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Gaza is ‘one of the great humanitarian disasters’

US Senator Bernie Sanders says he believes what is happening currently in Gaza is “one of the great humanitarian disasters in modern history,” and that he has reached out to President Joe Biden to try to get him to change his policy on the conflict.

“Joe Biden is an old friend of mine. I’ve known him for many years,” he told Miriam O’Callaghan of RTÉ’s Prime Time. “We’ve worked together on some, I think, very successful projects. But on this issue, he’s wrong. Very wrong.”

“You’re talking about 27,000 people already been killed. Almost 70,000 people who have been injured. You’re talking about 1.8 million, 80% of the people, displaced. Can you imagine? That’s half the size of Ireland,” he said.

“My own view from day one is Hamas is a jihadist, disgusting, terrorist organisation that started this war by killing 1200 innocent people [and] taking 200 people hostage. Israel has a right to defend itself, but it does not have a right to go to war against the entire Palestinian people.”

“That the United States Congress is prepared to give Netanyahu and his right wing government another $10 billion in order to continue this war. That is to be beyond belief,” he added.

Senator Sanders is in Ireland to appear at the Dalkey Book Festival, and spoke to Prime Time prior to an event in University College Dublin.

He said he was hopeful the Biden White House would change its approach to the conflict “for a couple of reasons.”

“I think there is a lot of grassroots pressure all over the United States of ordinary people saying ‘what are we doing? Why are you giving this extreme right-wing government in Israel, another $10 billion to continue starving children? We don’t, we don’t support that.’”

“And there is an election coming up and if Biden is going to win reelection – and I am going to do my best to see that he wins reelection – you can’t turn off and alienate millions of young people and immigrant people, Palestinians and others, who feel very strongly on this issue.”

Watch: Miriam O’Callaghan interviews US Senator Bernie Sanders

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The senator for Vermont comes from a Jewish family, and has built his career on campaigning for what he considers progressive and civil rights issues.

In his latest book, ‘It’s Okay To Be Angry About Capitalism’ he argues that unfettered capitalism is responsible for an ‘unprecedented level of income and wealth inequality, undermining our democracy, and destroying the planet.’

“We have a situation in the United States where we have billionaires who pay less in effective tax rates than do cab drivers or nurses,” he said.

Asked about his position on tax, he said his belief is a global system can be created to ensure far less income inequality exists worldwide.

“I think you advocate for 50% on earnings over €50,000, 33% on inheritance tax, 33% on interest on bank accounts,” Ms O’Callaghan put to him “But we’ve pretty much got that here. And people will tell you in Ireland, this is not a paradise…”

“Well, there are no paradises on earth,” the senator responded, “but the idea that you have billionaires not only not paying their fair share of taxes in a given country, but stashing what amounts to trillions of dollars in tax havens all over the world is, is outrageous.”

“So what we need is the global community to come together and to tell these oligarchs that we cannot tolerate their greed any longer. We need a global economy that works for all, not just the few,” he added.

Miriam O’Callaghan’s interview with Bernie Sanders features on the Thursday 15 February edition of Prime Time at 9.35pm on RTÉ One television.

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