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Bernie Sanders says Israel is ‘becoming a religious fundamentalist country’

Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders says Israel is ‘becoming a religious fundamentalist country’ under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Too many people do not understand that the Israel of today is not the Israel of…20 to 30 years ago,” Mr Sanders told news outlet Crooked Media. “It is a right-wing country, increasingly becoming a religious fundamentalist country where you have some of these guys in office believe that God told them they have a right to control the entire area.”

Mr Sanders has long been critical of the Israel-Hamas war, which began 7 October when Hamas militants attacked Israel,  killing some 1,200 people and taking another 200 hostage. Since then, more than 32,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, have been killed by Israeli attacks, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Now, half of Gaza’s population is facing imminent famine, the United Nations warns.

“So bottom line, Hamas committed an atrocity in my view, Israel certainly had the right to defend itself, but it did not and does not have the right to go to war against the entire Palestinian people,” Mr Sanders continued. “Two-thirds of the casualties and deaths are women and children. Unacceptable.”

Bernie Sanders has previously criticised Israel’s attacks on Gaza (Getty Images)
Bernie Sanders has previously criticised Israel’s attacks on Gaza (Getty Images)

Mr Sanders previously told The Independent he wants to “kill funding for Netanyahu’s war machine — period,” referring to ongoing US aid to Israel. He was one of only four members of the Senate Democratic caucus — along with Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and fellow Vermonter Peter Welch — who voted against a national security package last month that would provide aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. However, Mr Sanders has yet to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Meanwhile, US support for Mr Sanders’s position is growing. Some 55 per cent disapprove of Israel’s ongoing offensive in the besieged territory, while 36 per cent approve, according to a Gallup poll released on Wednesday, marking the first time a poll has found that a majority of Americans do not support the war. This is a significant shift from November when the same survey found most Americans were in favour.

The Biden administration has also begun to shift its position on aid to Palestinians.

On Monday, the US withheld its veto at the United Nations Security Council and allowed the body to pass a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in the war. This is the first time the US has done so since the war began; previously, the Biden administration used the US veto three times to block a ceasefire resolution in support of Israel’s continued offensive in Gaza.

Mr Netanyahu criticised the resolution, saying it “is not contingent on the release of hostages.”

On Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also said the civilian death toll in Gaza is “far too high” ahead of a meeting with his Israeli counterpart on Tuesday. Mr Austin also made an urgent call for Israel to increase the amount of aid it is allowing into Gaza to prevent a famine.