Bernie Sanders responds to Netanyahu’s accusations of antisemitism in criticism of Israeli policies

It is not considered antisemitic to criticize the policies of the Israeli government, according to US Senator Bernie Sanders.

US Senator Bernie Sanders pushed back on remarks made by the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who compared pro-Palestinian protests at US universities to the rise of Nazism in Germany. US police arrested over 80 protesters on Wednesday in a crackdown on pro-Palestine demonstrations taking place at dozens of universities across the country. Students have been demanding that Washington cease all funding for the Israeli military and “stop giving them any more money to continue this genocide,” referring to the ongoing Israeli offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza.

In a video posted on Twitter on Friday, Sanders, the progressive senator from Vermont – who is Jewish – accused Netanyahu of insulting “the intelligence of the American people” by using antisemitism to distract attention from the policies of his “extremist and racist government” in the military offensive in Gaza. “No, Mr Netanyahu, it is not antisemitic or pro-Hamas to point out that, in a little over six months, your extremist government has killed over 34,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 78,000,” Sanders said, stressing that 70% of these were women and children.

The US senator further stated that it is “not antisemitic” to point out that Israeli bombing has completely destroyed more than 221,000 housing units in Gaza, leaving more than a million people homeless and obliterating Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. Sanders also pointed out that Netanyahu’s government had unreasonably blocked humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza, causing “thousands of children [to] face malnutrition and famine.”

“Mr Netanyahu, antisemitism is a vile and disgusting form of bigotry that has done unspeakable harm to many millions of people,” Sanders said in the conclusion of his two-and-a-half-minute speech. “But please, do not insult the intelligence of the American people by attempting to distract us from the immoral and illegal policies of your extremist and racist government. … It is not antisemitic to hold you accountable for your actions.”

Sanders’ comments came one day after a video statement released by Netanyahu in which the PM waded into the issue of protests sweeping American university campuses, claiming not enough was being done to combat a “horrific” rise in antisemitism. “Anti-Semitic mobs have taken over leading universities,” Netanyahu claimed. “They call for the annihilation of Israel. They attack Jewish students. They attack Jewish faculty. This is reminiscent of what happened in German universities in the 1930s,” the PM stated, urging that “it has to be stopped.” A surge of demonstrations came in the wake of Israel’s relentless retaliatory bombardment of Gaza, following the October 7 attack by Hamas. The Israeli offensive has caused unprecedented destruction in the enclave and has left more than 34,000 dead, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.