Bernie Sanders Accused of 'Blood Libel' Over Wrong Gaza Casualty Figures

Sanders Israel Gaza
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 6, 2016. Sanders incorrectly estimated that the Israeli military killed 10,000 Palestinian civilians in the Gaza conflict in 2014. Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

A former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. on Thursday accused U.S. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders of the ancient "blood libel" smear used against Jews after he incorrectly stated that Israel had killed 10,000 Palestinian civilians in the 2014 Gaza conflict.

Michael Oren, now an Israeli lawmaker, criticized the socialist candidate and accused him of endangering Israel's security with his comments in a recent interview with the New York Daily News in which the Vermont senator overestimated the Palestinian civilian death toll in Gaza by more than 8,000.

"First of all, he should get his facts right. Secondly, he owes Israel an apology," Oren told The Times of Israel. "He accused us of a blood libel. He accused us of bombing hospitals. He accused us of killing 10,000 Palestinian civilians. Don't you think that merits an apology?"

He continued: "He doesn't mention the many thousands of Hamas rockets fired at us. He doesn't mention the fact that Hamas hides behind civilians. He doesn't mention the fact that we pulled out of Gaza in order to give the Palestinians a chance to experiment with statehood, and they turned it into an experiment with terror. He doesn't mention any of that. That, to me, is libelous."

Sanders was talking about his belief that the Israeli military had used indiscriminate force during the seven-week conflict on the civilian population of Gaza. The U.N. and human rights groups accused both Israel and Palestinian militants of war crimes in the conflict.

The Israeli military, in an operation named Operation Protective Edge, killed over 2,100 Palestinians—at least 1,585 civilians, of which 530 were children— according to U.N. and Palestinian accounts, and Palestinian militant groups killed 72 Israelis—all but five soldiers, according to Israeli accounts.

The Israeli military entered into the coastal enclave controlled by Palestinian militant group Hamas to prevent Palestinian rocket fire into Israeli territory and an extensive tunnel network used for smuggling and cross-border attacks against Israeli targets.

Oren said that Sanders' claim that Israel had bombed hospitals was untrue. The Israeli military did however conduct air strikes on the Al-Wafa hospital in Gaza during the conflict, saying that it had been used as a base for Hamas militants to conduct attacks on Israeli forces.

"Not only did he multiply by five the amount of casualties [in the 2014 Gaza war] and failed to distinguish between the Hamas fighters we eliminated and the civilians we inadvertently and regrettably killed," Oren continued. "He said we bombed hospitals. Hamas is hiding beneath the hospital; we didn't bomb it."

In a transcript of the interview with the New York daily, Sanders said that he cannot remember the figures off the top of his head then proceeds to use the incorrect number. " I don't remember the figures, but my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza. Does that sound right?"

He added: "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."