Reprinted from Mondoweiss
It's finally happened: the issue of Palestinian human rights came up in the Democratic debate tonight [April 14] on national television, and Bernie Sanders repeatedly criticized Hillary Clinton -- for siding with Israel singlehandedly, for her support of Benjamin Netanyahu and her indifference to the plight of Palestinians.
On the same night that he caved in to rightwing fools and suspended his Jewish outreach director over her criticisms of Benjamin Netanyahu, Senator Sanders stood up for Palestinians and against Netanyahu to cheers from the Brooklyn crowd.
Toward the end of a bruising debate, the two Democratic candidates tangled over Israel and Palestine for more than six minutes, beginning when Wolf Blitzer asked Sanders if he stood by his criticism of Israel for "disproportionate" attacks on Gaza.
Sanders said he had spent many months in Israel as a kid and has family in Israel, and the country has a right to live in peace and security.
"But what you just read -- I do believe that. Israel was subjected to terrorist attacks, has every right to destroy terrorists. But we had in the Gaza are, not a very large area, some 10,000 civilians who were wounded and some 1,500 who were killed... Was that a disproportionate attack? The answer is I believe it was."
"And 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, if we are ever going to bring peace to that region that has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity... One has got to say that right now in Gaza unemployment is somewhere around 40 percent. You got a lot of that area continues -- it hasn't been rebuilt, decimated. Housing decimated, health care decimated, schools decimated. I believe the United States and the rest of the world has got to work together to help the Palestinian people. That does not make me anti-Israel. That paves the way, I think, to an approach that works in the Middle East."
Clinton responded with a staunch defense of Israel, repeating talking points straight out of the Netanyahu government and its lobby here:
"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. And so when it came time after they had taken the incoming rockets, taken the assaults and ambushes on their soldiers, and they called and told me ... they were getting ready to have to invade Gaza again because they couldn't find anyone to talk to to tell them to stop it... I don't know how you run a country if you are under constant threat..."
Here was the extent of Clinton's criticism of Israel:
"That doesn't mean that you don't take appropriate precautions, and there's always second guessing when you have a war."
If you blinked, you missed that.
"You evaded the question, the question is not does Israel have a right to respond, not does Israel have a right to go after terrorists... Was their response disproportionate? I believe that it was. You haven't answered that."
There were audible boos from the audience as Clinton said: