JEWISH INSIDER - Bernie Sanders didn’t help himself with the Jewish community in New York - a strong constituency in next week’s primary - as he doubled down on his criticism of Israel’s 2014 military action in Gaza.
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“Was Israel’s response disproportionate? I think it was,” Sanders said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “Israel has a 100% - and no one will fight for that principle more strongly than I will - has the right to live in freedom, independently, and in security without having to be subjected to terrorist attacks. But I think that we will not succeed to ever bring peace into that region unless we also treat the Palestinians with dignity and respect, and that is my view.”
Last week in a New York Daily News interview, Sanders erroneously inflated the number of Palestinian civilians killed during the 2014 Gaza conflict, for which he has since pulled back after a conversation with ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt.
“Senator Sanders’ failure to demonstrate a grasp of the Palestinian terrorism that fueled Israel’s actions to protect its citizens in the summer of 2014 is extremely concerning,” American Jewish Congress’ President Jack Rosen said in a statement on Sunday. “Any attempt by a presidential candidate to qualify Israel’s self-defense against indiscriminate attacks without mentioning the nature of the attacks is a worrisome signal.”
Rosen, himself a supporter of Hillary Clinton, but speaking on behalf of the American Jewish Congress, called on Sanders to “adopt a more balanced perspective on the 2014 conflict as well as the current political reality in Gaza.”
The Orthodox Union, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, said it was “offended” by Sanders’ recent comments.
“The Orthodox Union rejects Senator Sanders’ assertion that Israel acted in a “disproportionate” manner in responding to Hamas terrorist actions; frankly, we are offended by Senator Sanders’ suggestion,” the group said in a statement on Monday. "In 2014, Israel was attacked by Hamas, which fired more than 4,500 rockets and mortars from Gaza at Israel. These rockets were intended to murder and maim innocent Israelis. Israel’s response and tactics were anything but disproportionate or indiscriminate.”
Sanders pushed back against his critics, insisting that his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “balanced” while being “absolutely pro-Israeli” and supporting “Israel’s right to exist in peace in security.”
“Whether you’re Jewish or not Jewish, I would hope that every person in this country wants to see the misery of never-ending war and conflict ended in the Middle East,” the Democratic presidential hopeful told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Sanders is currently trailing Hillary Clinton in the April 19 New York primary by double digits. According to a recent Fox New poll, Clinton leads Sanders among Jewish voters by 24 points (59-35 percent).
In 2013, the Jewish vote made up 16-19 percent of the electorate in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary.
The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to request for comment.