Bernie Sanders offers reasoned approach to Middle East peace

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For a long time, I supported the election of Hillary Clinton as President. I supported her against Barack Obama and for a longtime believed we needed to elect her to help restore reason and sanity to dealing with the Middle East. But the Clintons’ views on the Middle East have changed much and I believe Bernie Sanders is the best candidate for President

By Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania covering Chicago City Hall (1976-1992)

Ray Hanania
covering Chicago
City Hall
(1976-1992)

I used to be a big supporter of Bill Clinton and participated in many of the White House meetings he organized to help support the peace process signed through his hard work between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian President Yasir (Yasser) Arafat.

President Clinton worked hard to bring about peace between Palestinians and Israelis. But as his presidency eroded, in a large part because of his own self-inflicted scandals including his sexual affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, and after Rabin was murdered by an extremist disciple of right-wing fanatic Benjamin Netanyahu, Clinton’s influence waned.

Clinton turned over much of his policy direction to his biased, pro-Israel adviser Dennis Ross, who undermined the peace negotiations between Arafat and Rabin’s successor Ehud Barak by distorting proposals and curtailing concession Rabin had endorsed.

When Hillary Clinton announced her presidency in 2008, I believed she would be a better candidate than U.S. Senator Barak Obama, a former Illinois legislator whose rise to political influence was a fluke created through the scandal that torpedoed the candidacy of Republican Jack Ryan for the Senate.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obama benefited from pure political luck. When Ryan bowed out of Illinois’s U.S. Senate race in 2004, Obama found himself in a position to easily win the election. After Ryan quit the race, citing increasing criticism stemming from the divorce with his Hollywood actress wife Jeri Ryan, desperate Republicans turned to a right-wing conservative nut-job named Alan Keyes.

Obama was a shoe-in. And he used that fluke-election to build momentum to lead the Democratic Party in the Presidential election in 2008.

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The truth about American politics is difficult for many people to accept.

Obama has been a good president, although I believed Hillary Clinton would have been better. Obama has tried hard to revive the Middle East peace process, but he has failed. In part, he failed because he lacked the experience. But had he more experience, he probably would not have wasted his time trying.

Today, Obama has abandoned the peace efforts, although deep in his heart he knows the Palestinians have been treated unjustly. He also knows that Israel’s ruthless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the single greatest obstacle to peace in the Middle East, leading Israel into a future of certain destruction through violent policies that deny Palestinians the right to freedom and statehood.

Like Bill Clinton, Obama is abandoning  doing what’s right fearing for his legacy. Clinton tried to push through a faulty peace deal as his presidency was ending, destroying the peace process. Obama is trying to step away from the peace process, hoping not to destroy the support this legacy needs from America’s influential Jewish community — the American Arab community not only lacks influence, they lack organization and cannot be an asset to anyone in politics.

Netanyahu doesn’t want peace. He wants all of the land. He is a modernday Apartheid tyrant who has cleverly manipulated Apartheid practices in a way to make it easier for people in America, where the power of Israel originates through political manipulation, to accept.

Hillary Clinton is desperate to become president and return her philandering husband to office. She is desperate to become president, and to become the nation’s first woman president, the only redeeming aspect of her campaign.

English: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin,...

English: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, U.S. president Bill Clinton, and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat. Česky: Izraelský premiér Jicchak Rabin, americký prezident Bill Clinton a předseda Organizace pro osvobození Palestiny (OOP) Jásir Arafat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, it would be great if America shattered another discriminatory barrier and elected a woman as President of the United States. But Hillary Clinton has shown herself to be political manipulative rather than principled. She has wavered on Middle East peace and has played into the powerful pro-Israel lobby to get votes.

Rather than standing up to Netanyahu’s push, she is leaning into them.

Ironically, Bernie Sanders, who happens to be Jewish and would become America’s first non-Christian President of the United States — another important first — might be more capable of standing up to growing extremism in Israel. A Jewish President might be able to reject Israel’s rightwing fanaticism and redirect the nation back to the peace table where Palestinians and Israelis could finish the peace accord they started under Rabin and Arafat.

The Two-State Solution is the ONLY option for peace for a secure Israel and a secure Palestine. It is the only option to bring justice and civil rights to Palestinians, who live under a vicious and oppression brutality under Israel’s violent military and the violent Israeli terrorist settler movement.

Despite all that Netanyahu has done to reinforce conflict and destroy peace, it can be reversed. Israel needs a sane leader. But America needs a leader who is not afraid to be courageous. America needs a leader who has the courage to criticize Israel without worrying about being denounced as “anti-Semitic,” a false claim made repeatedly against Obama and anyone who challenges Netanyahu’s fanaticism.

Netanyahu is the ISIS of Israel. He is the obstacle to peace. His war crimes in the Gaza Strip have taken the lives of thousands of innocent civilians including hundreds of children. Netanyahu has no respect for human life. He is a poor, corrupt leader. He opposes peace and embraces the most extreme politics that fuels the violence and will continue to fuel the violence in Israel and the region.

President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prim...

President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Israel needs help to change. The Israeli peace movement is limping as Netanyahu’s fanaticism not only grips Israeli politics and society, with the help of fanatics like Sheldon Adelson, but it also has American sense of justice in a damaging headlock preventing this country from doing the right thing.

I believe that Bernie Sanders may just be the one person who can bring peace to Israel and Palestine, a peace that would become the foundation that erodes the growing base of Islamic terrorism in that region. The extremists from al-Qaeda to Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) have grown on the backs of the failure to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli peace accord. And their power will continue to grow as Israel continues to become more and more extremist and opposed to a just peace.

Sanders was born in Brooklyn to Eli Sanders and Dorothy Glassberg. Eli Sanders was a Jewish immigrant from Poland whose family was killed in the Holocaust; Glassberg was born to Jewish parents in New York City. Sanders has said that he became interested in politics at an early age: “A guy named Adolf Hitler won an election in 1932 … and 50 million people died as a result … what I learned as a little kid is that politics is, in fact, very important.”

When you read through Bernie Sanders political and campaign platform, it reads with clarity and sanity. His continued support for the Two-State Solution appears genuine and I believe he has the strength to remain true to his beliefs, unlike Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama who had surrendered to the tremendous pressures that oppose Israeli-Palestinian peace with justice.

English: In January 2009, President of the Uni...

English: In January 2009, President of the United States of America, George W. Bush invited then President-Elect Barack Obama and former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter for a Meeting and Lunch at The White House. Photo taken in the Oval Office at The White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s why I am supporting Bernie Sanders.

No candidate for president has the spirit of the late Yitzhak Rabin, Yasir Arafat and the peace accord signed at the White House in 1993, a moving moment in Middle East history, more than Bernie Sanders.

Here are Bernie Sanders views on Palestine and Israel and on the Middle East region.

Click here to visit his website.

Iraq and Afghanistan

Sen. Sanders considers his vote against the Iraq War to be one of the most important he has cast, and believes that the invasion in Iraq was one of the worst foreign policy blunders in modern U.S. history. As a leader in the opposition to the war in Iraq, much of what then Congressman Sanders feared would happen has, in fact, occurred. Not only did the United States invade Iraq based on false information, but the war has radically destabilized the entire region and has been completely counterproductive in terms of fighting international terrorism.

As the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Sanders knows what the cost of war is. He knows that 6,700 brave men and women lost their lives in those wars, that too many came home without legs, arms or eyesight. He also knows that some 500,000 servicemen and women returned home with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, and that the war disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of families.

Sen. Sanders voted to authorize military strikes against Afghanistan, after it became clear that the Taliban regime harbored and gave support to Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorists who attacked America on 9/11. However, while we entered that war with significant clarity of purpose and moral authority, President Bush soon lost sight about what our goals were in Afghanistan. Instead of fighting those who attacked our country, he embroiled our troops in a quagmire in a far-away land.

Sen. Sanders called on both Presidents Bush and Obama to withdraw U.S. troops as soon as possible and for the people of Afghanistan to take full responsibility for their own security. After visiting Afghanistan, Sen. Sanders spoke-out against the rampant corruption he saw, particularly in regards to elections, security and the banking system.

Preventing a Nuclear Iran

The U.S. must do everything it can to make certain that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, that a nuclear Iran does not threaten Israel, and to prevent a nuclear arms race in the region.  Sen. Sanders supports the agreement between the U.S., Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program, because it has the best chance of limiting Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon, while avoiding yet another war in the region.

While the agreement is not perfect, it is far better than the path we were on – with Iran developing nuclear weapons and the potential for military intervention by the U.S. and Israel growing greater by the day. If Iran does not live up to the agreement, sanctions can be reestablished and all other options remain on the table. It is incumbent upon us, however, to give the negotiated agreement a chance to succeed, and Sen. Sanders applauds President Obama and Secretary Kerry for their efforts.

Israel and Palestine

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been one of the world’s most difficult and intractable disputes for more than sixty years. Moreover, the failure to resolve that crisis has helped fuel other conflicts in the region. Senator Sanders has long supported a two-state solution that recognizes Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, and the Palestinians right to a homeland in which they control their political and economic future.

The most recent violence in Gaza represented a particularly ugly and violent time in the dispute. Senator Sanders strongly condemned indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas into Israeli territory, and Hamas’ use of civilian neighborhoods to launch those attacks. However, while recognizing that Israel has the right to defend itself, he also strongly condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza as disproportionate and the widespread killing of civilians as completely unacceptable.

The U.S. must play a leading role in creating a two-state solution, which will require significant compromises from both sides. The Palestinians must unequivocally recognize Israel’s right to exist, and hold accountable those who have committed terrorist acts. The Israelis must end the blockade of Gaza, and cease developing settlements on Palestinian land. Both sides must negotiate in good faith regarding all other outstanding issues that stand in the way of a durable and lasting peace in the region. In the meantime, strict adherence, by all sides, to the tenets of international humanitarian law is necessary in order to avoid escalating the conflict yet again.

Combating Terrorism

We live in a dangerous world full of serious threats, perhaps none more so than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. Senator Sanders is committed to keeping America safe, and pursuing those who would do Americans harm.

But we cannot combat international terrorism alone. We must work with our allies to root out terrorist funding networks, provide logistical support in the region, disrupt online radicalization, provide humanitarian relief, and support and defend religious freedom. Moreover, we must begin to address the root causes of radicalization, instead of focusing solely on military responses to those who have already become radicalized.

And while there is no question our military must be fully prepared and have the resources it needs to fight international terrorism, it is imperative that we take a hard look at the Pentagon’s budget and the priorities it has established. The U.S. military must be equipped to fight today’s battles, not those of the last war, much less the Cold War. Our defense budget must represent our national security interests and the needs of our military, not the reelection of members of Congress or the profits of defense contractors. The warning that President Dwight David Eisenhower gave us about the influence of the Military-Industrial Complex in 1961 is truer today than it was then.

Protecting America and American Values

Senator Sanders believes our country must remain vigilant to protect us from terrorist attacks at home, whether from organized international terrorist networks, or from “lone wolf” extremists. The threat is real, and he will aggressively pursue those who would do us harm. However, Sen. Sanders strongly believes that we must pursue polices that uphold the core values that make us proud to be Americans.

That is why Sen. Sanders voted against the Patriot Act when it was first passed, why he voted against the Patriot Act when it was renewed, and why he opposed the so-called USA Freedom Act this past spring. We must not trade away our constitutional rights and civil liberties for the illusion of security.

Instead, we must rein in the National Security Agency and end the bulk collection of phone records, internet history, and email data of virtually all Americans.Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies must have the tools they need to protect the American people, but there must be legal oversight and they must go about their work in a way that does not sacrifice our basic freedoms.

The same goes for our actions abroad. The U.S. must never again embrace torture as a matter of official policy. In an increasingly brutal world, the wanton use of torture by the Bush administration simply meant we lost our moral standing to condemn others who engage in merciless behavior. That is why Sen. Sanders has consistently spoken out against waterboarding and other forms of extreme “enhanced interrogation.”

We must also, finally, close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. The mere existence of this camp, and the misguided policies that led to its creation, continues to damage the United States’ moral standing in the world, undermines our foreign policy, and fans the flames of terrorism rather than deters it.

As President, Sen. Sanders will:

  1. Move away from a policy of unilateral military action, and toward a policy of emphasizing diplomacy, and ensuring the decision to go to war is a last resort.
  2. Ensure that any military action we do engage in has clear goals, is limited in scope, and whenever possible provides support to our allies in the region.
  3. Close Guantanamo Bay, rein in the National Security Agency, abolish the use of torture, and remember what truly makes America exceptional: our values.
  4. Expand our global influence by promoting fair trade, addressing global climate change, providing humanitarian relief and economic assistance, defending the rule of law, and promoting human rights.
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rayhanania

rayhanania

Managing Writer at The Arab Daily News
RAY HANANIA — Columnist

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and for TheArabDailyNews.com, and TheDailyHookah.com.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com

Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com www.arabnews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
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