Senator Bernie Sanders stated Sunday on CNN that Israel did not have the right to end the lives of “thousands and thousands of blameless men, women, and children” in Gaza.
Sanders said, “I think it is obvious to most, what Hamas did as an awful terrorist group, is murder 1,400 people. Israel has the right to protect itself. But in my view, Israel does not have a right to terminate the lives of vast numbers of guiltless people uninvolved in that attack.”
He added, “You had over 600,000 people expelled from their homes, jammed into undersupplied UN shelters. There’s a humanitarian disaster requiring immediate action.”
When anchor Dana Bash questioned how Israel can dismantle Hamas post-attack without harming innocents used as shields, Sanders replied that was the right inquiry for military specialists, not him.
He said clearly Israel has self-defense rights against an entity seeking its ruin. But there must be a better way than slaying noncombatants. The urgent need is a bombing pause to tackle the humanitarian situation.
Sanders’ opinions reflect debate over Israel’s Hamas rocket response. Supporters argue Israel must neutralize threats, even if that endangers civilians. Critics say the massive Gaza bombing was disproportionate and unjustified.
Pro-Israel voices contend Hamas bears responsibility for civilian deaths via human shields and situating military assets in populated areas. They say Israel works hard to avoid noncombatant casualties while Hamas intentionally targets innocents.
Others counter the extent of Gaza’s death and destruction was unacceptable no matter Hamas’ actions. They say Israel should have exercised more restraint, focusing on limited militant strikes.
Clearly Sanders belongs to the latter camp. His remarks will resonate with progressives sympathetic to Palestinian suffering. But he risks alienating mainstream Democrats more supportive of Israeli security policies.
This debate is unlikely to be settled soon. Sanders argues humanitarian concerns should now take priority. But disagreements persist around Israel’s duty to minimize civilian casualties and what constitutes a proportionate counterterrorism response.
With Hamas vowing continued resistance, the cycle of Israeli airstrikes and Palestinian rocket attacks may persist. Those desiring just peace with security for all face immense hurdles.
Sanders aims to appeal to humanitarian concerns shared by most Americans. But his critique of Israeli policy remains divisive. In such an intractable conflict, simple solutions are hard to find, as Sanders himself appeared to acknowledge.