Barak Ravid
April 10, 2012 - 12:00am

The award given to controversial journalist Helen Thomas by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has sparked anger not only in Israel, but in the U.S. Congress as well. Two senior Congressmen sent Abbas a letter denouncing the award and hinting that such a move may hurt U.S. assistance to the PA.

The Congressmen – Republican Steve Chabot, Chairman of the Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee, and Democrat Eliot Engel, senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – wrote in the letter that "last year, the Committee on Foreign Affairs adopted an amendment entitled the Preparing the Palestinian People for Peace Act. This legislation conditioned U.S. assistance on whether the PA was actively preparing its people for peace through compromise with messages of tolerance, understanding, and reconciliation."

In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, Chabot and Engel expressed concern over the award given to Thomas, and said that it is "tantamount to accepting and agreeing with her call for Jews in Palestine to go back to Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else.'"

The Congressmen added that "Thomas' words and beliefs have been anything but
supportive of a settlement where two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, would live side-by-side, in peace and security."

Chabot and Engel also emphasized to Abbas that Thomas' remarks are part of a pattern. "Unfortunately, the recognition of stridently, and sometimes even violently anti-­Israeli individuals and themes has become all too common by the Palestinian Authority," they wrote.

"While Helen Thomas has not specifically espoused such violence, We see her recognition as simply part of the campaign to celebrate those who espouse harsh anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish themes… we condemn the selection of Helen Thomas for an award by your representative in Washington, DC and urge the Palestinian Authority to recommit itself to the peace process through messages of peace and reconciliation."

The congressmens' letter is the latest in a series of condemnations by Washington-based Jewish groups following the Thomas affair. After being given the award, many senior Congressmen called Israel's U.S. ambassador Michael Oren to protest.

Oren also raised the issue during a meeting with senior White House officials, during which he asked the administration to issue a public condemnation or at lease use diplomatic channels to relay its reservations over the affair.

Oren told Haaretz that the decision to honor Thomas was a display of "bad judgment."

"There is no other way to see it other than (a move) legitimizing Hamas' anti-Semitic statements," he said. "There is a direct line running through Abbas' meeting with the terrorist Amna Muna and the Palestinian bid at the human rights council, and awarding a prize to a journalist who was shamefully expelled from the White House."


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