An email from the cache of correspondence Hillary Clinton kept on her private server during her tenure as Secretary of State shows that former aide Anne-Marie Slaughter proposed raising private funds for a Palestinian state. It “might be a crazy idea,” wrote Slaughter, director of the State Department’s policy planning office from 2009-2011, who suggested that a “pledge for Palestine” fundraising drive targeting billionaires “would reflect a strong vote of confidence in the building of a Palestinian state.” Also, wrote Slaughter, it “could significantly bolster [Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud] Abbas in a way that could help him stay in the talks.” Maybe Warren Buffett would lend his name to the project, wrote Slaughter, or NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “together with a very wealthy Muslim.” It would also, she wrote, have a “shaming effect” on Israel.
The email provides a peculiar view into ClintonWorld, where the hard work of policy is greased by the kind of really rich people whose money really moves the world. And since billionaires—in the thinking of Clinton apparatchiks like Slaughter—are the arbiters of cosmic morality, how better to embarrass a U.S. ally?
Slaughter’s “crazy idea” isn’t just crazy, it is also probably illegal. U.S. policymakers aren’t supposed to be using their office to raise private funds to reach policy goals, regardless of the policy. Imagine an email between officials in a Republican administration wondering, say, how to get Sheldon Adelson to renew his pledges to AIPAC in order to push their favored policy.
Even worse for Slaughter is that the reports of her proposal to raise money for Abbas and “shame” Israel coincided with new revelations about an infamous terrorist attack financed by Abbas, in the days before he became an “angel of peace.” Earlier this week, The New York Times reported how the Israeli athletes killed in the 1972 Munich Olympics were “were beaten and, in at least one case, castrated.” According to the Times, the new revelations come from a documentary due to be released next year called Munich 1972 & Beyond, which “chronicles the long fight by families of the victims to gain public and official acknowledgment for their loved ones.”
The new revelations correct the long-time understanding of Munich, which until now has gone something like this: Sure, it was a terrorist attack, violent and ugly, and perhaps the operation that ushered in the modern age of terror. But the Black September group that conducted the operation just wanted to get Palestinians held in Israeli jails released, along with Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, two quintessential European left-wing terrorists. Munich, on this reading, was designed to be a political spectacle; it was only later when the West German authorities fired on the Palestinian kidnappers on the airport tarmac that it turned into a bloodbath.
As the new information makes clear, the murder of the athletes was not the result of a West German rescue effort gone wrong. The Munich attack was brutal and murderous from the outset. Weightlifter Yossef Romano was shot trying to fight off the terrorists as they broke into the complex. “He was then left to die in front of the other hostages and castrated,” the Times reported. “Other hostages were beaten and sustained serious injuries, including broken bones.”
While West German authorities’ mistakes ensured that all of the hostages died, the operation was planned with the purpose of shaming Israel, by brutalizing its athletes on a world stage. The operation had to end in a bloodbath—and that’s why Yasser Arafat blessed it and why Mahmoud Abbas financed it. The point was to show that the PLO could capture, humiliate, torture, and kill Jews while the whole world was watching, and beat the Israelis with rifle butts and mutilate their bodies while the international community was celebrating itself right there in Germany, only a quarter century after Hitler was stopped just short of exterminating all of European Jewry.
The new revelations also give further important context to the Israeli operations targeting the planners of the Munich attack. Many Israeli officials, including then Mossad chief Zvi Zamir who was in charge of Operation Wrath of God, tracking down and killing those responsible, have explained that—contrary to popular accounts like Steven Spielberg’s Munich—the purpose wasn’t vengeance. First, the operation was meant to disrupt European terrorist rings plotting against Israel. Two, it was meant to show that if you thought you could torture and kill Jews while the whole world was watching, you were wrong. Your death would not be a martyrdom watched by millions but a private affair brought to a sudden conclusion, most likely in the shadows.
In this respect, it is hard not to think that things might be different now if the world’s response to the Munich massacre had been different. Maybe there is nothing we could have done four decades ago that would’ve prevented further acts of spectacular terrorism like 9/11, or the Paris attacks last month. But there’s no reason anyone should have to suffer Mahmoud Abbas on the world stage and nod solemnly at his surpassingly hypocritical lectures about how Israel is violating some international norm, and even destroying the environment, as he claimed in Paris this week. This after all is the man who paid to have terrorists soil the world’s favorite playground for international celebration and peaceful competition—the Olympics—by beating and castrating Israeli athletes.
Finally, it’s hard to see the series of Israeli assassinations of the figures behind the Black September operation as a success. What did the world actually learn about the value of Jewish blood, when American officials see shaming Israel as a legitimate goal of US foreign policy, and imagine that Mahmoud Abbas is a man of peace?
VoxVault: What Went Wrong in Munich
Lee Smith is the author of The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President (2020).