It is also an obvious attack on Sanders who she accuses of “trying to de-legitimize Israel” by standing up to the Israeli government.

Clinton compares herself to Golda Meier

“And of course, some of us remember a woman, Golda Meier, leading Israel’s government decades ago and wonder what’s taking us so long in America?”

Comment. Golda Meier was the prime minister of Israel from 1964 to 1969. She was known as the Iron Lady before that title was given to Margaret Thatcher. Meir’s first months as Foreign Minister coincided with the Suez Crisis, which is known as the Tripartite Aggression in Arab countries. It involved an invasion of Egypt in late 1956 by Israel, followed by Britain and France. The aims were to regain Western control of the Suez Canal, remove Egyptian president Nasser, and provide a more secure western border and freedom of navigation through the Straits of Tiran for Israel. Meir was involved in planning and coordination with the French government and military prior to the start of military action. During United Nations debates about the crisis, Meir took charge of the Israeli delegation. After the fighting had started, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Nations forced the three invaders to withdraw. As a result of the conflict, the United Nations created the UNEF military peacekeeping force to police the Egyptian–Israeli border.

How sad, if transparent, that in front of AIPAC, Secretary Clinton compared herself to a war-hawk who tried to seize the Suez Canal, undermine the self-determination of Egypt, and threaten to provoke a world war. We definitely need a woman president—Elizabeth Warren and Angela Davis come to mind—but Clinton’s bizarre choice of a bellicose, imperialist, female role model exposes her world view and her view of her future role as “commander in chief.”

Presenting the Palestinian People as Terrorists

“This is especially true at a time when Israel faces brutal terrorist stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks at home. Parents worry about letting their children walk down the street. Families live in fear. Just a few weeks ago, a young American veteran and West Point graduate named Taylor Force was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist near the Jaffa Port. These attacks must end immediately…And Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence, stop celebrating terrorists as martyrs and stop paying rewards to their families. Indeed, at a time of unprecedented chaos and conflict in the region, America needs an Israel strong enough to deter and defend against its enemies, strong enough to work with us to tackle shared challenges and strong enough to take bold steps in the pursuit of peace.”

Comment: Israel receives at least $3.5 billion in U.S. military aid and more through many secret allocations in bills. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported that between 2004 and 2011 Israel was the eighth-largest arms exporter to the world, with sales worth a total of $12.9 billion. Israel has nuclear weapons. At a time when Israel killed 1500 people in Gaza, is running an outdoor concentration camp, Hillary Clinton fosters the racist myth that Israel is under attack from Palestinians with knives. Note the horrible character assassination of Palestinians, “celebrating terrorists” “paying rewards to families.” This is how the Native Americans were described who stood up to U.S. genocide, how the Vietnamese were described who stood up to U.S. genocide. And now, how the Palestinians are described standing up to Israel-U.S. supported genocide.

Clinton to expand military aid to Israel and a U.S./Israel military alliance “far into the future”

“The Movement [Boycott Divestment and Sanctions] and many other human rights groups has been calling for the U.S. to cut military aid to Israel and to stop intervening in the Middle East. That’s why I believe we must take our alliance to the next level. I hope a new 10-year defense memorandum of understanding is concluded as soon as possible to meet Israel’s security needs far into the future. The United States should provide Israel with the most sophisticated defense technology so it can deter and stop any threats. That includes bolstering Israeli missile defenses with new systems like the Arrow Three and David’s Sling. And we should work together to develop better tunnel detection, technology to prevent armed smuggling, kidnapping and terrorist attacks.”

Comment Does this really need a comment?

Clinton leads an international campaign to attack the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement and urges Israeli and U.S. students to attack that movement. She accuses BDS of being anti-Semitic.

“And it’s especially important to continue fostering relationships between American and Israeli young people who may not always remember our shared past. They are the future of our relationship and we have to do more to promote that. Many of the young people here today are on the front lines of the battle to oppose the alarming boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as BDS. Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world, especially in Europe, we must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people. I’ve been sounding the alarm for a while now. As I wrote last year in a letter to the heads of major American Jewish organizations, we have to be united in fighting back against BDS. Many of its proponents have demonized Israeli scientists and intellectuals, even students. To all the college students who may have encountered this on campus, I hope you stay strong. Keep speaking out. Don’t let anyone silence you, bully you or try to shut down debate, especially in places of learning like colleges and universities. Anti-Semitism has no place in any civilized society, not in America, not in Europe, not anywhere.”


This is a clear call for repression against dissent. At Universities, students who protest Israeli policies and disrupt classes are punished and even arrested. In California and other states there are new “Anti-BDS laws” working their way through the legislature under the guise of preventing “hate speech” (and the First Amendment) and proposing to prevent groups and individuals who support BDS from having any financial dealings with the state of California. The Black List is alive and well in California. Hillary Clinton has called for the anti-BDS bills—now circulating in 20 states.

I have supported BDS but have not joined. I plan to join tomorrow.

Hillary goes after Bernie “America can’t be neutral” and Sanders “has no business being president”

“That’s why I feel so strongly that America can’t ever be neutral when it comes to Israel’s security or survival. We can’t be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighborhoods, when civilians are stabbed in the street, when suicide bombers target the innocent. Some things aren’t negotiable. And anyone who doesn’t understand that has no business being our president. But at the same time, all of us must condemn actions that set back the cause of peace. Terrorism should never be encouraged or celebrated, and children should not be taught to hate in schools. That poisons the future.” Everyone has to do their part by avoiding damaging actions, including with respect to settlements. Now, America has an important role to play in supporting peace efforts. And as president, I would continue the pursuit of direct negotiations. And let me be clear — I would vigorously oppose any attempt by outside parties to impose a solution, including by the U.N. Security Council.”

Comment. The Palestinians are being held hostage in their own homeland. Their only hope is an international human rights movement just as the Vietnamese people and Blacks in South Africa desperately needed international support. Hillary Clinton wants to crush any allies of the people of Palestine, continue the blockade and the occupation, prevent international sanctions, and punish the BDS movement.

Hillary Invokes the White Myths of the European, U.S., and Israeli Settler States

“Will we, as Americans and as Israelis, stay true to the shared democratic values that have always been at the heart of our relationship? We are both nations built by immigrants and exiles seeking to live and worship in freedom, nations built on principles of equality, tolerance and pluralism. At our best, both Israel and America are seen as a light unto the nations because of those values.”

Comment Except for the Indigenous peoples, African slaves, occupied Mexicans, Vietnamese, Koreans, and Palestinians and human rights organizers all over the world.


These are exciting times. Credit both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton for putting their cards on the table. You have heard my arguments, heard the candidates in their own words. In California on June 7 and all the way to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia in Philadelphia July 26-28, until the presidential election on November 4 and beyond the debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is of enormous import on its own terms and a placeholder for a battle of worldviews inside the Democratic Party and the U.S.

The Democratic establishment is trying to raise the spectre of Donald Trump to erase the spectre of Hillary Clinton. A Bernie Sanders victory in California can “keep hope alive,” show that “yes we can” and support “all power to the people.”

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Eric Mann is the co-director of the Labor/Community Strategy Center. He is the host of KPFK/Pacifica’s Voices from the Frontlines. He is completing his forthcoming book We Made the Revolution with our Bodies on the Line: The Journey of a CORE, SDS, and UAW Organizer. He is the co-host of KPFK/Pacifica’s Voices from the Frontlines. He welcomes comments at