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Saving Lives in the Middle East via Political Solution & the US via Health Reform

Bernie Sanders is eloquent on achieving just and stable peace for Palestinians and Israelis, and on achieving just and stable health insurance for US residents. Many thousands of lives will be saved with each of these critical reforms.

November 27, 2023

Justice for the Palestinians and Security for Israel
New York Times
Nov. 22, 2023
By Bernie Sanders

On Oct. 7, Hamas, a terrorist organization, unleashed a barbaric attack against Israel, killing about 1,200 innocent men, women and children, and taking more than 200 hostages.

Israel, in response, unleashed what amounts to total war against the Palestinian people. According to the Gaza health ministry, more than 12,000 Palestinians, about half of whom are children, have been killed and many more wounded. And the situation becomes more dire every day.

This is a humanitarian catastrophe that risks igniting a wider regional conflagration. We all want to end it as soon as possible.

Hamas has made it clear that its goal is perpetual warfare and the destruction of the state of Israel.

For those of us who believe in peace and justice, it is imperative that we do our best to provide Israelis and Palestinians with a thoughtful response that maps out a realistic path to addressing the reality we face today. Here are my thoughts as to the best way forward and how the United States can rally the world around a moral position that moves us toward peace in the region and justice for the oppressed Palestinian population.

We must demand an end to Israel’s indiscriminate bombing. Israel is at war with Hamas, not innocent Palestinian men, women and children.

There must also be a significant, extended humanitarian pause so that badly needed aid – food, water, medicine and fuel – can get into Gaza and save lives.

There must be no long-term Israeli re-occupation and Blockade of Gaza. If Hamas is going to be removed from power, as they must be, and Palestinians given the opportunity for a better life, an Israeli occupation of Gaza would be absolutely counterproductive and would benefit Hamas.

Israel must guarantee displaced Palestinians the absolute right to return to their homes as Gaza rebuilds.

There must be a commitment to broad peace talks to advance a two-state solution.

For many years, the United States has provided Israel substantial sums of money – with close to no strings attached. The blank check approach must end. The United States must make clear that… there are conditions… (and those conditions are listed above).

We must recommit to this effort. The stakes are just too high to give up.

Bernie Sanders
Statement to Physicians for a National Health Program on our 35th Anniversary
November 2023

Let me thank PNHP for the extraordinary work you have been doing for the last 35 years, making it clear that health care is a human right, not a privilege, and exposing the broken and disastrous current health care system. I don’t have to tell you that we are now spending almost twice as much per capita on health care as the people of any other country and yet we have 85 million uninsured/underinsured, that people right now cannot find a doctor, we don’t have enough nurses, we don’t have enough pharmacists, we don’t have enough mental health providers. This system is a disaster, and what we have got to continue to do is work to make sure that every man, woman and child has health care in this country as a human right. And when we do that, we not only are going to improve our life expectancy, not only going to keep people healthier, we’re going to reaffirm that, in a democracy, government works for the people and not just the insurance companies or the drug companies. So keep up the great work, and I look forward to working with you. Thank you.

Comment by: Jim Kahn and Don McCanne

We can be thankful that we have a politician like Bernie Sanders who will attempt to keep us headed in the direction that will bring justice to all, whether it is in the current military crisis in Israel and Gaza, or it is in our own disastrous expensive but inadequate health care system.

In fact, when you compare the two tragic circumstances, we should be even more reactive to the circumstances. The war tragically caused initially a loss of 1,200 innocent Israeli lives followed by a loss of 12,000 innocent Palestinian lives. But what is our dysfunctional health care system costing us? Due to our fragmented health insurance system, we are losing 300 lives per day, 2000 per week, 8000 per month, or 100,000 per year – all of them non-combatants.

On both accounts, these are fundamental moral issues that are dictated by our politicians. But who selects our politicians? We do! And on what basis? Hopefully we would choose them based on a solid understanding of actual facts and the moral implications of applying those facts.

Bernie Sanders presents the facts behind the Israel-Hamas war and the benevolent, moral outcome we would see if our nations had politicians that were selected based on what decisions they would make that were best for the people.

Although we are not seeing military destruction with the deficiencies in our health care system, we are seeing a tremendous loss of life, not to mention the great loss of resources due to our highly flawed financing system. We know that a well-designed single payer system would save those lives we are losing due to its current deficiencies, not to mention providing us with much greater value for our health care dollar.

Bernie Sanders has legislation in the Senate and Pramila Jayapal has legislation in the House that would provide the basis for what we at PNHP have been saying for 35 years: we need a system that will bring health care justice to us all. But, remember, it is us, the people, who must make efforts to understand the principles that will bring us a system that will save those lives and provide care for all of us, and then we must select politicians with the moral fortitude to enact such an ethically superior system.

We can no longer humor those with political viewpoints that place our government in the hands of individuals who cater to themselves and their billionaire friends by propagating populist, political fictions. We need to raise the political discourse to place us all on the same higher plane wherein truth and caring will remind everyone of the value of each human life.

About the Commentator, Jim Kahn

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Jim (James G.) Kahn, MD, MPH (editor) is an Emeritus Professor of Health Policy, Epidemiology, and Global Health at the University of California, San Francisco. His work focuses on the cost and effectiveness of prevention and treatment interventions in low and middle income countries, and on single payer economics in the U.S. He has studied, advocated, and educated on single payer since the 1994 campaign for Prop 186 in California, including two years as chair of Physicians for a National Health Program California.

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