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‘You continue to … elide’ blame of Hamas, State Dept scolds Palestinian reporter

"Remember it was Hamas that launched this war in the first place," Matthew Miller chided Said Arikat.

Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesman, moderates a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, on June 19, 2023, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken looks on. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesman, moderates a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, on June 19, 2023, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken looks on. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.

During the U.S. State Department press briefing on Thursday, things got heated between the Foggy Bottom spokesman Matthew Miller and Said Arikat, Washington bureau chief for the Jerusalem-based newspaper Al-Quds.

Arikat pressed Miller with questions that repeatedly attacked the Jewish state, as he has routinely done during State Department briefings.

“Hold on,” Miller said after Arikat interrupted him at one point. “Said, if you listened to what I said a moment ago,” he said seconds later. Moments later, he added, “Hold on, hold on. Said, please don’t interrupt me.” Later on, Miller told Arikat, “I don’t think you’re listening to what I said.”

Arikat persisted with his line of questioning: “Why is it so difficult for this government to say we condemn the killing of children, Palestinian women and children?” he asked.

That earned him a reproach from Miller.

“Whenever you ask me these questions, I do think you continue to kind of just elide over the fact that Hamas bears a great deal of responsibility for putting those children in harm’s way,” the State Department spokesman said.

“Remember, it was Hamas that launched this war in the first place with an attack on Israel that killed men, women and children, and that Hamas—that hid and continues to hide behind children as human shields,” Miller added.

Arikat kept making statements and asking questions.

“Yet I have not heard the word ‘condemn.’ I mean, this war began way before Oct. 7,” the Palestinian reporter said. “I mean, in fact, the reason that this administration was so strong on pursuing a Middle East peace and so on is because the war has been going on for decades before and so on.”

Miller again pushed back.

“Hold on,” he said. “Nothing that happened before Oct. 7 justifies what Hamas did on that day. And it is—and it is what Hamas did on that day that led to the outbreak of this war and led to the suffering of so many innocent Palestinians.”

“I just feel it’s important to correct that fact,” Miller said.

When Miller sought to work the rest of the room, Arikat asked for one last question and got his request. “Do you suspect that Mr. Netanyahu perhaps authorized this raid to scuttle the negotiations?” he asked. “Do you have any suspicions?”

“There is no evidence of that that I have seen, Said,” Miller said.

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