JERUSALEM, Israel – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s blooper at the AIPAC convention earlier this week would be laughable if it weren’t so serious.
Two-thirds of the way through her lengthy speech in Washington on Monday evening, Clinton got the two Palestinian factions – Hamas and Fatah – mixed up.
“When a Hamas-controlled municipality glorifies violence and renames a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis, it insults the families on both sides who have lost loves ones over the years in this conflict,” Clinton said to resounding applause.
No one in the audience noticed that it wasn’t “a Hamas-controlled municipality” that named a square after “a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis” – 37 to be exact and another 71 injured – in the deadliest attack in modern Israeli history.
That honor belongs to Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
The Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli NGO that monitors Palestinian society, quickly posted a bulletin titled “Hillary Clinton’s unfortunate mistake.” It clearly explains how Abbas and other Fatah officials have honored the terrorist in question, Dalal Mughrabi, calling her a shahid or martyr.
While Clinton criticized Hamas for glorifying violence, she praised Abbas and Fayyad for “improving the quality of life” for the Palestinian people.
“We commend the government of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad for the reforms they have undertaken to strengthen law and order and the progress they have made in improving the quality of life in the West Bank,” Clinton told her audience.
The reality is that both Abbas's and Fayyad's actions - despite their rhetoric - raise serious questions about their genuine aspirations for peaceful coexistence. Their actions on the ground – honoring suicide bombers – is just one of many examples that testify to different intentions.
When meeting with U.S. leaders like Clinton, however, they seem less forthright in English. But when speaking to their own people, Fatah leaders barely disguise their goals, which sometimes mirror the goals of Hamas.
In Arabic they speak more openly, very much like the late PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, who mentored Abbas for nearly 40 years.
The rivalry between Fatah and Hamas seems to stem less from their ultimate goals than it does from a power play.
So maybe Clinton’s blooper at the AIPAC convention is a classic example of why speaking disparagingly of Hamas and praising Fatah is fundamentally flawed.