Democratic squeeze on Sanders a blow for Palestinians

Democratic squeeze on Sanders a blow for Palestinians

The Democratic establishment in America this week ganged up to stop Bernie Sanders. (AFP)
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One of the first things you will hear many Arabs argue when they discuss the election stalemate in Israel is that there is no difference between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz — the two major party leaders battling it out for control of the government. But that clarity seems to quickly fog when the Arab world looks at American politics; calling President Donald Trump and the Republicans the “bad guys” and advocating for a change to replace him with a Democrat.

Are the Democrats really any different than the Republicans when it comes to the issues that most concern Arabs and Muslims? I don’t think so.

The Democratic establishment in America this week ganged up to stop Bernie Sanders. Was it because he wants to improve health care, cancel student debt, reverse Trump’s stringent immigration policies, expand social security, increase benefits for veterans, crack down on criminal violence, or eliminate mounting medical debt? I don’t think so. I believe that part of the reason they joined forces against Sanders was because he has taken a stronger, more principled and more aggressive stand against Israel’s ongoing violations of international law, and the fact he has made justice for the Palestinians a big part of his campaign.

On Super Tuesday — the first of three major election sweeps — the Democrats came together to undermine Sanders, who was leading the race to win the party’s presidential nomination, with some even sacrificing their own political interests. But things can still change for Sanders. There are two more major election cycles on March 10 and March 17, which could give him the edge.

Pete Buttigieg, who was doing well, and Amy Klobuchar, whose performances in recent debates had led many to believe her lowly standing might improve, simply gave up and endorsed the Democratic Party’s traditionalist candidate, Joe Biden. Why wouldn’t they just remain in the race while they had a chance to win? Because withdrawing was essential to help Biden take control of the party away from Sanders.

Mainstream Democrats really don’t support justice in Palestine as they claim. They especially dislike criticism of Israel

Ray Hanania

Biden, a party traditionalist and Clinton ally who served eight years as vice president under Barack Obama, is the best candidate to continue the Democrats’ traditional foreign policy line.  Biden, who in 2007 declared “I am a Zionist” during a TV interview, is a Democratic Party red line Sanders tried to cross by criticizing the Israeli government’s policies against the Palestinians. Mainstream Democrats really don’t support justice in Palestine as they claim. They especially dislike criticism of Israel. Sanders’ aggressive rhetoric on Israel might have scared them enough to force them to end the mainstream Democratic rivalries and come together.

Buttigieg and Klobuchar both endorsed Biden in a clear effort to give him the edge over Sanders. When it comes to justice in the Middle East, the Democratic Party is really not that different to the Republican Party.

Sanders did not hesitate to make Palestine the cornerstone of his foreign policy approach, urging a fairer proposal to end the Palestine-Israel conflict during the Democratic debate ahead of Super Tuesday. Asked if he would move the US Embassy back to Tel Aviv, Sanders said he would consider it, while also blasting Netanyahu. “What I happen to believe, right now, sadly, tragically, in Israel, through ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country,” he said.

Sanders’ words gave hope to Palestinians in the Middle East, who this week watched as Netanyahu’s notoriously right-wing coalition was again effectively stopped from forming a government. The Likud won only 36 Knesset seats in Monday’s general election, three more than Gantz’s Kahol Lavan. Netanyahu is being kept from power in part because of the surge of support for the Arab Joint List, which won a record 15 seats.

Why would the Democrats continue to defend Israel under Netanyahu’s leadership? Because, to both major parties in the US, the real issue isn’t about human rights, justice or the rule of law, it is about defending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and separating Palestine from the wider Arab cause. The Arabs are quick to recognize this kind of anomaly when looking at the Middle East, which is why they denounced Gantz as being only slightly different to Netanyahu.

But, after Tuesday’s election primary results, maybe Arabs and Muslims in America might also wake up and ask the same questions about the Democrats and Republicans. Without Sanders, is there really any difference?

The Arabs need to stop pretending that defeating Trump in November will somehow make things better for the Palestinians. What the Democrats did to Sanders on Tuesday proves that isn’t true.

• Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at Twitter: @RayHanania

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view