Bernie Sanders owes Israel an apology for accusing it of a "blood libel," the country's former ambassador to the United States said Thursday, after the Democratic presidential candidate, who is Jewish, suggested in an interview that Israel had killed more than 10,000 people in Gaza.
“First of all, he should get his facts right. Secondly, he owes Israel an apology,” Michael Oren, a member of the country's Knesset and the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. from 2009 to 2013, told The Times 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?”
In his interview with the New York Daily News' editorial board conducted last Friday, Sanders was asked if he supported the Palestinian leadership's attempts to use the International Criminal Court to go after Israel for what it characterized as war crimes.
Sanders said he did not, remarking, "Look, why don't I support a million things in the world? I'm just telling you that I happen to believe ... 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. Does that sound right?"
"I don't have it in my number ... but I think it's over 10,000," Sanders continued. "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."
Oren took offense at that characterization, referring to the seven-week Israeli-Gaza conflict in 2014.
“He doesn’t mention the many thousands of Hamas rockets fired at us," Oren told the Israeli publication. "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.”
The Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday called on Sanders to apologize and correct his remarks as well.
“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,” ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in a statement. “As Mr. Sanders publicly discusses his approach to key U.S. foreign policy priorities, including Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, accuracy and accountability are essential for the voting public, but also for U.S. credibility in the international community. We urge Senator Sanders to correct his misstatements.”