Bernie Sanders Says 'Tone Down the Rhetoric' Amid Israeli-Palestinian Tensions, Rising Antisemitism

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said the primary role of the United States in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to "lead the way to a peaceful future for both" groups of people, and not to provide unilateral military spending and divisive rhetoric.

Speaking with moderator John Dickerson on CBS News' Face the Nation Sunday, Sanders said recent domestic U.S. attacks on Jewish people in the wake of the renewed Middle East conflict are caused in part from "being increasingly divided by right-wing extremists."

"Antisemitism is rising in America," said the senator. "It's rising all over the world. That is an outrage. And we have got to combat antisemitism. We have to combat the increase in hate crimes in this country, against Asians, against African-Americans, against Latinos."

"There are a number of liberals who use the word 'apartheid' to describe Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, a number of them liberals in the House who use that language," said Dickerson. "The executive director of the American Jewish Congress, who handled Jewish outreach for your campaign, has said that that word, Joel Rubin, has said that using that word has increased the level of vitriol that has contributed to this antisemitism. Do you think those who share your view should not use that kind of language?"

"I think we should tone down the rhetoric. I think our goal is very simple: it is to understand that what's going on in Gaza today is unsustainable. When you have 70 percent of the young people unemployed, when people cannot leave the community, when hospitals and wastewater plants have been destroyed — that is unsustainable," Sanders said.

"You have a very difficult situation. You have Hamas, a terrorist group. You have a right-wing Israeli government and the situation is getting worse. And all I'm saying is that the United States of America has got to be leading the world in bringing people together, not simply supplying weapons to kill children in Gaza."

Sanders described Hamas as a "terrorist, corrupt, authoritarian group of people and we have got to stand up to them." But he went on to stress that doesn't justify millions in dollars of weapons sales, just as 11 days of Israeli bombardment has killed 243 Palestinians, while 12 people in Israel have also died during the conflict, the AP reported.

He introduced a resolution Thursday that would temporarily block a $735 million U.S. weapons sale to Israel, which is set to occur just days after Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to a ceasefire this week. The progressive senator, who is Jewish, said the military sale is only "fueling conflict" instead of allowing the two sides to come together through peaceful, bilateral discussions.

"Our job is not simply to put more and more military support for Israel, it is to bring people together and we can't do it alone. We need the international community," Sanders added.

Sanders also rebuked Republicans including Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who have amped up accusations of "terrorism" and "antisemitism" against Democrats for their support of the Palestinians alongside Israelis.

"It's possible to be a critic of Israeli policy but not be anti-Semitic," the senator added.

Newsweek reached out to Sanders' Senate office for additional remarks.

bernie sanders israel palestine rhetoric
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said the primary role of the United States in the Israel-Palestine is to "lead the way to a peaceful future for both" groups of people in Gaza and that unilateral military spending and divisive rhetoric is only helping to keep them apart. Screenshot: YouTube | CBS Face the Nation