It's been a tradition for the past several American elections: At some point, a conservative journalist named Aaron Klein calls leaders of the Palestinian group Hamas, they tell him they're supporting the Democrat, and he goes with a headline along the lines of: "Mideast terror leaders to U.S.: Vote Democrat."
Hamas leaders, in conversation Klein, "endorsed" John Kerry in 2004, boosted Democrats in the 2006 midterms, backed Barack Obama in 2008. (Also in 2004, "Yasser Arafat Endorses Kerry.") It was both real reporting that reflected the party's different policies; and a kind of a smear, played by marginal conservative outlets to associate the Democrats with terrorism. (More recently, in 2015, Klein reported that "leaders of Hamas supported the anti-Israel statements last weekend by President Obama’s controversial former pastor, Jeremiah Wright."
But this year, Klein, who spent years at WorldNetDaily's, has a new job: senior investigative reporter and Jerusalem Bureau Chief for Breitbart News. And this year, the Democratic nominee is pretty bellicose, and the Republican — though he echoes traditional "tough on terror" rhetoric and says nice things about Israel — is also backed by fervent anti-semites. And this year, Klein hasn't reported who Hamas leadership favors.
So BuzzFeed News thought we'd fill the gap on this strange election tradition, and rang up a handful of Hamas leaders and spokespeople to ask their opinion. Their answer: Unlike in years past, they don't see much difference.
“We do not see any difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to dealing with the Palestinian issue,” said Yihya Musa, a Hamas member of parliament. “So whether Trump wins or Hillary , it will not make a big difference… the American elections are not a new concept for the Palestinian people and we, Hama,s do not care who takes the post because the policies of both parties are support of Israel and its policies against the Palestinians.”
Hamas spokesman in Gaza Mushir El Masri also told BuzzFeed News that while Hillary “gave nothing to Palestinians” during her time as Secretary of State, Trump is “not any better.”
BuzzFeed News reached out to four other Hamas officials for comment, but none wanted to weigh in on the US elections. Hamas co-founder, Mahmoud al-Zahar, who has commented to Klein on previous elections, did not return nearly a dozen requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.
There's good reason for that. While previous years have seen the Israeli-Palestinian conflict trotted out during debates for Republican and Democratic presidential candidates to express their views on of the world's most well-known, ongoing conflicts, this year saw nearly no mention of the topic during the campaign. And the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, who would have otherwise been forced to comment on their political preference, have remained uncharacteristically mum on the US elections.
One Palestinian spokesperson in Ramallah, when reached by phone by BuzzFeed News said he saw the US election as a choice between "stupid and evil, you can choose which is which." An Israeli spokesperson, reached by phone in Jerusalem, said Israeli officials had been ordered not to comment on the US elections, "this is a mess we don't need to a part of."
Sheera Frenkel is a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in San Francisco. She has reported from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and across the Middle East. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 4A53 A35C 06BE 5339 E9B6 D54E 73A6 0F6A E252 A50F
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