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Bernie Sanders: Treating Palestinians with Respect & Dignity Does Not Make Me Anti-Israel

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During Thursday’s debate, Bernie Sanders repeated his assertion that Israel used disproportionate force during its 2014 assault on Gaza that killed nearly 1,500 Palestinian civilians. “If we are ever going to bring peace to that region, which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity,” Sanders said. “I believe the United States and the rest of the world have got to work together to help the Palestinian people. That does not make me anti-Israel.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I think that—but I was, once again, surprised, as I was during the editorial board meeting, by the courageous stand that Bernie Sanders has taken over—in New York City—over the issue of Israel and Palestine. And he has not backed down at all that he believes that there has to be, from the perspective of the United States, a more fair and evenhanded policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or to the removal of the settlements that he says are illegal in Palestinian territory. So I’ve been amazed that he has continued to maintain that position, because we know that American politicians are not exactly profiles in courage when it comes to the issue of Israel and Palestine.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s go to that issue last night, a key topic during last night’s debate. This is the moderator Wolf Blitzer.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We had in the Gaza area—not a very large area—some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Free Palestine!

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Now, if you’re asking me—not just me, but countries all over the world—”Was that a disproportionate attack?” the answer is, I believe it was. And let me say something else. Let me say something else. As somebody who is 100 percent pro-Israel, in the long run—and this is not going to be easy, God only knows—but in the long run, if we are ever going to bring peace to that region, which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity. So, what is not to say—to say that right now in Gaza—right now in Gaza, unemployment is somewhere around 40 percent. You’ve got a lot of that area continues—it hasn’t been rebuilt—decimated, houses decimated, healthcare decimated, schools decimated. I believe the United States and the rest of the world have got to work together to help the Palestinian people. That does not make me anti-Israel. That paves the way, I think—

WOLF BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: —for an approach that works in the Middle East.

WOLF BLITZER: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, do you agree with Senator Sanders that Israel overreacts to Palestinian attacks, and that in order for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel must, quote, “end its disproportionate responses”?

HILLARY CLINTON: I negotiated the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in November of 2012. I did it in concert with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, based in Ramallah. I did it with the then-Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi, based in Cairo, working closely with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli Cabinet. I can tell you right now, because I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years, that they do not seek this kind of attacks. They do not invite rockets raining down on their towns and villages. They do not believe that there should be a constant incitement by Hamas, aided and abetted by Iran, against Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders last night in the Brooklyn debate, the last one before the New York primary. On Thursday, the Sanders campaign suspended its new national Jewish outreach coordinator, Simone Zimmerman, two days after she was hired, after revelations that she had posted criticisms about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Facebook.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we’ll be joined by two other guests here in Los Angeles, who, well, will debate a little of their own: Robert Scheer, the longtime veteran journalist, who is for Bernie Sanders, and Torie Osborn, longtime LGBT activist, who had been for Bernie Sanders but has switched and is for Hillary Clinton. Stay with us.

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Robert Scheer v. Torie Osborn: A Heated Debate on Sanders vs. Clinton with Two Longtime Progressives

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