Seven times worse than Hamas: Bernie Sanders by the numbers

Op-ed: The Democratic candidate was unavailable Tuesday to correct his casual traducing of Israel via a grossly inflated Gaza death toll. He was doubtless too busy winning Wisconsin. Heaven help us

David Horovitz

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin" (1996). He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004).

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, waves to the crowd with his wife, Jane Sanders, during a campaign rally at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming, on April 5, 2016. (Blaine McCartney/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, waves to the crowd with his wife, Jane Sanders, during a campaign rally at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming, on April 5, 2016. (Blaine McCartney/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP)

Bernie Sanders exacerbated his shockingly under-informed address on Israel from late last month with an interview to the New York Daily News this week in which he casually traduced Israel.

In his March speech — which he said he would have delivered at AIPAC’s Washington policy conference if only they’d let him read it out over satellite — he demanded that Israel remove its blockade from Gaza while simultaneously professing to support Israelis’ “right to live in peace and security.” Needless to say — or rather, evidently, needful to say to Sanders — backing Israelis’ right to live in peace and security entails working to ensure that terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction are not allowed to import the weaponry they need to achieve that goal. Demanding that Israel end the Gaza blockade is tantamount to demanding that Hamas be enabled to freely bring in rockets, missiles and all manner of other military equipment to expedite Israel’s demise. Only a politician who supports Hamas — such as Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan — or one with a grossly inadequate understanding of Israel and its challenges could possibly endorse such a position.

In his New York Daily News interview, Sanders dismally reconfirmed that he falls into the latter category. The would-be president castigated Israel for an ostensibly “indiscriminate” war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, and, while admitting that he didn’t really know the facts, asserted, twice, that Israel killed over 10,000 innocent civilians in the course of that conflict.

Over 10,000 innocent civilians? That’s seven times the self-serving figure asserted by Hamas, the terror group that runs Gaza, and gleefully adopted by the UN Human Rights Council, the sham body that obsessively loathes Israel. According to Hamas, 1,462 civilians were killed. The Israeli authorities believe the true figure was far lower, both because Hamas inflated the overall numbers of combatants and noncombatants killed, and because Hamas deliberately misrepresents many of its own dead gunmen, who often fought out of uniform, as civilians — to demonize Israel, and to minimize its own losses. Israel also stresses that Hamas deliberately placed Gazans in harm’s way by putting its rocket launchers and terror tunnel openings in and around their homes. Finally, Israeli officials note that no civilians whatsoever would have been killed had Hamas not chosen to maintain its violent hostility to Israel, which since 2005 has had no civilian presence and no military presence whatsoever in the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, Israel did what much of the world — including Bernie Sanders — would have it do in the West Bank: It left. And war followed.

None of this has made any impact on Bernie Sanders because, quite evidently, he hasn’t bother to look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with any seriousness. This, despite asserting in that non-delivered but widely disseminated speech from last month that “issues impacting Israel and the Middle East are of the utmost importance to me, to our country and to the world.”

Only the laziest, most superficial presidential contender could allow himself to throw around false and incendiary numbers in the way that Sanders did in his New York Daily News conversation. This was by no means the only instance of him proving himself lacking in knowledge and rigor, but it was the most clear-cut and dismal, and it’s worth quoting in full.

“I don’t remember the figures, but my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza. Does that sound right?” Sanders ventured initially.

His interlocutors told him he was likely wrong: “I think it’s probably high, but we can look at that,” someone from the Daily News replied, according to the paper’s transcript.

But Sanders, undeterred and un-correctable, insisted on repeating it, even as he again acknowledged that he didn’t really know what he was talking about: “I don’t have it in my number…but I think it’s over 10,000,” he persisted. “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.”

Yes, Mr. Sanders, a lot of homes were leveled, and other civilian facilities were targeted — when and where Israel determined that Hamas was using civilian infrastructure to shield its military infrastructure, and overwhelmingly after Israel had attempted to minimize the likely civilian impact. Sounds complicated? Well, yes, Mr. Sanders, fighting a terror group that ousted a slightly less evil leadership and now runs Gaza’s government, subverting all relevant resources to its avowed goal of destroying Israel, is complicated. Understanding those complications requires taking a little time and making a little effort. And that, all too clearly, is something Bernie Sanders is proving abidingly disinclined to do.

The Times of Israel on Tuesday reached out to the Sanders campaign, to invite him to correct his sevenfold inflation of the already likely inflated Hamas figures for Gaza’s 2014 dead, and to apologize for the error.

Correction and apology came there none. Unsurprisingly, perhaps. He and his staff were doubtless preoccupied with his triumph in Wisconsin. Yes, indeed. How could you not want a man of his caliber as president?

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