Bernie’s World: The Oversimplification of Israel

Even as a young Republican, I have to appreciate the world from Bernie Sanders’ point of view. In Bernie’s world, everything is wonderfully black and white; anything that makes sense in theory works flawlessly in practice; and all people everywhere just want to get along. I confess: Bernie’s world is a beautiful piece of art with a commanding allure.

And yet, I do not live in Bernie’s world.

As Senator Sanders correctly pointed out, “we are obligated to speak the truth as we see it.” And so that’s exactly what I’ll do – I’ll speak the truth from my perspective, from the world that I live in.

I am deeply concerned by some of Senator Sander’s comments on the Middle East which he delivered on March 21st, 2016. Predictably, the first issue Senator Sanders raised in his speech was the high unemployment and poverty rate in the Gaza strip. While I understand that dire economic conditions can exacerbate extremism, Sander’s definition of progress – being that it’s “never made unless people are prepared to sit down and talk to each other” – may prove difficult without first addressing the incessant noise that violent extremism against Israelis can generate.

Although I disagree, I commend Senator Sanders’ bravery in suggesting the United States of America – a nation that he recognizes has “a deep commitment to democratic principles, civil rights, and the rule of law” – ought to seek friendship with Palestine while maintaining our close relationship with Israel. In my world, however, this is a dangerous proposal; especially when one considers that Palestinians are responsible for six hundred twenty attacks against Israeli citizens. And that was just during October of 2015.

Senator Sanders also believes that “the only prospect for peace is the successful negotiation of a two-state solution.” He correctly identifies that for this to happen, all nations must unconditionally recognize Israel’s right to exist and call for an immediate end to all attacks on Israel. This stance, while attractive, is terribly unrealistic in my world. Just consider the comments of Mahmoud Abbas, the President of Palestine, who has an interesting understanding of peace; one that characterized the aforementioned attacks as “a peaceful uprising.”

Moreover, if a two state solution were to actually come to fruition (meaning that nearly every nation in the world agrees that some proposed plan divides the territory and all of its resources in a more just manner), what then? Do Senator Sanders and the rest of over idealistic political community really believe that Israelis and Arabs would just join hands around their once again partitioned state and sing “Kumbaya?” Hatred for the opposition in this conflict is so engrained into both Israeli and Palestinian cultures – as shown by a State Department study titled “Victims of Our Own Narratives? Portrayal of the ‘Other’ in Israeli and Palestinian School Books” – that it is impossible to have peace.

In addition, Senator Sanders called for an end to Israel’s disproportionate responses to being attacked. He, much like myself, is disgusted with the bombing of schools, refugee camps, and hospitals. However, I am unaware of what the “proportionate” response to indiscriminate rocket fire precisely is. And while the rocket fire may have been Hamas’ decision, one cannot ignore the fact that seventy percent of Palestinians believe “that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets can often or sometimes be justified in order to protect Islam from its enemies.” This disturbing detail may suggest these disproportionate responses might, in fact, be more founded than one would expect.

I was impressed that Sanders demonstrated knowledge on water scarcity within the region. While he was correct in raising concerns about Israel’s dominance over water resources, he overlooked the fact that Israel is well within compliance with the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement and actually provides 30% more water to Palestinians than required. He also didn’t mention how Israel recycles 75% of their wastewater compared to Palestine’s 6%. Israel is also the global leader in water technology innovation and uses their water resources at an astoundingly high efficiency rate. In fairness to Senator Sanders, both of these aforementioned facts can probably be attributed to Israeli values that spur innovation, like a free and fair market with capitalist ideals – principles that Senator Sanders fundamentally misunderstands.

Senator Sanders’ speech is marked by troubling and naive faith in Palestine’s willingness to give concessions and cooperate as well as a clear confusion of Israel’s actions while ignoring Palestine’s. I am disappointed by his unwillingness to accept that the shared values he acknowledged between Israel and the US are seemingly incompatible with Palestine. Not one bit of his plan will restore peace or order. Yes, it’s unfortunate, but that’s the truth as I see it.

I live in a world where Jews continue to fight for their right to exist, even after centuries of Jewish bloodshed. I live in a world where Jews were forced to wear their religion on their sleeves – the shield of David weaponized into a mark of death for all brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith. I live in a world where my Czech grandfather was forced to hide in the basement of a butcher shop as a child, emerging only after he lost his entire family because of persecution; persecution that, in Bernie’s world, could be resolved after centuries through “sit(ting) down and talk(ing) to each other”.

My world is admittedly not as pretty of a picture as Bernie’s world. My world is colored by the innocent blood of both Israelis and Palestinians and marred by the ugly taint of both Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. My world is bleak, violent, and consistently disappointing. I think that we all wish we lived in Bernie’s world – masked by a unique mist of ignorance and hopefulness.

Unfortunately, I live in reality. And I intend to stay here during this election cycle.

Alexander Fried

Author: Alexander Fried

Originally from Scranton, PA, Alexander Fried is an undergraduate student at George Washington\'s Elliott School of International Affairs double majoring in economics and international affairs with a concentration in international politics. When he\'s not learning about international problems and the resultant seemingly inevitable global collapse, Alex enjoys having a cup of black coffee while chatting with friends.