(AP/Tom Williams/File)
Bernie Sanders

Amid calls for a retraction, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says he never stated as “fact” that Israel killed 10,000 innocent Palestinians, adding that any such claims are a “distortion.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a leading US-based Jewish rights organization, and United with Israel, the largest global community of Israel supporters, among others, called on Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to correct wrong and misleading statements he made regarding Israel’s actions during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.

In an interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News, Sanders called Israel’s actions during the 2014 war in Gaza “disproportionate” and greatly overstated Palestinian civilian casualties, saying “my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza,” when in fact approximately 2,100 were killed, and about a half of them were terrorists.

“Even the highest number of casualties claimed by Palestinian sources that include Hamas members engaged in attacking Israel is five times less than the number cited by Bernie Sanders,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt on Tuesday. “As Mr. Sanders publicly discusses his approach to key US foreign policy priorities, including Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, accuracy and accountability are essential for the voting public, but also for US credibility in the international community. We urge Senator Sanders to correct his misstatements.”

A successful United with Israel call to action, urging readers to demand a retraction, added to the pressure.

Member of Knesset (Israeli Parliament) Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the US, said Sanders’ statement was a “blood libel.”

Responding to the outcry against Sanders, his spokesman, Michael Briggs, claimed that Sanders never stated the number 10,000 as fact, saying only that it was his “recollection,” and that the interviewer corrected him. However, there was no indication during the interview that Sanders acknowledged the correction.

‘Distorting the Truth is Not Useful’

Briggs, nonetheless, continued to say that among all the presidential candidates, Sanders would be the best choice for Israel.

“As many people know, Sen. Sanders, as a young man, spent months in Israel and, in fact, has family living there now. There is no candidate for president who will be a stronger supporter of Israel’s right to exist in freedom, peace and security,” Briggs said in a campaign statement.

“The path to peace in the Middle East is not an easy one,” Briggs said. “As we go forward in this campaign, distorting the truth is not useful. We hope there can be an honest discussion of this important issue.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Jerusalem is refraining from commenting on news related to the US campaign trail, as it does not want to be seen as involved in any way.

A Foreign Ministry official said, however, that if Sanders had been elected president, Israel would “absolutely” have reacted to his comments.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel