The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) on Wednesday responded to remarks made by Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during a CNN town hall in Las Vegas on Tuesday evening.

In response to a question on how US-Israel relations would look under his administration, Sanders replied, "To be for the Israeli people and to be for peace in the Middle East does not mean that we have to support right-wing, racist governments that currently exist in Israel."

Sanders further said, “What American foreign policy has got to be about in the Middle East is bringing the Israelis, bring the Palestinians together under the banner of justice. We have the wealth to do it. It cannot just simply be that we’re just pro-Israel and we ignore the needs of the Palestinian people. We’ve got to pay attention to both.”

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said in response, “Sanders says he supports the Israeli people, just not their democratic government. As it happens, the policies that Sanders calls racist are supported by all the major contenders to be the next Israeli prime minister and by the vast majority of Israeli voters, because they defend the basic national security needs of the Jewish state.”

“It is outrageous that a mainstream US political party candidate for president would call the Israeli government racist. It’s especially ironic to hear that from Sanders, who has chosen virulently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic individuals to represent him as surrogates in his campaign and who has been endorsed by a Who’s Who of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic personalities,” added Brooks.

“Start with surrogates Linda Sarsour (who described herself as ‘an unapologetic pro-BDS, one-state solution supporting resistance supporter’) and Amer Zahr (who tweeted: ‘Describing defenders of Israel as 'scumbags,' 'pigs,' and 'bastards' is not necessary. 'Zionist' is sufficiently insulting"). Then there are the endorsements from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), whose anti-Semitic comments are well documented.”

Brooks noted that “[t]his is not the first time that Sanders has called Israel’s government ‘racist.’ In an April 2019 CNN town hall event, Sanders said of the peace process: ‘[The] goal must be to try to bring people together and not just support one country, which is now run by a right wing, dare I say, racist government.’"

“Last year he ‘dared’ to say it. This year, he said it and received applause from the CNN town hall audience.”

“This is just another example of the deepening and deeply troubling alienation between the Democratic Party and Israel,” concluded Brooks.

Sanders has repeatedly criticized President Donald Trump’s policy vis-à-vis Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and has argued that the US policy must be pro-Palestinian as well as pro-Israel.

Sanders has come under fire for his statements against Israel, most recently when he told the J Street conference that the US should redirect its aid to Israel and give it to Gaza instead, while calling the Israeli government “racist”.