The train wreck quality of the Republican presidential contest and the Hillary Clinton campaign has obscured the fact that Bernie Sanders is a demagogue who frequently spouts dangerous nonsense. The Washington Post’s editorial board calls bulls**t on the Vermont socialist fairly often; in fact it did so today (that the Post does this to help Clinton, its preferred candidate, doesn’t make the arguments any less valid). In the main, though, Sanders’ positions seem to avoid scrutiny.
However, Elliott Abrams scrutinized a New York Daily News editorial board interview with Sanders in which the Senator discussed Israel. Abrams found that Sanders’ answers “revealed gaps in his knowledge of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that suggest, at a minimum, he isn’t paying attention.”
Abrams is being kind. Sanders displayed a willingness to slander the Jewish state by adopting anti-Israel propaganda.
Consider this exchange:
Daily News: Okay. Now, you have obviously condemned Hamas for indiscriminate rocket attacks and the construction of the military tunnels. But you’ve also criticized Israel for what you described as a disproportionate response.
Daily News: And I’m going to look at 2014, which was the latest conflict. What should Israel have done instead?
Sanders: You’re asking me now to make not only decisions for the Israeli government but for the Israeli military, and I don’t quite think I’m qualified to make decisions. But I think it is fair to say that the level of attacks against civilian areas…and I do know that the Palestinians, some of them, were using civilian areas to launch missiles. Makes it very difficult. But I think most international observers would say that the attacks against Gaza were indiscriminate and that a lot of innocent people were killed who should not have been killed…. my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza. Does that sound right?
Daily News: I think it’s probably high, but we can look at that.
Sanders: I don’t have it in my number…but I think it’s over 10,000. 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.
The claim that Israel attacked Gaza indiscriminately, killing more than 10,000 people, is a staple of the hard left. So it’s not surprising that Sanders, a hard leftist, embraces it.
As Abrams shows, however, the claim is false:
The then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said after the war that Israel had gone to “extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and prevent civilian casualties in the Gaza conflict.”
A more recent assessment by the High Level Military Group, consisting of U.S. and allied military officers, reached these conclusions: “We can further be categorically clear that Israel’s conduct in the 2014 Gaza Conflict met and in some respects exceeded the highest standards we set for our own nations’ militaries. It is our view that Israel fought an exemplary campaign, adequately conceived with appropriately limited objectives, displaying both a very high level of operational capability as well as a total commitment to the Law of Armed Conflict. The IDF not only met its obligations under the Law of Armed Conflict, but often exceeded these on the battlefield at significant tactical cost, as well as in the humanitarian relief efforts that accompanied its operation.”
What about the 10,000 Palestinians the IDF allegedly killed?
Sanders’ 10,000 is 400 percent high: the number of deaths was 2,125, according to Israel, and 2,251, according to the U.N. It is also worth noting that the dead were disproportionately fighting-age young men, suggesting that the notion of “indiscriminate” killing is simply false. That’s what makes it so striking that Sanders still believes it.
Sanders also called Israeli settlements in the West Bank “illegal” and advocated Israel’s withdrawal from the territory it gained during the 1967 war. But Abrams points out that even President Obama has never declared the settlements “illegal.” Moreover, all negotiations since Camp David in 2000 have acknowledged that Israel will keep some of the settlements, swapping land to the Palestinians. Sanders’ position seems inconsistent with this. Abrams therefore asks:
Is Sanders’s really suggesting that he opposes swaps, and that every single settler must leave? Is he unfamiliar with the negotiating record of the last two decades?
Here’s what Sanders is familiar with: left-wing, anti-Israel talking points (“standard lefty claptrap,” to use Abrams’ description). This is the source of his Gaza war slander and his position on settlements.
Sanders touts the fact that he lived in Israel for three months during the 1960s. As Abrams explains, that experience is no substitute for knowledge of Israel’s current situation and of the facts pertaining to the 2014 war in Gaza:
No doubt [Sanders] longs for the days when Israel was young, and he lived for a summer on a left-wing kibbutz, practicing real socialism. This was in 1963, before the wars of 1967 and 1973, before the intifadas, before the rise of terrorism in the world after 1979—and before Israel’s efforts to negotiate a peace agreement were rejected by Yasser Arafat in 2000 after Camp David and by Mahmoud Abbas in 2008 after Annapolis.
From his sojourn in Socialist Israel, Sanders’ attitudes remind us of what Talleyrand said of the Bourbons: he has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Sympathy, inattention, and leftist leanings have left him with a combination of good will, outdated memories, and plain misinformation.
As I said, Abrams is being kind.