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Hillary Clinton Accuses Protesters of Ignorance of Mideast History

Hillary Clinton on Thursday criticized campus protesters, saying young people “don’t know very much” about the history of the Middle East.

“I have had many conversations, as you have had, with a lot of young people over the last many months now,” she said on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe” on Thursday. “They don’t know very much at all about the history of the Middle East, or frankly about history, in many areas of the world, including in our own country.”

Ms. Clinton then went on to imply that young people “don’t know” that had Yasir Arafat, the former leader of the Palestinian Authority, accepted a deal brokered by her husband, President Bill Clinton, the Palestinians would already have a state of their own. “It’s one of the great tragedies of history that he was unable to say yes,” she said.

The comments, made in response to a sprawling question about radicalization on university campuses from the host, Joe Scarborough, were criticized on social media by those who said that Ms. Clinton, a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, was underestimating students’ capacity.

While some said they agreed with Ms. Clinton, others described her characterization of the failure of the Oslo peace process — a yearslong attempt to negotiate peace between Israel and Palestine that began in 1993 but ultimately failed — as an oversimplification.

“For Clinton to say this is really disingenuous,” Osamah F. Khalil, a professor of history and Middle East expert at Syracuse University, said in an interview. He noted that in the lead-up to the summit at Camp David in 2000, where negotiations ultimately faltered, Mr. Arafat had warned former president Bill Clinton that “the two sides were not ready.” To lay blame squarely on the Palestinians was unfair, he added, noting that there had been other missed opportunities for a solution. “Diplomacy is not a one-time mattress sale,” Prof. Khalil said.

Ms. Clinton’s comments about the students failed to give them, or the elite institutions at which many are protesting, due credit, he said.

The comments come after students walked out of Ms. Clinton’s class in November to protest what they perceived as the school’s role in publicly shaming students who had signed a statement saying the Israeli government bore responsibility for the war. Last month, others disrupted Ms. Clinton’s visit to her alma mater, Wellesley College.

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