By ZEINAB NAJM
Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigned in Michigan before the March 10 presidential primary election, hosting a rally and town hall in Dearborn and visiting a polling site in Dearborn Heights.
The estimated 900 people who gathered March 7 at the Salina Intermediate School gymnasium in Dearborn cheered as Sanders spoke about pollution, Green New Deal, healthcare, immigration reform, trade agreements and Enbridge Line 5.
“I get inspired,” he said. “Sometimes people say, ‘Bernie, you’re 33 years of age. How do you keep going?’ I get inspired because I talk to groups like this. I look around this room and I see people coming from so many different backgrounds, it is beautiful. This is what America looks like at it’s best.
“The very first thing we do is we bring people together and stop the divisiveness in this country, every person in this room, it doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Muslim, Jewish, whatever you may be, you have the same dreams and aspirations.
“Last I heard, everyone needs health care as a human right. Last I heard, everyone wants their kids to get a quality education. Last I heard, everybody who turns on the water faucet wants to make sure the water coming out is clean, not toxic.”
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-15th District) and Islamic Institute of America Imam Sayed Hassan Qazwini each spoke in support of the senator.
“He is a candidate who is funded by the people, who has a working people agenda,” Hammoud said. “He has a voting track record of voting against trade agreements that sold out our union sisters and brothers, he has a track record of being the environmental justice candidate that wants to enact a Green New Deal, and he is the candidate time and time again willing to mobilize with this community understanding it does not matter the direction in which you pray, what matters is the direction in which you lead. That is Bernie Sanders.”
“We’ve got a remarkable leader who’s chosen to stand up on a set of principles,” El-Sayed said, “who’s chosen to stand up to the powerful corporations, who’s chosen to articulate a vision forward that says in fact if we can come together, if we can build the kind of America — the kind of movement that believes in itself and believes in our future, then in fact we cannot only solve these problems, but we can win the future for those values, we can transform this country, we can build a more just, equitable and sustainable America for everyone. A place where it shouldn’t matter the color of your skin, matter how you pray, who you love, how you identify. That this America dignifies you because it’s not about me, it’s about us.”
“Bernie Sanders is not a politician,” Qazwini said. “I attest to that — he is a man of honor, he is a man of principle and he proved that. We will vote for someone who will stick to his principles and he will promote unity and brotherhood among Americans and who will not discriminate against any minority and I believe that is Senator Bernie
On March 9, Sanders answered questions during a town hall hosted by Fox News and co-moderated by chief political anchor and Bret Baier and “The Story’s” Martha MacCallum at the University of Michigan-Dearborn Fieldhouse.
A main topic Sanders has addressed in the past and during his recent campaign was the about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which a UM-D student asked about as a Palestinian-American himself.
“Well you know, Sharif, this has been an issue that we have struggled with for many, many decades,” Sanders responded. “But this is what I will tell you. And I tell you this as a Jewish-American, somebody who as a kid lived on a kibbutz in Israel. The United States cannot continue to maintain a one-sided policy toward the Middle East.
“What we need — Israel needs absolutely to be guaranteed the right to live in peace and security, no question about that, and I will defend that right. But the Palestinian people need also to understand that the United States believes they have a right to live in dignity and with justice.
“And what I am very concerned about — what I am very concerned about is over many years, especially under (Israel Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu, we have seen a right-wing drift in Israel. I have called Netanyahu a racist. I believe that is true.
“On the other hand, when you look at Gaza, you’re looking at a terrible, terrible situation where youth unemployment is, I believe, somewhere around 60 or 70 percent. People are unable to leave – serious health conditions. That is unsustainable.
“So what the United States has got to do, and I’m not here to tell you it is easy, but to treat both sides with respect. We are putting a lot of money into Israel and to say, ‘You know what? You just can’t use that money on weapons. We want you to sit down with the Palestinians.
“I know it’s hard. Let’s work out a two-state solution. Let’s end the encroachment of the settlements on Palestinian land. Let’s see what we can do, but we cannot consistently and continue to have just a pro-Israel policy.”
Sanders made a stop in Dearborn Heights at the Canfield Community Center, where he briefly spoke to a group outside of the polling site on election day.
“As all of you know, what is so exciting about our campaign is that we’re not just running for president,” he told the gathering. “We’re putting together a multi-generational, multiracial, grassroots movement of people from all walks of life,” he said. “I’m so proud that we have the strongest grassroots political movement that we have seen in the modern history of this country.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])