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As one Jewish group praises Sanders’ Gaza backtrack, second says he has more to clarify

ADL welcomes candidate’s admission he got his 2014 death toll wrong; AJC wants him to walk back ‘stinging, unjust’ claim that Israel waged ‘indiscriminate’ war

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) arrives at a campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on April 4, 2016. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP)
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) arrives at a campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on April 4, 2016. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON — Hours after Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders acknowledged to the head of one American Jewish organization that he’d got his Gaza death toll numbers wrong, a second US Jewish group said his clarification had not gone far enough, and that he still needed to walk back his “stinging and unjust” claim that Israel waged an “indiscriminate” war in Gaza in 2014.

The Anti-Defamation League on Thursday afternoon said it “welcomed” the senator’s admission that his charge that Israel killed 10,000 innocents in Gaza was incorrect. (That number, cited twice by Sanders in a New York Daily News interview before he accepted a correction, is about seven times higher than the Hamas tally. His campaign later said he had conflated the number of dead with the number of total victims.)

But soon afterwards, the American Jewish Committee urged the senator to also “clarify his charge that Israel’s self-defensive response to deadly Hamas rocket fire and tunnel attacks that summer was ‘indiscriminate.'”

“Senator Sanders, in repeatedly calling Israel’s actions in Gaza ‘indiscriminate,’ has leveled a serious charge against Israel,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “This accusation flies in the face of everything we know — and military leaders around the world have testified — about Israel’s extraordinary care in fighting terrorists embedded in civilian populations.”

AJC Executive Director David Harris (courtesy American Jewish Committee)
AJC Executive Director David Harris (Courtesy American Jewish Committee)

Sanders, in an interview with the New York Daily News published Monday, had charged “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.”

Responded the AJC’s Harris: “In Gaza in the summer of 2014, the use by Hamas of residential areas, schools, mosques and hospitals to store and deploy weapons, and launch thousands of terrorist attacks against Israel — wave after wave of rockets and mortars fired against Israeli civilians — made Israel’s response excruciatingly challenging. Indeed, the harsh reality is that, because of the terrorists’ use of the Palestinian population as human shields, innocent lives were lost.

“But Israel’s response was anything but indiscriminate,” Harris went on. “It repeatedly warned the Palestinian population about imminent strikes. It incurred casualties among its own forces in exercising care to avoid harming civilians. Time and again, it called off strikes when civilians came into view. And, in the fog of war, when soldiers and officers made tragic misjudgments, the IDF command responded appropriately.

Concluded the AJC chief: “We look forward to Senator Sanders’ clarification of this stinging and unjust accusation against Israel.”

Earlier Thursday, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, MK Michael Oren, had called Sanders’ misrepresentation of the 2014 war “a blood libel” and demanded an apology.

“First of all, he should get his facts right. Secondly, he owes Israel an apology,” Oren said in an interview. “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?

“He doesn’t mention the many thousands of Hamas rockets fired at us,” Oren continued. “He doesn’t mention the fact that Hamas hides behind civilians. He doesn’t mention the fact that we pulled out of Gaza in order to give the Palestinians a chance to experiment with statehood, and they turned it into an experiment with terror. He doesn’t mention any of that. That, to me, is libelous.”

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