On the fifth anniversary of the worst antisemitic attack in U.S. history, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is Jewish, posted on Oct. 27: “Today, we remember and mourn for the victims lost five years ago in the devastating massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue.”
“We must remain committed to fighting all forms of bigotry, antisemitism, intolerance, racism and xenophobia,” Sanders added.
The post, which has been viewed 6.4 million times, has drawn more than 2,000 comments. Many used antisemitic language to describe the progressive politician and asked why he didn’t mention innocent Gazans as well. Others insisted that he call for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, as some of his former staffers did in a recent video.
“The replies to this should be a reminder that Jews are not even allowed to mourn their dead without being attacked,” wrote Josh Kaplan, head of digital at London’s Jewish Chronicle.
“If you’re raging against Bernie for simply recognizing the anniversary of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, then it isn’t Palestinian lives you care about and the government of Israel you oppose; you’re just a hate-filled antisemite,” wrote Ashton Pittman, news editor of the nonprofit Mississippi Free Press.
Pittman added that he said that as “someone who unequivocally condemns genocide against Palestinians.” Sanders hasn’t used the term “genocide” to describe the Palestinian condition but he does frequently refer to Palestinians as “occupied.”
In a 2019 Jewish Currents article about antisemitism, Sanders wrote of Palestinians being “crushed underneath a military occupation now over a half-century old, creating a daily reality of pain, humiliation and resentment.”
On Oct. 25, Sanders spoke on the Senate floor about “the horrific situation in Israel and Gaza.” He said that “Hamas terrorists waged a barbarous attack against Israel, killing over 1,400 innocent men, women and children” on Oct. 7.
“Young people at a music festival were machine-gunned down in cold blood, babies and older people were brutally murdered, and over 200 Israelis and Americans are being held as hostages,” he said. “Some people describe the Oct. 7 attack on Israel as the equivalent to the 9/11 terrorist attack against the United States. That is wrong.
“Israel is a small country, with under 10 million people. On a per capita basis, the 1,400 Israelis killed by Hamas would be the equivalent of over 40,000 Americans killed, if Israel had the same size population as we do,” he said. “On 9/11, as everybody recalls, we lost 3,000 people.”
Israel has “the absolute right” to defend itself, he said, but added that that doesn’t mean it can violate international law and “wage indiscriminate warfare against innocent men, women and children in Gaza.”
“The people of Israel have gone through a horrific and traumatic shock. It is understandable that they are furious and want to strike back forcefully,” Sanders added. “Revenge, however, is not a useful policy. Killing innocent Palestinian women and children in Gaza will not bring back to life the innocent Israeli women and children who have been killed. It will only make a terrible situation even worse and more intractable.”
On social media, Sanders noted on Monday that Washington “provides $3.8 billion a year to Israel.” The White House and Congress “must make it clear: Israel has the right to defend itself and destroy Hamas terrorism, but it does not have the right to use U.S. dollars to kill thousands of innocent men, women and children in Gaza.”
Sanders wrote on Oct. 28 that the “humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire and getting worse by the minute,” and wrote twice in the prior three days about the need for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting.