NEW YORK (JTA) – The Anti-Defamation League has called on Sen. Bernie Sanders to publicly correct his statement that “over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza” in the war between Israel and Hamas in 2014.
Sanders, I-Vt., a Democratic presidential candidate, made the statement in an interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News published Monday.
“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 Greenblatt said in a statement Wednesday.
Greenblatt added: “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.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry has estimated that 2,125 Palestinians were killed during the fighting and 936 of those were militants. The United Nations’ Human Rights Council estimated that 2,251 Palestinians were killed.
In the Daily News interview, Sanders acknowledged he did not know the exact number of Palestinian casualties.
“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?” Sanders asked.
After a Daily News editor said the estimate sounded too high, Sanders said that regardless of the exact numbers, Israel’s response to Hamas’ aggression was “more indiscriminate than it should have been.”
“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,” Sanders said.
A Daily News editor later said that “about 2,300” Palestinians were killed during the conflict.
Sanders also said in the interview that Israel must better its ties with the Palestinians if it hopes to continue to receive unanimous support from the United States.
“To the degree that they want us to have a positive relationship, I think they’re going to have to improve their relationship with the Palestinians,” he said.