Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new link to a Hamas supporter threatens to rock the first lady’s Senate campaign at a time when Clinton can least afford another controversy, and as Jewish voters are more focused then ever on Israel’s security.
Reports of a campaign fund-raiser for Clinton by the American Muslim Alliance, whose leader backs armed struggle against Israel, could upset the momentum she was seen as gathering among Jews. Her campaign had been hoping for a quiet two weeks until the Nov. 7 face-off with Republican Rick Lazio.
But the connection to the Muslim group, reported in Wednesday’s Daily News, focuses new attention on what many see as Clinton’s ambiguous Israel record, even as violence rages in Israel and the Palestinian-controlled territories.
"If you are a voter who goes into the booth and says, ‘Which of these candidates are better for Israel,’ this isn’t going to help [Clinton]," said Lincoln Mitchell, a democratic political consultant. "The question is, are there enough of those who aren’t already in Lazio’s column to swing the election."
Clinton’s campaign confirms her attendance at a Boston fund-raiser in June sponsored by the American Muslim Alliance at which $50,000 was raised. The campaign insisted the dinner was hosted by members of Boston’s Muslim community, although a plaque presented to Clinton at the event bears the name of the American Muslim Alliance. The group’s president, Agha Saeed, told the News he believes UN resolutions give Palestinians "the right to resist by armed force."
The News also cited a $1,000 contribution to Clinton from Adburahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council, who has visited the White House and later boasted that he lobbied on behalf of the murderous terror group Hamas, the News reported.
The campaign said it would return the contribution.
A spokesman for Lazio’s campaign, Dan McLagan, called the contribution "blood money" and insisted Lazio would never have accepted it.
"Now I guess we know the truth about who Mrs. Clinton’s friends are," said McLagan. "This is one more negative mark on her record."
McLagan offered no details about how Lazio’s operation screened contributions from Muslim individuals or groups, but said Clinton should have known better. "It’s clear that she knew who these people are. They were inviting them to the White House, and that involves a fairly stringent background check. You don’t just stroll into the White House."
But one of Clinton’s most outspoken Jewish supporters, former Mayor Ed Koch, said he was not disturbed by the revelation since there was no indication Clinton made promises or statements to the Arab group that differed from those made to Jews or others.
"There is nothing wrong with politicians seeking support among Muslims, as they do among Jews, as long as they tell one story to both groups," said Koch. "There’s no one who says that she’s saying anything contrary to her position in support of Israel."
Koch accused the Muslim group of a "dirty trick" in trying to hurt Clinton’s campaign by discussing the dinner and contribution, possibly as a response to her recent statements blaming the Palestinians for the Middle East violence. He said this was evidence that Clinton could not have made any promises contrary to her public stance.
"If she secretly pledged them something, the dumbest thing in the world would be to turn on her," said Koch. "Then you’ve lost the possibility of getting her support [for their cause]. I consider this one of the dirty tricks by the Muslims who want to destroy her. If they really owned her, they wouldn’t make that public."
The organizer of the Boston fund-raiser, Tahir Ali, was quoted in the News as saying that Clinton’s recent criticism of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat was understandable, given her political predicament. "The idea is to win the election, [so] she must change her tune," said Ali, whose organization is backing Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the GOP candidate for president.
More information about Clinton’s hosting of groups opposed to the peace process at the White House will appear in an upcoming article by counterterrorism expert Steve Emerson, which could spell more bad news for Clinton as Election Day looms.
In a meeting with Jewish Week writers and editors in May, Clinton was asked to address her frequent hosting of Arab-American groups with records of hostility toward Israel and what standards she applied to Muslim groups that were invited to the White House.
"I don’t know what the standard is … I think it’s especially important for us to be building bridges and creating relations with Muslim Americans, which is the fastest growing group of Americans at the moment."
She added later: "Certainly you donít want to even have a conversation with anyone who is beyond the pale."
New questions about Clinton’s loyalties in the Israel-Palestinian dispute may make it more difficult to secure the endorsement of hawkish Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, which her campaign views as important to her pro-Israel credentials. Hikind returned Tuesday from a trip to Israel, during which he and his wife and a group of mourners came under a Palestinian ambush while attending the funeral of Rabbi Hillel Lieberman, a Brooklyn native murdered in Nablus.
Hikind could not be reached Wednesday morning for his reaction to the report.