Democratic US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters during a campaign rally in Missouri.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK - After a phone conversation with The Anti-Defamation League’s CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt on Thursday, Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders clarified his statements about Palestinian casualties during the 2014 war in Gaza.
The ADL had slammed Sanders on Wednesday for overstating the number of Palestinian casualties in an interview with the New York Daily News published on Monday.
In the article, Sanders is quoted saying that based on his recollection “over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza.”
According to the ADL, “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.”.
The organization had also pointed out that “accuracy and accountability are essential for the voting public, but also for US credibility in the international community.|
In his clarification, Sanders said his recollection was indeed inaccurate and that the interviewer corrected him in the course of the conversation – a correction that he said he accepted.
Sanders’ spokesman, Michael Briggs reminded the public in a statement that the democratic candidate spent months in Israel as a young man and that he has family in the country as well.
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“There is no candidate for president who will be a stronger supporter of Israel’s right to exist in freedom, peace and security,” Briggs said. “The path to peace in the Middle East is not an easy one. As we go forward in this campaign, distorting the truth is not useful. We hope there can be an honest discussion of this important issue.”
ADL’s CEO said that during their phone conversation, the senator told him he did not mean his remarks to be a definitive statement and that he would make every effort to set the record straight.
“We appreciate his responsiveness on this issue, especially at a time when there are many false and incendiary reports blaming Israel for applying disproportionate force in its struggle for self-defense,” Greenblatt said.
While acknowledging Sander’s correction, The American Jewish Committee however urged the candidate to also address his charge that Israel's response to 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," AJC CEO David Harris said on Thursday. "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.
Harris pointed out that Hamas’ use of residential areas, schools, mosques and hospitals to deploy weapons launched against Israel made the country’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,” he added. "But Israel's response was anything but indiscriminate.”
Harris stated that AJC looks forward to Senator Sanders' clarification of this “stinging and unjust” accusation against Israel.
Both the ADL and AJC pointed out that as nonprofit organizations, they take no position on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for office.
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