Last week, the New York Daily News did an interview with Bernie Sanders in which Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza (Operation Protective Edge) came up. When the interview was published, all hell broke loose.
“He accused us of a blood libel,” Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, fumed. “He accused us of bombing hospitals. He accused us of killing 10,000 Palestinian civilians. Don’t you think that merits an apology?” An Israeli cabinet minister dismissed Sanders’s “weird and loony statement.” The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) urged Sanders to “correct his misstatements.”
So, what did Sanders actually say?
He said, inter alia, that he supported Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish state”; that “we cannot ignore the reality that you have large numbers of Palestinians who are suffering now, poverty rate off the charts, unemployment off the charts, Gaza remaining a destroyed area”; that Israel “cannot just simply expand when it wants to expand with new settlements…. the expansion was illegal, moving into territory that was not their territory, I think withdrawal from those territories is appropriate”; that he “absolutely” condemned “all terrorist acts. The idea that in Gaza there were buildings being used to construct missiles and bombs and tunnels, that is not where foreign aid should go”; that he opposed Palestinians going to the International Criminal Court; and that he believed Hamas was a “terrorist organization.”
None of this is exceptional. It’s just the “new normal” among liberal American Jews.
What, then, provoked the hysterical response? The allegedly libelous passages regarding the Israeli assault on Gaza read as follows:
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.… I’m just telling you that I happen to believe…anybody help me out here, because I don’t remember the figures, but my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza. Does that sound right?… I don’t have it in my number [sic]…but 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.