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Congressmen threaten PA aid over Helen Thomas award

JTA

April 10, 2012 | 10:50 am

Helen Thomas on Feb. 27, 2009. Photo by Rachael Voorhees

Helen Thomas on Feb. 27, 2009. Photo by Rachael Voorhees

In a letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, two congressmen said a medal awarded to veteran journalist Helen Thomas could hurt U.S. assistance to the PA.

Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), the chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) in their April 6 letter noted that the Foreign Affairs Committee passed legislation last year setting conditions on U.S. assistance to the PA, and that recognition of someone like Helen Thomas goes against those conditions.

In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by JTA, the lawmakers wrote that the Preparing the Palestinian People for Peace Act conditioned U.S. assistance “on whether the PA was actively preparing its people for peace through compromise with messages of tolerance, understanding, and reconciliation. Unfortunately, it seems that the award to Helen Thomas is just another way to avoid telling the Palestinian population that they must be prepared for a negotiated settlement.”

Thomas, considered the dean of White House correspondents, was forced to resign in 2010 after making anti-Israel comments to a blogger.

Chabot and Engel said that recognizing Thomas was “tantamount to accepting and agreeing with her call for Jews in Palestine to go back to ‘Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else.’ ”

In addition, the lawmakers highlighted the continuing pattern of the PA recognizing individuals that have expressed anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments in the past.

“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.

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