Anti-Israel haters generally fall into two categories. There are those whose hate is ideologically driven and rooted in political or religious indoctrination. These individuals are impervious to fact-based reason or logic. Often they are cognizant of the bankruptcy and hypocrisy of their cause but nevertheless choose to disregard obvious flaws in their argumentation as their odious positions bear no relation to logic and are dictated by a convoluted mix of irrational bias and mindless hate.
Then there are those whose hate for the Jewish State stems from sheer ignorance. Unlike their hate-driven colleagues, they are not necessarily malevolent, just devoid of knowledge of the facts. They are therefore inclined to adopt erroneous positions based on erroneous information, the bulk of which is provided by people falling into the former category.
At college campuses for example, the core of the anti-Israel contingent is generally composed of an alliance between Islamo-fascists and hard left ideologues – both immune to reason – and scattered among the periphery are ignorant stragglers in desperate need of a cause to latch on to.
So which category does presidential candidate Bernie Sanders fall into? Sanders has always been a hard-left ideologue, long on socialist oratory but short on substance. He was hyper-critical of Israeli actions during Operation Protective Edge – Israel’s 2014 summer offensive against the Hamas terrorist organization – and was one of only 21 senators not to co-sponsor a senate resolution in support of Israel during its counter insurgency campaign against Hamas. Sanders was also one of a handful of lawmakers who boycotted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 2015 address to the joint session and was in fact, the first senator to announce his intent to boycott the speech.
It would thus seem that Sanders’ malice toward Israel is driven by mindless ideological hate rooted in radical leftist ideology, the same ideology that drives rabid anti-Israel rejectionists like Roger Waters and Max Blumenthal. But recent statements by Sanders concerning Israel and “Palestine” also suggest that Sanders is completely ignorant of basic facts central to the Arab-Israeli dispute.
On April 1, in an interview with the New York Daily News, Sanders demonstrated an abject lack of knowledge on matters relating to the so-called settlements, the 2014 Gaza war and the laws of war.
With respect to the settlements, Sanders noted that Israel was busy expanding settlement growth and that settlements were “illegal.” When asked what he based that opinion on he responded; “Well, I think that’s based on previous treaties and ideas.” In fact, no previous U.S. administration has characterized settlements as illegal. Even the hostile Obama administration has never employed that terminology. Moreover, nothing in previous agreements reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority prohibits settlement building. In addition, there exists a large body of jurisprudence, rooted in international law, treaty and custom supporting the legality of settlements. What’s more, Israeli settlement construction has actually been remarkably constrained under Netanyahu and modest construction is only occurring in areas that all sides agree will be incorporated into Israel in a final status agreement.
Sanders also noted that Israel’s actions during the conflict were “indiscriminate” and in subsequent interviews, he used the term “disproportionate.” Here again, Sanders demonstrates his ignorance. Hamas embedded its military infrastructure in the midst the civilian population. A number of international reporters documented Hamas rocket squads deliberately operating adjacent to hospitals, schools and hotels. Several of these reporters were later forced to flee Gaza for fear of Hamas retribution. Hamas itself boasted that it was employing human shields to thwart attacks against military targets.
Notwithstanding the difficult circumstances Israeli forces encountered, every effort was made to reduce civilian casualties. Thousands of leaflets were dropped, telephone calls were made urging residents to flee to safer areas and special munitions were employed to minimize collateral damage. Moreover, video footage released by the Israeli air force shows instances where pilots diverted their precision weapons mid-flight for fear of hurting civilians. A multinational military delegation that conducted an independent investigation following the conflict concluded that “Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey praised Israel for the “extraordinary lengths” it took to reduce civilian casualties, a sentiment echoed by Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan.
Where Sanders received his information is unclear but it gets worse, much worse. During the course of the interview, he bizarrely stated that Israel had killed some 10,000 civilians during the Gaza conflict though he admitted that he was unsure of the exact amount. In fact, Sanders’ figure is roughly seven times higher than the actual civilian death toll of 1,423 as reported by the UN. The UN’s figures are themselves inherently unreliable and suspect as they are based in large part on information provided by Hamas. Moreover, many civilian deaths were later attributed to misfired Hamas rockets.
According to Israeli sources, 2,125 Gazans were killed. Of these, 936 were confirmed terrorists, 761 were civilians and 428 were unidentified. Sanders all but ignored Israeli sources opting instead to adopt grossly inflated figures compiled by entities hostile to Israel. Under pressure, he later revised his count to 2,000 civilians, which was still erroneous.
Former Israeli ambassador to the United States and current Member of Parliament Michael Oren accurately characterized Sanders’ statement as a “blood libel.” During an interview with CNN, Sanders was asked to respond to Oren’s charge to which Sanders answered, “Who is Mr. Oren?” That retort demonstrates with utmost clarity just how uninformed Sanders is of the issues. Whether driven by a radical ideology or simple ignorance, Sanders clearly represents a threat to the U.S.-Israel alliance.