By Jennifer Rubin
In a somewhat peculiar move, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, announced that he will be going just days before the New York primary to the Vatican to give a speech at a conference hosted by Pope Francis. Okay, it’s a scheduling choice, I suppose. If he is trying to bolster his credentials as a dreamy-eyed socialist I suppose it helps, but if he is trying to establish some credibility on the international stage, he would do better to go to Israel, or sit down with a map.
Yesterday, we observed that Sanders’s abject ignorance about Israel (and perhaps the influence of anti-Israel groups) got him in hot water with the Anti-Defamation League and the former Israeli ambassador to the United States. By saying Israel’s self-defense in the Gaza was “indiscriminate” and wildly exaggerating the toll of Palestinians, he echoed the propaganda (Michael Oren called it “blood libel”) of Israel’s enemies.
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The AJC also put out a letter slamming him:
“Senator Sanders, in repeatedly calling Israel’s actions in Gaza ‘indiscriminate,’ has leveled a serious charge against Israel,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “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.
“In Gaza in the summer of 2014, the use by Hamas of residential areas, schools, mosques and hospitals to store and deploy weapons, and launch thousands of terrorist attacks against Israel – wave after wave of rockets and mortars fired against Israeli civilians – made Israel’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.
“But Israel’s response was anything but indiscriminate. It repeatedly warned the Palestinian population about imminent strikes. It incurred casualties among its own forces in exercising care to avoid harming civilians. Time and again, it called off strikes when civilians came into view. And, in the fog of war, when soldiers and officers made tragic misjudgments, the IDF command responded appropriately.
“We look forward to Senator Sanders’ clarification of this stinging and unjust accusation against Israel.”
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Sanders subsequently spoke to the ADL and clarified his statement on the death toll, but in the most ungracious manner possible (suggesting his opponents were guilty of “distorting the truth”) and without withdrawing his accusation that Israel was “indiscriminate.” (The accusation about lack of proportionality was of course at the heart of the infamous Goldstone Report, subsequently recanted, that Israel had committed war crimes.) He did not so much as say he regretted the error.
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Sanders apparently learned nothing from that episode. On “Morning Joe” Friday, there was this exchange:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Let’s go to foreign policy and talk about an issue that matters a lot to people, in my home state of Florida but also here in New York and across the country and that is Israel. Do you believe, like many diplomats, that the only way to at the end strike peace — strike a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians is moving back to pre-1967 borders?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: What I believe first of all is there are good people on both sides and there are political opportunists on both sides, I’ve gotta say that. Number two, what I believe is, as somebody who is Jewish, who has lived in Israel for a few months when I was a young man, who has family in Israel is that of course the security of Israel, the independence of Israel, the right of Israel to live in peace and security is paramount. But you have to recognize the plight of the Palestinians. And I know that in America, in politics, that maybe is not something that is said very often. But we’re not going to have lasting peace unless we recognize that in Gaza, for example, that the current situation there is deplorable, people living with horrific levels of poverty in an area that has been – just annihilated. So what I think is, Joe, you need a two-state solution and we’ll argue about the details of that.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: But do you have an opinion on the pre-’67 borders?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Not at this point.
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He’s kidding, right? He’s been in Congress (first in the House) since 1991 and has no opinion?
He is either the least informed member of the Senate (rivaling Donald Trump in his ignorance about the world) or is concealing his true views. Moreover, he seems to be entirely unaware (or unwilling to admit) that the situation in Gaza is deplorable because Hamas operates an undemocratic, Islamist state and diverts aid intended for ordinary people to buy weapons and build and rebuild tunnels from which to conduct more terrorist operations. Sanders seems to be in the business of mouthing J Street talking points, which makes sense since he seeks advice from that thinly-masked anti-Israel propaganda outlet.
One has to ask whether Bernie really is qualified to be president.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Jennifer Rubin