As the New York primary heats up, it’s terrific news that the media and Bernie Sanders are sparring over how many civilians Israel killed in Gaza in 2014. Sanders’s Jewishness is obviously giving this story resonance. The fact that Sanders is Jewish sends a signal to all Americans that it’s not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel. As Israel supporter Anne Bayefsky writes:
#BernieSanders slanders Jewish state to win Democratic votes. Pathetic.
Sanders brought up the “Jewish state”‘s indiscriminate attacks on civilians and their homes first in a Daily News interview published on Monday, when he said that Israel had killed 10,000.
And so are Israeli officials. Former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren demanded that Bernie Sanders apologize for allegedly libeling Israel, and an Israeli cabinet minister called on Sanders to apologize earlier today. Jerusalem Post:
Science, Space and Technology Minister Ophir Akunis said on Saturday that US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders should apologize to Israel for misstating the number of Palestinian casualties during the 2014 war with Gaza.
“Sanders has spread horrible lies against the State of Israel and he needs to apologize as soon as possible,” Akunis said… “We cannot interfere in the internal elections of the United States, but when there is libelous misinformation being spread against Israel, we need to react and stand firm on the truth and the facts.”
On MSNBC Friday, Sanders amended his comments to say that Israel had killed over 2,000 civilians in Gaza. “It turns out that, according to the United Nations, over 2,000 civilians were killed.”
The number is actually closer to 1486, including 532 children, according to Khelil Bouarrouj at the Institute for Palestine Studies’ site Palestine Square, Bouarrouj says that Sanders’s original 10,000 number is a good tally of casualties in that operation and is also not far off as a count of killings over a 15 year period.
his claim was likely an honest confusion: 10,626 is the number of Palestinians that were injured in [Operation Protective Edge of 2014], according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah while 1,486 Palestinian civilians, including 532 children, were killed, according to UNOCHA (the UN agency in charge of humanitarian affairs). The figure on the Israeli side was 5 civilians, including one child.
Sanders was entirely right about Israel’s massive destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure. To quote the UN report again, “Some half a million people were displaced at the height of hostilities, and approximately 108,000 were made homeless. Around 13 per cent of the housing stock was damaged, including up to 20,000 homes totally destroyed or rendered uninhabitable.”
Between September 2000 and August 2015, 10,565 Palestinians, mainly civilians, were either directly killed by Israel or died as a result of Israel’s occupation (such as being denied access to medical care at a military checkpoint). In the same period, 1,216 Israelis were killed, of whom 551 were civilians. (428 were soldiers or other security personnel and 230 were settlers.) (Source: Journal of Palestine Studies.)
Between January 2000 and January 2016, Israeli forces killed 1,977 Palestinian children—that is an average of 2–3 Palestinian children per week, or over 130 per year, since 2000. (Source: Defense for Children International-Palestine.) The number of Israeli children killed at the hands of Palestinian militants from September 2000 to July 2014 is 131. (Source: Remember These Children.)
Meantime, there’s another Sanders story with a religious dimension in the news. The candidate has accepted an invitation from the Vatican to speak at a conference on economic and social issues in Rome next Friday, a day after his debate with Hillary Clinton in New York. The joke is that of all the presidential candidates, Pope Francis has summoned the Jewish one. For his part, Sanders has frequently praised the pontiff’s values.
Bloomberg Politics says the trip is political, a bid for NY’s Catholic voters. But Sanders’s people deny they engineered the invite:
“The invitation came to the senator from the Vatican.” [said spokesman Michael Briggs]. His campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said the trip wasn’t calculated to help the candidate’s appeal to Catholic voters in the New York primary.
Sanders’s travel to the Vatican, a day after a debate with Clinton and just before the primary, injects into the Democratic nominating contest the agenda of Pope Francis, one of the most popular world leaders whose papacy is especially admired by the political progressives who play an outsized role in Democratic primaries.