I understand that Hillary Clinton is mourning the passing of her friend and predecessor, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. But that doesn’t give her the right to revise the historical record concerning Albright and Israel.
Writing in The New York Times on March 27, Clinton described Albright as “a woman of action, especially when facing injustice.” According to Clinton, Albright “understood that American power is the only thing standing between the rules-based global order and the rule of the sword.” And she “never stopped pushing the envelope for freedom and democracy.”
Except, that is, when it came to the Palestinian Arabs and their leader, Yasser Arafat—a practitioner par excellence of “the rule of the sword.” When it came to Arafat, the words “justice,” “freedom” and “democracy” mysteriously vanished from Albright’s vocabulary.
Albright had an unusually warm relationship with Arafat, even though he was the most notorious international mass murderer of the past half-century. The New Republic reported (April 26-May 3, 1999): “One high [Clinton] administration official, on seeing her kissing the Palestinian leader during his last visit to Washington, said, ‘Oh my God, she’s all over him.’ Albright also entertained Arafat at a dinner at her home, an almost unprecedented intimacy.”
On Oct. 4, 2000, Secretary Albright met with Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Paris. At some point, Arafat had a temper tantrum and stormed out of the meeting. Albright went running down the hall after him, stumbling in her high heels and shouting to the guards, “Shut the gates! Shut the gates!” in the hope of blocking Arafat’s car from leaving.
This account is not based on some third-hand source. One of the Palestinian negotiators happened to be in the hallway speaking on the phone to a reporter from Reuters just as the chase and shouting erupted. The reporter overheard what happened and broke the story.
Less than 15 months later, Israel intercepted the Karine A, a ship carrying 50 tons of weapons that the “moderate” Arafat was trying to smuggle into Gaza. In the years to follow, I never heard Albright concede that she might have been wrong to put her faith in Arafat and to pressure Israel to make concessions to him.
As for the “justice” that Hillary Clinton said Albright so passionately pursued, consider Albright’s stance concerning American victims of Palestinian Arab terrorism. When President Bill Clinton went to Israel in early 1996, he visited the grave of Nachshon Wachsman, an Israeli-American who had been kidnapped, tortured and murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Clinton personally promised Nachshon’s parents that the United States would “make it a top priority” to capture the mastermind of the killing, Mohammed Deif.
Martin Indyk, then the U.S. ambassador to Israel, reiterated that promise in writing. In a letter to the Wachsman family on March 26, 1997, Indyk pledged that “the arrest of Muhammed Deif … remains a high priority for the U.S. Government.”
Then, on Dec. 19, 1997, Secretary of State Albright took part in a conference call with American Jewish leaders organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. A leader of the National Council of Young Israel asked Albright why the Clinton administration did not press the Palestinian Authority to hand over killers of Americans who were being sheltered in P.A. territory, such as Deif. Incredibly, Albright replied that she didn’t know who Deif was.
It is inconceivable that the secretary of state did not know who Deif was. Albright was deeply involved in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. She had to be aware of the fact that Clinton and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, with whom she worked closely, had made high-profile public statements about Deif.
One should also consider what happened when my family and I sued the government of Iran for sponsoring the Palestinian terrorists who murdered my daughter, Alisa. The court ruled in our favor. Other victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism won similar lawsuits. We tried to collect the judgments that the courts awarded from Iranian assets that were frozen in the United States. But Albright fought against us tooth and nail.
The Clinton administration was hoping to renew relations with Iran, so it didn’t want a penny of the terror sponsors’ money being touched. Albright also initiated various steps to ease sanctions on Tehran, such as lifting the ban on U.S. imports of Iranian carpets, pistachio nuts and caviar. Appeasing the Iranians and improving their economy was more important than justice for the many Americans killed by Iranian-sponsored terrorists.
Finally, there is the matter of Albright’s continuing pressure on Israel years after she retired from public service.
On July 22, 2014, in the midst of the Gaza war, Albright was interviewed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. After a perfunctory remark about Israel’s right to self-defense, Albright proceeded to accuse Israel of “overdoing it” in Gaza. She said Israel’s anti-terrorism actions are “disproportionate” and claimed that Israel has lost its “moral authority.”
Ironically, when Albright was asked by Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes” on May 12, 1996, if international sanctions against Iraq were worth it since “we have heard that half a million [Iraqi] children have died,” Albright replied: “We think the price is worth it.” So much for “proportionality”!
Madeleine Albright has passed away, and I have no interest in “piling on” about the mistakes she made. But it is important to learn from those mistakes, lest they be repeated. History has proven that it is strategically disastrous—not to mention morally wrong—to coddle Palestinian Arab dictators, abandon American victims of Palestinian terrorism and heap one-sided pressure on Israel. Every time the United States has pursued such policies, neither peace nor justice ever resulted. Hillary Clinton’s attempt to rewrite that history will make it harder to learn from it.
Stephen M. Flatow, is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”