Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) equated Israel’s actions in Gaza with the "war crimes" committed by Vladimir Putin in Ukraine and slammed pro-Israel lobbying groups for "spending enormous sums of money right now to influence our political system."
The former Democratic presidential candidate also likened Israel’s "terrible human rights" record to the repressive governments of China and Iran during a speech to the Center for International Policy on Tuesday.
"Will you tell me how in God's name can the United States condemn Russia’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Ukraine as a war crime, and yet fund Netanyahu’s war machine which has killed 1000s of children?" said Sanders.
He said the United States "criticize[s] the terrible human rights records in China, Iran, and other authoritarian countries, but ignore[s] the human rights of Palestinians" by continuing to fund Israel’s military.
The progressive lawmaker’s criticism of Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is some of his harshest yet. It comes after he faced blowback from his progressive base for taking a more supportive position on Israel’s military response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. It also comes three months after AIPAC publicly thanked the senator for declining to join some of his fellow left-leaning colleagues in calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
In the speech, Sanders accused AIPAC of "spending enormous sums of money right now to influence our political system" and to "lobby for providing unquestioning support for Israel, Israel's right wing."
Sanders claimed that AIPAC was "backed by billionaires" who are pushing an "overwhelming majority in Congress" to "support massive new funding for the Netanyahu government siege."
He also objected to additional U.S. military funding for Israel, going further than a bill he proposed last month that would have provided such aid with conditions.
"There is a bipartisan consensus in Congress that at least $14 billion, including $10 billion more in unrestricted military aid, go to this right-wing Israeli government, which is causing such havoc and destruction," he said.
While Sanders denounced Hamas as a "horrific terrorist organization," he said what the Jewish state does "not have a right to do is go to war against the entire Palestinian people, which is exactly Israel under the leadership of the right-wing government."