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April 7, 2016 4:25 pm

Major Jewish Organizations Decry Bernie Sanders’ ‘Wildly Inaccurate’ Claim That ‘Over 10,000 Innocent People Killed in Gaza’; Candidate Disputes Account

avatar by Ruthie Blum

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, during a meeting with the editorial board of the New York Daily News. Photo: Screenshot.

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, during a meeting with the editorial board of the New York Daily News. Photo: Screenshot.

American Jewish leaders decried an allegation about Israel made by Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders during a meeting with the editorial board of the New York Daily News last Friday.

Responding to Sanders’ “recollection” that “over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza” – during Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s war against Hamas in the summer of 2014 — when “a whole lot of apartment houses were leveled” and “hospitals… bombed,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) and B’nai B’rith told The Algemeiner on Thursday why they were so incensed.

“The road to Senator Sanders’ repetition of this outrageous slander started with Hamas lies and the failure of an intimidated media in Gaza to do little but publish the original blood libel in their dispatches and mouth them on air,” SWC Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said. “But that is no excuse for a veteran senator, running for the presidency of the United States, who always had access to the real story. Secondly, his narrative doesn’t include the thousands of rockets fired at Israeli civilians from Gaza, and Hamas’ ongoing strategy of using its civilian infrastructure as a shield against Israel.”

Cooper was referring to the terrorist organization’s inflated death-toll numbers, and its use of populated apartment buildings, hospitals and even UN-run schools as bases for weapons caches and rocket-launching pads – both to prevent Israel from attacking the sites and to incur civilian casualties to present as statistics for foreign consumption.

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He called on Sanders — who also told the Daily News, “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” — to “immediately acknowledge that he made a huge error and apologize to the people of Israel.”

B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin was equally harsh in his criticism of the candidate.

“It appears that Sanders has accepted the Palestinian narrative on the Gaza war whole cloth,” he told The Algemeiner. “But let’s not even start with the wild inaccuracy of his number. Let’s talk about the fact that he didn’t even mention Hamas’ use of the population it rules in Gaza as human shields in those hospitals and apartment buildings he was referring to. Nor did he point out that Israel sent unprecedented warnings to the civilian population in Gaza to evacuate areas it was going to target, by dropping leaflets, sending emails and making phone calls – a practice unique to Israel during wartime.”

By failing to provide the context, Mariaschin said, Sanders was presenting the Hamas narrative, something that is “unacceptable.”

“We have had enough problems on this score without presidential candidates engaging in discourse that is full of wild inaccuracies on what happened during Operation Protective Edge. He should have educated himself before speaking about it, and it is now important that he do so for the future.”

Sanders, he said, “should issue not only a correction, but an apology.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also blasted Sanders for his “misstatements regarding the 2014 conflict between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas.”

In a statement released on Thursday, ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt asserted: “Even the highest number of casualties claimed by Palestinian sources that include Hamas members engaged in attacking Israel is five times less than the number cited by Bernie Sanders. As Mr. Sanders publicly discusses his approach to key US foreign policy priorities, including Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, accuracy and accountability are essential for the voting public, but also for US credibility in the international community.”

Sanders’ spokesman Michael Briggs on Thursday responded to the ADL’s request for clarification about his Gaza statements by claiming,”There is no candidate for president who will be a stronger supporter of Israel’s right to exist in freedom, peace and security,” and then going on the offensive. “As we go forward in this campaign, distorting the truth is not useful,” Briggs wrote. “We hope there can be an honest discussion of this important issue.”

He continued by providing his own account of the statements:

During a recent New York Daily News editorial board interview, Sanders was asked about the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. “Help me out here because I don’t remember the figures,” he said before saying his recollection was that 10,000 Palestinians were killed. He then immediately added, “Does that sound right?” The interviewer did a quick search and found that, in fact, more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed and 10,000 were wounded. The United Nations has estimated that 2,104 were killed, including 1,462 civilians. Understanding that his recollection was about the total number of casualties, not the death toll, the senator immediately accepted that correction and the discussion moved on to other topics.

The idea that Sen. Sanders stated definitely that 10,000 Palestinians were killed is just not accurate and a distortion of that discussion. Bringing peace between Israel and the Palestinians will not be easy. It would help if candidates’ positions on this issue are not distorted.

The 50-day Hamas war against Israel left 66 Israeli soldiers and six civilians dead; there were a total of 842 Israeli casualties during the conflict. On the other side, UN and Palestinian sources claimed that some 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza were killed, of whom 72 to 84 percent were civilians. There are strong reasons to contest these Palestinian figures and argue that the percentage of Gazan civilian casualties was fewer than 50 percent. On December 1, 2014, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported on its detailed, name-by-name analysis of 1,598 Palestinian fatalities in Operation Protective Edge that amounted to 75 percent of those who were killed. Of the fatalities who could be identified, about 45 percent were non-combatants, while 55 percent were combatants – nowhere near the levels of civilian losses that were discussed in the media.


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