by Eli Clifton
Yesterday, WikiLeaks released an email from Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta in which he urged Clinton’s speechwriters to tone down language that might “evoke how people feel about how Israel is treating the Palestinians” from a speech she was to deliver on December 6, 2015, at the Saban Forum in Washington.
It was unclear what, if any, changes were actually made following his December 5, 2015 email, and the section in question appears largely unchanged in the remarks delivered at an event hosted by billionaire Haim Saban, who Podesta described as “not [being] with [Clinton] if she wasn’t totally committed to Israeli security.”
But a new email, released today, reveals that an extensive section on Palestinian rights was completely removed from an early draft of the speech. Palestinian rights and acknowledgment of their national aspirations are nearly completely lacking from the final version. The speech only made a brief reference to Israeli settlement construction, which Clinton loosely described as a “damaging action.” It also made only one passing, and indirect, acknowledgement of Palestinian suffering, saying, “Israeli children have been killed as have Palestinian children.”
A new email from Podesta’s email account, released today by WikiLeaks, sheds light on what was contained, and later removed, from an early draft of the speech.
A December 4, 2015, version of the speech, apparently drafted by Clinton speechwriter Dan Scherwin, made specific references to Palestinian suffering and right to self-determination. Although holding to the position of the Democratic Party and the Clinton camp that a two-state solution cannot be imposed by outside actors like the United Nations, this earlier version of the speech explicitly mentioned settlement construction as an impediment to the peace process.
Scherwin’s draft contained the following section that was completely missing from the delivered version:
Israelis cannot live forever in a state of siege. They must not be condemned to the constant fear that they might be stabbed in the street or attacked on a bus. Generation after generation of parents should not have to send their children off to combat. Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a peaceful, normal life. They deserve to live in a nation defined by its founding ideals – democratic, Jewish, and free.
And Palestinians have the right to yearn for the freedom to govern themselves, in peace and dignity. For most Americans, it is hard, if not impossible, to imagine living behind checkpoints and roadblocks. Palestinians should be able to achieve their legitimate aspirations.
So as difficult as this will be, all the parties must work to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution and create the conditions for progress by avoiding unilateral or damaging actions, whether on the ground, in settlement construction, or at the United Nations.
Thus far, it’s unclear who removed this section or whether it was removed at Podesta’s request. But the currently released WikiLeaks emails have now established that between December 4 and December 6, Clinton’s speech was scrubbed of most language showing sympathy for Palestinians or criticism of the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.
Photo: John Podesta and Hillary Clinton