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‘Awful, Awful Leader’: Bernie Sanders Condemns Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at Harvard Talk

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks at a Harvard Institute of Politics JFK Jr. Forum on Friday. Sanders called for a two-state solution and condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks at a Harvard Institute of Politics JFK Jr. Forum on Friday. Sanders called for a two-state solution and condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. By Emily L. Ding
By Hable G. Fitsum and Leslie P. Nevarez, Contributing Writers

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for a two-state solution to end the war in Israel and Gaza and condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for waging war “against the Palestinian people” during a Harvard Institute of Politics forum on Friday.

While Sanders also asserted Israel’s right to defend itself, he denounced the current Israeli campaign which, he said, has led to a disastrous humanitarian crisis.

“Netanyahu is an awful, awful leader,” Sanders said. “I would not give a nickel more to that government unless I saw a radical change in policy.”

“It is a horrible, horrible situation, and it goes back — not to Oct. 7, but 75 years before that and maybe even further before that.”

Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a former IOP visiting fellow, introduced Sanders at the start of the event. Allison King, a journalist with decades of experience covering New England politics, moderated the talk with Sanders.

Sanders started the event with an address about economic inequality in the United States.

“We’re moving rapidly toward an oligarchic form of society,” he said. “Over the past 50 years, more than $50 trillion in wealth has been redistributed from the bottom 90 percent to the top 1 percent.”

“The current political system is corrupt, dominated by big money, and it influences both parties,” he added.

In turning the conversation to the future of American democracy, Sanders said both short term and long term solutions are required.

Sanders’ short term solution is for the American people to vote against former President Donald Trump in November’s presidential election.

“Joe Biden has got to be reelected,” he said. “If you choose not to vote for Biden — and Biden loses — I suspect you will long regret that decision.”

In the long term, Sanders called for a “nonviolent political revolution” to increase wages, promote trade unions, and improve healthcare for working class people.

“It is not acceptable that real wages today, after all of the explosion in technology, are lower than they were 50 years ago,” he said.

“In fact, these are not radical ideas,” Sanders added.

During the event, Sanders also praised U.S. President Joe Biden, who he ran against for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

“I think Biden is doing better,” Sanders said. “His campaign is getting smarter and I had feared it would not be.”

Despite public concern about Biden’s age and ability to serve as president, Sanders said that the president has “assembled good people around him” and is “listening to some progressive people.”

The discussion concluded with questions from students, where Sanders talked about the role that Harvard can play in addressing the solutions to issues in American democracy.

“We are on the Titanic, and it’s going down,” he said. “You have got to decide whether or not you can play a role in preventing that destruction.”

“I am here to urge you, with your very good education, to stand on the side of working families and people who are struggling,” he added.

Sanders said that the country needs people who are “prepared to get their hands dirty” and not just go to work in the private sector.

“We need you,” Sanders said.

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