Bernie Sanders’ Gaza gaffe is worse than people realize
The story has already been well covered. Bernie Sanders, campaigning for President, said to the New York Daily News:
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. Look, we are living, for better or worse, in a world of high technology, whether it’s drones out there that could, you know, take your nose off, and Israel has that technology. And I think there is a general belief that, with that technology, they could have been more discriminate in terms of taking out weapons that were threatening them.
…I’m just telling you that I happen to believe…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?
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 problem isn’t only that Sanders overstated the number of civilians killed in Gaza by about a factor of ten.
Because if and when a reporter calls him on it, he’ll just say that he said he wasn’t sure but a thousand civilians killed and hundreds of buildings leveled is still something that indicates indiscriminate attacks.
And that is the problem.
Israel didn’t engage in indiscriminate attacks in Gaza. Anyone who has the least familiarity with the IDF’s code of conduct, the checks and balances involved in every bombing campaign, international law and the law of armed conflict know that there was very little wrong with how Israel conducted the campaign.
Last Summer, Amnesty international tweeted almost daily specific events of civilians being killed in Gaza a year earlier. In the vast majority of those cases cited, I was able to find a legitimate target in the immediate area. And the laws of war does not say that a legitimate target must be spared just because it is surrounded by civilians, although the doctrine of proportionality must be adhered to – something Israel does.
To put it bluntly, someone whose knowledge of the laws of armed conflict is exactly the opposite of the truth wants to be the Commander in Chief of the US armed forces.
That is a lot worse than just being very wrong on the numbers of civilians killed.
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