After suggesting the 2014 Gaza War resulted in the deaths of "over 10,000 civilians," presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) is in hot water with the Anti-Defamation League.
During an interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News, Sanders was asked about the fighting in 2014 and what Israel could have done differently to reduce casualties. Although he said he was reluctant to answer, he gave a lengthy response:
"I think it is fair to say that the level of attacks against civilian areas ... and I do know that the Palestinians, some of them, were using civilian areas to launch missiles. Makes it very difficult. But I think most international observers would say that the attacks against Gaza were indiscriminate and that a lot of innocent people were killed who should not have been killed. Look, we are living, for better or worse, in a world of high technology, whether it's drones out there that could, you know, take your nose off, and Israel has that technology. And I think there is a general belief that, with that technology, they could have been more discriminate in terms of taking out weapons that were threatening them."
The Daily News editorial board then asked if he supported the Palestinian Authority's attempts to use the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for war crimes. Sanders said he didn't, but pressed on the issue further, he made the following comments:
"I don't remember the figures, but my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza ... I think it's over 10,000. My understanding is that a whole lot of apartment houses were leveled. Hospitals, I think, were bombed. So yeah, I do believe and I don't think I'm alone in believing that Israel's force was more indiscriminate than it should have been."
That raised the ire of ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt, who said even the highest number of casualties claimed by Palestinian sources was "five times less" than the number Sanders cited. He said those Palestinian numbers included "Hamas members engaged in attacking Israel."
"As Mr. Sanders publicly discusses his approach to key U.S. foreign policy priorities, including Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, accuracy and accountability are essential for the voting public, but also for U.S. credibility in the international community," he said. "We urge Sen. Sanders to correct his misstatements."
Israel's former ambassador to the U.S from 2009 to 2013, Michael Oren, wasn't as kind in his response to Sanders' comments. Now a member of Israel's legislative body, The Knesset, he told The Times of Israel newspaper the senator owes Israel an apology.
"First of all, he should get his facts right. Secondly, he owes Israel an apology," he said. "He accused us of a blood libel. He accused us of bombing hospitals. He accused us of killing 10,000 Palestinian civilians. Don't you think that merits an apology?"
Sanders has since corrected his statement—after a phone conversation with Greenblatt—saying his "recollection was incorrect," and that it had been corrected during the course of the interview with the Daily News editorial board. Greenblatt said the senator assured him that he did not mean for his remarks to be a "definitive statement" and that he would make every effort to set the record straight.
The ADL has been keen to protect Israel's reputation, particularly against pro-Palestinian reports, which it calls "false and incendiary," that blame the Jewish state for applying disproportionate force in defending itself.
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