Town Hall Shout-Down: Sen. Bernie Sanders Yells 'Shut Up!'

Image: Town Hall Shout-Down: Sen. Bernie Sanders Yells 'Shut Up!' Independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders. (Micheal Reynolds/EPA/Landov)

Thursday, 21 Aug 2014 11:30 AM

By Andrea Billups

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A discussion over the Israel-Palestine conflict at a town hall gave way to incivility for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who got caught up in an emotional shouting match and ended up telling hecklers to "shut up!"

The liberal Sanders, who has called himself a socialist, was speaking to a group of voters in Cabot, Vermont. He began to offer his opinions about fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza and the discussion quickly got overheated as hecklers denounced him, The Washington Post reported.

"Sanders began to answer a question about the conflict by saying that Israel had 'overreacted,' but that Hamas was firing missiles into Israel from 'populated areas,' and later said the militant Palestinian Islamist group did not want Israel to exist," the Post wrote in describing Sanders' comments, which sparked the exchange.

Later, as members of the audience shouted one another down, Sanders could barely get a word in. He expressed his frustrations.

"Excuse me, shut up!" the senator, an independent, yelled. "You don't have the microphone."

His outburst did little to quell tensions in the room as one attendee shot back: "What, are you going to arrest people?"

Sanders also was met with profanity as the event devolved and tempers flared over the politically sensitive issue.

The Post noted that Sanders was in a vulnerable spot as some progressives from his home state want him to condemn Israel just as he supported a Senate resolution offering Israel unwavering U.S. support. Sanders, however, did not sign off on the bill as co-sponsor.

According to National Review, which posted video of the town hall exchange, Sanders described Israel's engagement as an overreaction, but he also split the difference, noting that Hamas had used badly needed construction materials to build underground tunnels used as a military travel path into Israel.

Sanders laid out the case for Israel diplomatically, telling his constituents there that Hamas doesn't think that Israel has the right to exist. Those words set one woman off as she used profanity to denounce Israel, and as she described Hamas as "not just a terrorist group — it's a service organization," the National Review reported.

Sanders is among a group of politicians on the left who have remained steadfast in their support of Israel, the Daily Beast noted — even as many of the so-called American left, according to a Gallup poll, think Israel has "gone too far" in the latest conflict with Gaza.

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