In April 2016, Democratic candidates for president Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debated before the primary contest in New York. During the debate, Sanders described Israel’s fight against Palestinians in Gaza were “disproportionate.” In actuality, it was Sanders’ discussion of the war that was disproportionate.
Sanders talking to the New York Daily News April 2016
(photo: Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News)
Discussion of 2014 Hamas War
“Disproportionate Attack“ Sanders said that Israel’s actions were a disproportionate attack. Calling the operation an “attack” made it seem that Israel was on the offensive, rather than the defensive. It was Hamas that kidnapped and murdered three teenagers. It was Hamas that dug dozens of tunnels into Israel to abduct more Israelis. It was Hamas that fired thousands of rockets into Israeli civilian towns. Israel reacted to Hamas in a defensive battle.
“Over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza.” Many people reacted strongly to Sanders’ gross overestimation of the number of Palestinians killed. That is only half of the problem. While the number of killed was closer to 1,500, half of those killed were terrorists firing into Israeli civilian areas, not “innocent people.”
“The attacks against Gaza were indiscriminate and that a lot of innocent people were killed.” Sanders said that Israel’s action showed a willful disregard for life by firing against Palestinians in an indiscriminate manner. He made no mention of Israel’s dropping leaflets on neighborhoods and calling people to evacuate areas that were going to be fired upon. Such selectivity of memory underlines a bias in approach.
Discussion of America’s War on Terror
Sanders supporters think that he is against all war, and Sanders likes to repeat often that he voted against the war in Iraq to underscore that image. To view Sanders views more broadly and compare those comments to Israel’s war on terror shows deeper flaws in Sanders thinking. In truth, Sanders was in favor of bombing Kosovo, supports destroying ISIS, and voted to fund America’s war in Afghanistan.
Regarding America’s killing of civilians in those wars, Sanders said the following:
“When bombing wedding parties of innocent people and killing dozens of them, that is, needless to say, not effective and enormously counterproductive.”
Sanders comment that America’s bombing of a wedding party (done several times in the War on Terror) is “not effective” and “counterproductive” falls pretty short of the condemnation that he used for Israel’s “indiscriminate” “attacks” against “innocent civilians.” Why doesn’t Sanders similarly say that when Israel kills bystanders it is “not effective?”
Sanders clearly declared that Israel has every right to defend itself and combat terrorism when he stated that “I believe 100% not only in Israel’s right to exist, a right to exist in peace and security without having to face terrorist attacks.” He further feels that Hamas is wrong in its approach to Israel and should be condemned “I strongly object to Hamas’ long held position that Israel does not have the right to exist – that is unacceptable. Of course, I strongly condemn indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas into Israeli territory, and Hamas’ use of civilian neighborhoods to launch those attacks.”
So are his arguments only meant that Israel should be more targeted in killing terrorists?
No. If that were the case, he would use language that is more similar to how he described America’s killing of innocents. His language of “disproportionate” and “indiscriminate” is meant to convey that Israel DELIBERATELY used too much force against Hamas.
Sanders does not believe that Israel is just defending itself from terrorism, he believes that Israel is deliberately trying to kill Palestinians.
Disproportionate Defense and Equivalence of Intent
As detailed in “The Disproportionate Defenses of Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” the disproportionate figure in the number of Palestinians and Israelis killed in the 2014 Gaza War had to do with the disproportionate DEFENSES of the two parties. Israel used its Iron Dome defensive shield and bomb shelters throughout the country to minimize casualties on the Israeli side. Without those defenses, the number of casualties on both sides would have been much closer.
Further, as described in “Pray for a Lack of “Proportionately” in Numbers. There will never be an Equivalence of Intent” the Hamas Charter, leaders and actions make abundantly clear their desire to kill Jews and destroy Israel. Israel has no such desires to attack Arabs. It accepted every ceasefire during the Gaza War while Hamas refused.
The objections of Israeli supporters about the comments of Bernie Sanders have little to do with his uninformed comments about the tally of dead in the Gaza War. It has everything to do with Sanders’ gross mischaracterization of the Israeli Defense Force as indiscriminate killers.
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