Bernie Sanders has done it again. He compared poverty in Baltimore to conditions of Palestinians in the West Bank. (http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/339308/bernie-sanders-compares-poverty-in-baltimore-to-conditions-in-palestine/) Connections have been made between the besieged African American community of Ferguson, Missouri, and the Palestinians under Israeli occupation, but those connections were made by Black Lives Matter protestors. That a mainstream politician and serious contender for the presidential nomination is drawing parallels between the oppression of African Americans and the oppression of the Palestinians is mind-boggling.
Especially in recent years, Palestinians have been getting fairer treatment by the mainstream media than in the past, but this honesty hasn’t penetrated mainstream American politics. It is extremely rare for either a Democrat or a Republican to offer serious criticism of Israel. This can’t be explained by the power of the pro-Israel lobby alone. A major factor in America’s nearly unconditional support for Israel is religious fanaticism, and not Jewish religious fanaticism. Evangelical Christians, a significant part of the Republican base, support Israel for theological reasons. https://theintercept.com/2015/04/15/religious-fanaticism-huge-factor-americans-support-israel/
In 2004, Evangelical preacher Pat Robertson explained Evangelical support for Israel this way:
“If God’s chosen people turn over to Allah control of their most sacred sites-if they surrender to Muslim vandals the tombs of Rachel, of Joseph, of the Patriarchs, of the ancient prophets-if they believe their claim to the Holy Land comes only from Lord Balfour of England and the ever fickle United Nations rather than the promises of Almighty God-then in that event, Islam will have won the battle. Throughout the Muslim world the message will go forth-“Allah is greater than Jehovah.” The promises of Jehovah to the Jews are meaningless.”
So when Hillary Clinton gives a speech to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC that could have been written by Benjamin Netanyahu, she is thinking of donors. But when Republican Ted Cruz pledges undying support for Israel, he isn’t pandering to AIPAC; he’s expressing his religious beliefs. Some Evangelical Christians believe that when all the Jews return to the Holy land, Christians, as well as those Jews who have accepted Jesus, will be raptured into Paradise. Everybody else is going to Hell.
Bernie Sanders is not a religiously committed Jew, but he speaks for many Jews, both secular and religious, who aren’t interested in hastening the end times and playing a role in bringing about the rapture. They care deeply about Israel and know that the occupation and continued oppression of the Palestinians is both morally indefensible and not in Israel’s long-term interests.