Opinion |

Clinton Aide Huma Abedin's AIPAC Snub Was Unfortunate but Not 'Hostile to Jews'

Freshly released emails reveal the less than optimal phrasing of Hillary Clinton's top adviser when asked whether Bill Clinton should address an AIPAC conference.

Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, attends a House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., October 22, 2015.
Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, attends a House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., October 22, 2015.Credit: Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg

When Hillary Clinton’s top adviser, Huma Abedin, was asked to help decide whether former U.S. President Bill Clinton should address an AIPAC policy conference in 2009, she expressed her misgivings by asking “U really want to consider sending him into that crowd?”

Perhaps it wasn’t the best phrasing for Abedin to employ when giving a thumbs-down to sending the former president to AIPAC, but it was far from being “hostile to Jews and to the State of Israel,” which is how the conservative U.S. website the Daily Caller characterized it. With the incendiary headline “Huma Abedin Email Attacked Jewish Group,” the website reported on the email exchanges between Abedin and other aides to the former president and the then-U.S. Secretary of State. The news site also used the opportunity to revive smears against Abedin based on her Indian-Pakistani descent and her childhood years in Saudi Arabia and her parents’ careers as scholars of Muslim communities.

The correspondence was contained in the latest batch of Clinton documents released by the State Department following Freedom of Information Act lawsuits.

In the emails, dated September 2009, Bill Clinton aide Doug Band wrote to Hillary Clinton’s top aides, Abedin and Cheryl Mills. The former president, Band said, needed to respond to an invitation to address the pro-Israel lobby’s annual conference, writing, “AIPAC begging for WJC (Bill Clinton) to come speak at conference. He doesn’t think he should unless you all do.”

Mills responded, “Let’s ask HRC (Hillary Clinton) because we need to touch this base.”

That’s when Abedin jumped in with her expression of hesitation.

Band then followed up in an email directed only to Abedin, telling her that Bill Clinton “said he was going to speak to her about going tomorrow night whether he should or not.”

Abedin wrote back: “OK. She will say the same thing,” indicating that Hillary Clinton would tend to agree with Bill Clinton’s inclination to decline the AIPAC invitation.

Band then tried to clarify Abedin’s directive: “Which is go or not go(?)”

Abedin made it clear: “No go to AIPAC.”

The 2009 policy conference that Bill Clinton declined to address was attended by U.S. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, and then-Senator John Kerry, who served as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee at the time. Israeli speakers included former President Shimon Peres. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the gathering that year via satellite.

Abedin is well known as Clinton's top adviser, close confidante and a key member of her inner circle and decision-making team. She was most recently thrust into the spotlight in August when she separated from former U.S. congressman Anthony Weiner, following a re-eruption of the ongoing scandals involving sending erotic messages and photographs of himself to other women which derailed the Jewish politician’s career in 2011.

Abedin has been attacked from the conspiracy-driven Republican far right for years because of her background, insinuating hostility to Jews - despite her marriage - and implying her family has ties to terrorism. The Daily Caller story revives the charges, asserting that her comment about AIPAC raises “uncomfortable questions about Abedin’s past and her family’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Recently, the Washington Post Fact-Checker column thoroughly debunked the assertion, awarding it “four Pinocchios” - its highest ranking as a lie - writing that “Abedin has lived in the United States for 23 years, working in the White House, the Senate and the State Department. Vague suggestions of suspicious-sounding connections to her parents don’t pass the laugh test, even at the flimsiest standard of guilt by association.”

Her integrity has also been defended by Republican Senator and former U.S. presidential candidate John McCain, who responded to similar attacks on Abedin in 2012 by on the Senate floor, saying, “I understand how painful and injurious it is when a person's character, reputation, and patriotism are attacks without concern for fact or fairness" and that "not one instance of an action, a decision or a public position that Huma has taken while at the State Department or as a member of then-Sen. Clinton's staff that would lend credence to the charge that she is promoting anti-American activities within our government."

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