(JTA) – Shooting back at critics of Bernie Sanders’ hedged exaggeration of the number of Palestinian casualties in Gaza, the U.S. presidential candidate’s spokesperson accused them of distorting the truth.
Michael Briggs, the spokesperson for the Vermont Democrat Senator, commented on this issue in a statement posted Thursday on his official website, which Briggs wrote was in response to the Anti-Defamation League’s request for clarification of a statement by Sanders on the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict.
“The idea that Sen. Sanders stated definitely that 10,000 Palestinians were killed is just not accurate and a distortion of that discussion,” Briggs said. “Bringing peace between Israel and the Palestinians will not be easy. It would help if candidates’ positions on this issue are not distorted.”
Sanders spent months in Israel as a young man, Briggs added, “and, in fact, has family living there now. There is no candidate for president who will be a stronger supporter of Israel’s right to exist in freedom, peace and security.”
During a recent New York Daily News editorial board interview, Sanders said he thought 10,000 Palestinians were killed during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, though he added that he does not “remember the figures” and asked for his interlocutors to check, accepting their correction that 2,104 were killed, including 1,462 civilians. He said Israeli bombings in the Gaza Strip were too indiscriminate.
In addition to prompting the ADL to demand that Sanders “correct his misstatement” on the death toll, his comments angered Israeli opinion shapers and politicians. Ze’ev Elkin, Israel’s immigration absorption minister, called Sanders’ comments “insane.” Michael Oren, an MK and former Israeli ambassador to Washington, demanded Sanders apologize for his “blood libel,” as Oren called it.
ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt welcomed Sanders’ “clarification,” ADL wrote in a statement. “The senator assured me that he did not mean his remarks to be a definitive statement and that he would make every effort to set the record straight, Greenblatt said. “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.”