Boston Globe, Wash. Post echo discredited accusation that Clinton did not condemn Suha Arafat's remarks

››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

The Boston Globe and The Washington Post echoed the discredited accusation, advanced by conservative media figures, that Sen. Hillary Clinton did not condemn controversial comments by Suha Arafat during a 1999 trip to the West Bank, where Arafat, according to the Globe, "launched into an unscripted tirade accusing Israel of poisoning Palestinian children." In fact, Clinton reportedly "condemned Mrs. Arafat hours later, after receiving, she said, an official translation of her remarks."

Echoing the discredited accusation, advanced by conservative media figures, that Sen. Hillary Clinton did not condemn controversial comments by Yasser Arafat's wife, Suha Arafat, during Clinton's 1999 West Bank visit, a January 13 Boston Globe article reported that Clinton's "political career nearly ended when she attended an event at which Arafat's wife launched into an unscripted tirade accusing Israel of poisoning Palestinian children. The hug Clinton gave Suha Arafat that day sparked a furor among Jewish voters in New York, where she was planning a Senate run." But the Globe article, by foreign policy reporter Farah Stockman, did not note that Clinton reportedly "condemned Mrs. Arafat hours later, after receiving, she said, an official translation of her remarks."

Additionally, a January 13 Washington Post article by staff writers Anne E. Kornblut and Glenn Kessler reported that "Clinton kissed and embraced Suha Arafat, the wife of then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, after Suha Arafat made inflammatory remarks about Israel, including allegations of using poison gas against Palestinians. (Clinton later said the translation of the remarks was incomplete.)" But Kornblut and Kessler also did not note Clinton's reported condemnation of the comments, which The New York Times included in an October 6, 2000, article. From the Times article:

On the trip, Mrs. Clinton was photographed kissing the wife of Yasir Arafat, after Mrs. Arafat, speaking in Arabic, accused the Israeli government of employing toxic gas against Palestinian women and children. Mrs. Clinton condemned Mrs. Arafat hours later, after receiving, she said, an official translation of her remarks.

When Mrs. Clinton was asked by a Jewish Week questioner whether she would have done anything differently with the benefit of hindsight, she responded briskly. "I wouldn't have gone -- that's the first thing," she said. Mrs. Clinton said the encounter, which some of her advisers view as the low point of her campaign, led to "a misimpression about my strong feelings and support of Israel."

As Media Matters for America has noted, right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel repeatedly claimed that, during Clinton's 1999 trip to the West Bank, "there wasn't a peep from Hillary Clinton when Suha Arafat told her that Jews like me poison Palestinian water and air and cause cancer for them."

From the Boston Globe's January 13 article, "Bill Clinton's policies may echo at hearing":

Perhaps one of the most urgent lines of questioning today will be on Obama's so far fairly muted response to the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza to stop Hamas rocket fire. More than 900 Palestinians have been killed.

Hillary Clinton's views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been shaped in part by the front-row seat she had for her husband's attempt to bring about a historic agreement. In 1998, she accompanied Bill Clinton to Gaza, on the first such visit of a US president, raising high hopes for a deal between Israel and then-Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. She also caused a sensation when she endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state, going further than her husband's stated policies.

But the next year, her political career nearly ended when she attended an event at which Arafat's wife launched into an unscripted tirade accusing Israel of poisoning Palestinian children. The hug Clinton gave Suha Arafat that day sparked a furor among Jewish voters in New York, where she was planning a Senate run.

Since then, Clinton has been unwavering in her support for Israel, backing the security fence that extends into the West Bank and that creates hardships for Palestinians. She has traveled to Israel twice as senator, but never returned to Palestinian areas.

From the Washington Post's January 13 article, "In Foreign Policy, a New Trip at the Top":

One of Clinton's earliest tests as secretary of state will be the current conflict between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, where the heavy toll of Palestinian deaths has outraged Arabs. As a senator, Clinton earned a reputation as one of Israel's strongest defenders, even asserting during the Democratic primaries that the United States could "obliterate" Iran if it launched a nuclear attack on Israel and arguing that the United States should not negotiate with Hamas unless the group renounced terrorism.

Yet nine years ago as first lady, Clinton kissed and embraced Suha Arafat, the wife of then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, after Suha Arafat made inflammatory remarks about Israel, including allegations of using poison gas against Palestinians. (Clinton later said the translation of the remarks was incomplete.) She also called for the creation of a Palestinian state before the Clinton administration officially endorsed the idea.

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