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Sanders calls Netanyahu 'reactionary racist'

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27th-Feb-2020       
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The Independent :
Bernie Sanders has called Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "reactionary racist", while saying he supports Israel during the latest Democratic debate.
Mr Sanders, who is one of the frontrunners in the contest, said he was "very proud" to be Jewish when he was asked about his position on Israel during the debate in Charleston, South Carolina. "I actually lived in Israel for some months. But what I happen to believe is that right now, sadly, tragically, in Israel through Bibi Netanyahu you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country," he added.
Mr Sanders said Israel's independence and security should be protected, but that "you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people."
He also suggestsed he would consider reversing President Trump's May 2018 decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
His comments come a few days after he raised his concerns about AIPAC, a pro-Israeli lobby group, tweeting on Sunday that it provides a platform "for leaders who express bigotry".
He added that he would not be attending this year's AIPAC conference as a result. Mr Sanders is not alone in claiming that Mr Netanyahu is racist.
Beto O'Rourke, who was then a Democratic presidential candidate, described Mr Netanyahu as a "racist" in April last year, saying he was an obstacle to peace in the Middle East.
Shortly before the Israeli election in September 2019, Mr Netanyahu's Facebook page was sanctioned for hate speech after one of its post warned against a government composed of "Arabs who want to destroy us all - women, children and men."
As a result, the page's automatic chat function was disabled for 24 hours.
Although he denied writing the post, Mr Netanyahu went on to call the Joint List, an alliance of Arab political parties, a "terrorist-supporting fifth column" in November. The Joint List became the third-largest faction in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, after the 2015 elections. His government also introduced the "nation-state" law in 2018, which controversially states that "the right to exercise national self-determination" in Israel is "unique to the Jewish people," and demoted Arabic as an official language. Critics denounced the law as racist.
On the day of the election in 2015, Netanyahu also warned that the "Arabs are voting in droves," for which he later apologised.
Israel's foreign minister denounced Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders on Wednesday for what he called his "horrifying comment" about Jerusalem, saying that those who support Israel would not back Sanders' presidential candidacy after such remarks.
At a contentious Democratic debate on Tuesday night in South Carolina, Sanders labeled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "reactionary racist" and said he'd consider reversing President Donald Trump's historic move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and return it to Tel Aviv.
In a daring foray into American domestic politics, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said there was a not a Jew in the world who "hasn't dreamed of Jerusalem" and Sanders words were so severe that he had no choice but to retort.
"We don't intervene in the internal American electoral process, which is splendid," Katz told Israel's Army Radio, before noting that Sanders had a long history of attacking Israel and the things most sacred to its identity and national security.
"Naturally, people who support Israel will not support someone who goes against these things," he added.
Sanders' comments at the debate came after he recently announced he would skip an appearance before the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, which he called a "platform for bigotry."
He's also called for cutting back American foreign aid to Israel and redirecting it to the Palestinians instead. Sanders, who if elected would become America's first Jewish president, doubled down Tuesday saying: "What you cannot ignore is the suffering of the Palestinian people."
Sanders prefaced his remarks by saying he was "very proud of being Jewish," and noted how he had volunteered in the 1960s on a socialist Israeli kibbutz, where he honed his leftist leanings. But his harsh criticism of modern-day Israeli policies, and embrace of supporters who have called to boycott Israel and been accused on anti-Semitism, has raised great concerns in the Jewish state about his surging candidacy.

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