UPDATE: Richard Stengel deleted the tweet with the #UnitedForGaza hashtag early Sunday morning and tweeted that it had been “a mistake.”
Earlier tweet with wrong hashtag was a mistake. My bad.
— Rick Stengel (@stengel) July 20, 2014
Richard Stengel, under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs at the U.S. Department of State, took to Twitter on Saturday night and appeared to take sides in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Stegel, appointed to his post at the State Department by President Obama last year and confirmed by a 90-8 vote in the senate in April, used his personal Twitter account to call for an investigation into Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. The former managing editor of Time prefaced the tweet with the State Department’s Twitter handle and ended it with the hashtag #UnitedForGaza, indicating his solidarity with the Palestinians.
Not surprisingly, many Twitter uses were offended by the hashtag:
— Get Whiggy With It (@RachelRyansDad) July 20, 2014
— Meklove (@Meklove) July 20, 2014
— Southern Comfort (@kmgriner) July 20, 2014
— Mr. Aye Dee (@MrAyeDee) July 20, 2014
Several people offered excuses for Stegel’s tweet:
— Barbara Mazor (@StopBDS_PSFC) July 20, 2014
— Gotta Face Fact (@iFaceFact) July 20, 2014
These excuses might possibly be credible if Stegel didn’t have a history of anti-Israel statements and sympathy for Hamas and the Palestinians. In 2010, when he was still with Time, Stengel penned an incendiary article titled “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” Discussing the article in a segment on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, he blamed the West Bank security fence for what he considered to be Israel’s complacency in the peace process:
They haven’t had a car bombing in two and a half years. And the sad truth really is that the wall with the West Bank has actually worked. I mean, most Israelis in the course of their lives don’t come into contact with any Palestinians at all. The wall is functioning. And the Gaza strip is so small and so isolated they feel that those folks, the Hamas folks are not that big of a threat…
I mean, the Israelis feel like, you know what? The status quo isn’t so bad and we don’t mind is there is no peace at all.
The fence, of course, was built after Israel offered 98 percent of the West Bank and the Palestinians responded with an intifada that killed more than 2,000 Israelis with bombs and exploding buses.