With vocal support of Israel, Clinton rankles pro-Palestinian Americans
August 11th, 2014
01:10 PM ET
8 years ago

With vocal support of Israel, Clinton rankles pro-Palestinian Americans

Washington (CNN) - Hillary Clinton has been upfront about her support for Israel's recent military operations in Gaza. And her outspokenness is infuriating pro-Palestinian supporters in the United States.

Since Israel kicked off Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in early July, Clinton has strongly and repeatedly said she backs Israel's right to defend itself. She stepped up that message in a recent interview with The Atlantic, in which she charged Hamas for "stage-managing" the conflict to engender sympathy.

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"There have been a lot of political support for what Israel has done in Gaza, but to go so far to say that Palestinians are stage managing dead children is disgusting," said Rania Khalek, a Lebanese blogger for the pro-Palestine Electronic Intifada blog. "It is really disheartening and frustrating to see politicians in the United States blaming Palestinians for their own slaughter."

Israel has been criticized for hundreds of civilian deaths, particularly those at United Nations schools and local hospitals. The country's leaders contend, however, that Hamas is intentionally firing rockets from within civilian areas in order to engender support for its cause when innocent civilians are killed.

Hillary Clinton splits with Obama on foreign policy

"What you see is largely what Hamas invites and permits Western journalists to report on from Gaza. It’s the old PR problem that Israel has," Clinton said. "Yes, there are substantive, deep levels of antagonism or anti-Semitism towards Israel, because it’s a powerful state, a really effective military. And Hamas paints itself as the defender of the rights of the Palestinians to have their own state. So the PR battle is one that is historically tilted against Israel."

The comment, particularly the charge of stage managing, did not sit well with pro-Palestine activists and writers.

The reaction to Clinton's interview with the Atlantic from pro-Palestine activists and writer was swift and loud, especially on Twitter:

In addition to their frustration, the biggest takeaway for pro-Palestinian writers from Clinton's interview was this: She is running for president.

"Stage-managing is an exaggeration," said Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at The American Task Force on Palestine, a nonprofit think tank on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Ibish said that there is plenty to criticize Hamas over, but Clinton's comments went further than she ever has because he feels she is vying to win the presidency in 2016.

"I don't think there is a lot of political cache is taking on pro-Israel sentiment when you are going for the highest office in the land," he said. "From a political point of view, I understand why someone is going to do that. What she is engaging in is politics, not foreign policy."

Ibish was not alone in this sentiment. A handful of pro-Palestine activists and writers said her comment further cemented their feeling that Clinton - the Democratic party's frontrunner for the presidency in 2016 - is vying for the job.

She was "posturing in preparation for a presidential run," Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the The Jerusalem Fund, said bluntly.

"The language that she used yesterday, the uncritical acceptance of the Israeli narrative in Gaza, means she is already thinking in a very politically calculated mode and is prepared to defend against critics on the right," he added.

CNN reached out to a Clinton spokesman to respond to these claim, but did not immediately receive a response.

It is not only pro-Palestinian activists who are noticing Clinton's lock-step support of Israeli's government. In an opinion editorial for Haaretz, Peter Beinart – an academic who is outspoken against some aspects of Israel's dealings with Palestine – writes that Clinton has become "the Israeli government's best spokesperson."

Noting that during the interview Clinton said "you’re damn right I would expect to have security [control over the West Bank]" if she were prime minister of Israel, Beinart writes "Why does Clinton again and again endorse Netanyahu’s view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even when it contradicts long-standing American positions? Because she’s so willing to see the world through his eyes."

"One of the hallmarks of Barack Obama’s statements about Israel and Palestine, going back to his 2008 presidential campaign, has been his insistence on giving voice to the fears and aspirations of both sides," notes Beinart. "In Hillary Clinton, by contrast, at least judging from her interview on Sunay [sic], Israel has yet another lawyer. And a very good one at that."

Clinton has long been a vocal supporter of Israel, but that support has not always been certain.

When she ran for Senate in 2000, she had to win over a skeptical New York Jewish community by reassuring her commitment to Israel. Some, at the time, worried that the former first lady was too sympathetic to Palestinians. But she effectively won them over and enjoyed Jewish support in both of her Senate race and her failed bid at the presidency in 2008.

Although Clinton's cred with American Jews was somewhat questioned during her four years as President Barack Obama's secretary of state – largely because of her work with Iran – Clinton been vocally pro-Israel since kicking off her memoir tour in June.

During an NPR interview in July, Clinton strongly sided with Israel in the country's conflict with Hamas and the Gaza Strip.

Clinton said that she has "no doubt" that the current conflict "was a deliberate provocation" by Hamas to "engender more sympathy for their cause and also to put Israel on the back heal."

"I think the responsibility falls on Hamas," Clinton said.

Filed under: Foreign Policy • Hillary Clinton • Israel
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    I have nothing against Jews or Israel but why must everyone kiss their rears or be labeled an anti-Semite?

    August 11, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  2. it must be said

    Israel needs to stop playing patty cake with Hamas or this will go on forever. Lay down an ultimatum. Get rid of Hamas and all the terrorists firing rockets at Israel and digging tunnels into Israel, or Gaza will cease to exist. It will be bulldozed starting at the northern most point. 1 missile fired at Israel = .5 miles bulldozed and lost to Gaza forever. It will be their choice. No country, including Israel, should be forced to live next to a country of terrorists that continuously attack them. We would never allow it, why should they? Enough is enough.

    August 11, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  3. dwicjan

    Wasn't sure about Hilary for president earlier. Now she has made me dislike her even more. Netanyahu is a war criminal in my book. The nation of Israel was formed by stealing property and homes from Arabs in 1948. Now it runs a prison in Gaza and the West bank so-called Palestinian areas. Hamas isn't without blame either.

    August 11, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
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