Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders has had a long and apparently often critical relationship with Israel.
One mystery that surrounded the 74-year-old senator’s past links to the Jewish state was the identity of the kibbutz on which he spent several months in 1963 as a volunteer. On Thursday, veteran Israeli journalist Yossi Melman announced that the Democratic hopeful had named it in an interview with him more than 25 years ago.
In 1990, on the eve of his election to the US House of Representatives as a socialist, Sanders named the kibbutz where he volunteered as Sha’ar HaAmakim, a fact Melman published in his Haaretz interview.
But the very fact that journalists had to go to the archives in an effort to sleuth out the location of the 22-year-old Sanders’s volunteering highlights the senator’s reticence in raising his views on and ties to Israel in the current campaign.
Sanders has long been critical of Israeli settlement building and its conduct of recent fighting against Hamas in Gaza, but has also been vocal about Israel’s right to defend itself against attack.
The republication of the 1990 interview last week suggests that Sanders’s criticism is not new.
“I’d like to see the United States pressing Israel more on the Palestinian issue,” he said in 1990, according to an English translation of the Hebrew translation of Sanders’s original English-language interview with Melman.
He also had some choice words about Israel’s willingness to sell weapons in the Western Hemisphere at the time.
“As a Jew, I feel quite ashamed at Israel’s involvement in this continent” – i.e., Central and South America. “It’s embarrassing that Israel of all nations is selling guns to the worst of all regimes. Why do you need to be the mercenaries of the American government?” he demanded.
In the 1990 article, reproduced Thursday on Haaretz’s website, Sanders told Melman that he visited Israel in 1963 as a guest of the leftist Zionist Hashomer Hatzair movement and stayed at its affiliated kibbutz, northeast of Haifa.
It’s not clear what drew Sanders to Israel; his older brother, Larry, was spending some time there. He also had earned some renown as a civil rights activist at the University of Chicago.
Sanders’s own reticence during this campaign to discuss his Jewish upbringing and his time in Israel, where he traveled with his first wife, Deborah Shiling, who also was Jewish, are reflected by his campaign, which has turned away queries about his Israel stay.
Read more at Times of Israel.