Sanders to try again to ban aid to Israel
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont. | Charles Krupa/AP

WASHINGTON—This time Bernie Sanders is pulling no punches. The carnage the Israeli military has inflicted upon civilians in Gaza is so appalling that he wants to cut off all U.S. military aid to Israel—offensive and defensive.

And that stand flies directly in the face of Democratic President Joe Biden and congressional leaders of both parties, who seek more military aid for Israel in its war on the people of Gaza.

Sanders announced his intent on February 2, two months after he first announced—and later failed–at an aid cutoff. Then, the Vermont independent, an anti-war activist for decades, said he just wanted to cut off $10 billion in offensive military aid.

This time, Sanders, who is also the only senator to have lived in Israel, on a kibbutz for a year in the mid-1960s, was upfront about his aims. He cited the bloodshed the Israeli military, under direction of far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and extremists in his Cabinet, have perpetrated on Gazans.

Sanders said his amendment would “end U.S. complicity in Netanyahu’s war on the Palestinian people.” He wants to change a Senate legislative package that now combines military aid both to Israel and the Ukraine ($100 billion) with a GOP-demanded migrant crackdown at the Mexican border.

Sanders didn’t draw much Senate support for his aid cut the first time around. It lost 11-72. But this time, a new poll shows he has more popular support, and more distrust of Israel.

“27,000 dead–two-thirds of them women and children. 67,000 wounded. 1.8 million displaced from their homes,” Sanders said on February 2. “70% of housing units damaged or destroyed. And now, hundreds of thousands of children facing starvation.

“This is unacceptable. The United States cannot be complicit in this humanitarian disaster.

“That is why I will be offering an amendment to the supplemental (aid) bill to ensure zero funding for the continuation of Netanyahu’s illegal, immoral war against the Palestinian people.”

The survey, of 1,152 registered voters, from January 25-29 by the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, shows only 31% believe Biden is correctly handling the war crisis, including aid to Israel. That’s down six percentage points since November.

And it’s his own Democratic Party members who are deserting Biden: 46% supported him  in January, down 13 percentage points since November.

Opposed to Israeli response

Besides being down on Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war, poll respondents are increasingly souring on Netanyahu’s overwhelming military response and on whether the U.S. and Israel share common values.

The AP-NORC survey shows 50% of Americans say “Israel has gone too far” in its military response, up 10 percentage points from November. Some 31% call Israel’s overwhelming response “about right.” The difference was 40%-38% in November. And 15% now say Israel “has not gone far enough” against Hamas. The survey has a sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Whether Israel and the U.S. share the same values draws even less support: 35% now, down from 44% in November. Despite that, 44% said the U.S. “should cooperate with Israel as a partner.” That’s up from 40% in November.

Hamas and other groups took more than 200 hostages, according to Israel and the United States. Around half that number, mostly women, children and the elderly, have been released during temporary ceasefires, which also allowed a trickle of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Sanders’s complete aid ban attracted several groups to lobby lawmakers in person during February 5-8. CodePink spokeswoman Melissa Garriga said they include her group, plus the Council on American-Islamic Relations, American Muslims for Palestine, Veterans for Peace, Doctors Against Genocide and Teachers Against Genocide.

The aid package also yields to prior Republican demands for a “crackdown” on migration—including by asylum seekers–into the U.S.

Or at least they were Republican demands until former GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump declared the whole package stinks, saying “a bad bill is worse than none at all.” That led the House’s ruling Republicans to bow to Trump and they now call the bill “dead on arrival.” They’re floating their own $17.5 billion Israel-only aid measure, with no conditions on it, and nothing about migration or  Ukraine.

Trump wants to stir up hatrede of migrants as a campaign issue against Biden. He fears approval of the foreign aid-immigration package would give the president a “win” he can tout on the campaign trail, and take away an issue Trump, the indicted/convicted fascist coup plotter, tax and real estate values cheat and serial misogynist, can use to rouse his nativist legions.

The hypocrisy of Republicans on immigration is exposed every day. As this went to press the GOP-run state of Arkansas, for example, was running an advertising campaign to attract immigrant youth to the state to work as child laborers in institutions that serve alcohol, for example. The message is “don’t believe what we say, the reality is that we want you.” Use of immigrant youth as child laborers in industries the GOP claims children ahould be protected from is just another example of their deep hypocrisy.

Trump, leader in current polls among Republicans, also declares he’d be a dictator “on day one” if elected to the White House again. Nobody believes he’d stop at day one,

Trump puzzled Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., the lead Senate Republican negotiator on migration and the border who’s been hashing out details with Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

“I’m a little confused how it’s worse than they expected when it builds the border wall, expands deportation flights, expands ICE officers, Border Patrol officers, detention beds, how it creates a faster process for deportations, clears up a lot of the long-term issues and loopholes that have existed in the asylum law and then gets us an emergency authority that stops the chaos right now on the border,” Lankford told a conference call with reporters.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.