Bernie Sanders Daily News Israel

Bernie Sanders Daily News Israel Claims: ‘Weird And Loony,’ ‘Blood Libel’ Israeli Lawmakers Say, Demand Apology

The repercussions from the controversial Bernie Sanders New York Daily News interview continued on Thursday when a former Israeli ambassador to the United States blasted Sanders for factually incorrect remarks made in the interview, demanding that the presidential candidate apologize to Israel for what the former ambassador, Michael Oren, called a “blood libel” against the country.

The 60-year-old Oren, a member of Israel’s centrist Kulanu Party and part of Israel’s current ruling coalition government, was one of several Israeli officials who hit back at Bernie Sanders for his apparent claim in the Daily News interview, published Monday, that the Israeli military had killed “10,000 innocent people” in the 2014 war against Hamas in Gaza.

Bernie Sanders Daily News Israel
Former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren (r) [Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images]

The other top Israeli government officials, however, took a more relaxed attitude toward Sanders’ reportedly exaggerated remark.

According to the United Nations Human Rights Commission count, 2,251 Palestinians were killed in the conflict, of which 1,462 were civilians. The Israeli government disputes those numbers, saying in its own report that 2,125 Palestinians were killed in the 50-day war, including 761 civilians, about half the U.N. number.

The 74-year-old Bernie Sanders, if elected, would become the United States’ first Jewish president, and he lived for a brief period in Israel in his youth.

The video below contains a summary of the controversy over the Bernie Sanders New York Daily News Israel comments.

Asked by Daily News editors whether he believed that the Israeli military had committed “war crimes” in Gaza, Sanders replied, “no.” But pressed for further details, Sanders said that he did believe “Israel’s force was more indiscriminate than it should have been.”

“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,” Sanders said in the interview. “Does that sound right?”

The Daily News editors later corrected Sanders, saying that the “10,000” figure allegedly referred to total wounded, including combatants and civilians, but the interview moved on to another topic without further comment from Sanders on the figures.

Oren called Sanders’ remarks “terrible,” saying that Sanders had aided the BDS — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — movement which calls for international economic isolation of Israel.

“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?” Oren said in an interview with The Times of Israel. “He doesn’t mention the many thousands of Hamas rockets fired at us. He doesn’t mention the fact that Hamas hides behind civilians.”

Zeev Elkin, a top Israeli cabinet minister, sounded more forgiving toward Bernie Sanders, calling the Daily News interview comments “weird and loony,” but adding that the intensity of the U.S. presidential election campaign could have led Sanders to “make mistakes.”

Sanders acknowledged in the interview that Hamas had fired rockets across the border into Israel before the war, actions which he condemned.

While Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not commented on any events in the U.S. presidential campaign, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan offered to educate Sanders on “the facts and numbers about the IDF and the wars of Israel.”

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Sheldon Schorer, a spokesperson for Democrats Abroad in Israel, said that Sanders’ remark was “an honest mistake” and that the Vermont senator had not made “an intentional attempt to inflate numbers or try to malign Israel.” But he added that Sanders may have “a distorted view” of Israeli military operations, a view that “has to be corrected.”

“The Israeli Army tries to minimize civilian casualties, while Hamas tries to maximize them, precisely to get this type of sympathy expressed around the world, including by Bernie Sanders,” Schorer told The Jerusalem Post.

In the United States, the Anti-Defamation League said that it urged Bernie Sanders to “correct his misstatements.”

“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,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Ant-Defamation League, told the online magazine Politico.

On Thursday, the Bernie Sanders campaign issued a statement in response to the ADL criticism of the candidate’s Daily News interview Israel comments, in which Sanders spokesperson Michale Briggs said, “The idea that Senator Sanders stated definitely that 10,000 Palestinians were killed is just not accurate and a distortion of that discussion.”

[Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images]