Lantos Controversyby Ed Henry Roll Call October 1, 2001
Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) raised some eyebrows with an opening statement last week at a hearing meant to foster the peace process between Arabs and Israelis.
Lantos prefaced his remarks by asking everyone in the hearing room to stand for a moment of silence in honor of an Israeli woman who was killed in the latest round of violence in the Middle East.
House aides in the room told HOH that they were outraged that Lantos had decided to single out only one side in the conflict - even though many Israelis and Palestinians have died in recent weeks.
"It was an unbelievably provocative act when the administration and the Congress are trying to keep the moderate Arab countries on board our coalition against terrorism," said one aide who asked to be identified only as a Jewish staffer.
A second staffer noted that there were a number of officials from Arab embassies in the audience for the House International Relations Middle East subcommittee.
"It was unusual," said the aide. "It seemed a little odd because we haven't observed a moment of silence [in the subcommittee] for all of the thousands of people who died in America" during the recent terrorist attacks.
The staffer added that the subcommittee rarely, if ever, has moments of silence, even though there are dozens of senseless deaths in the Middle East each week. "We could do it every day the subcommittee meets," so it seemed "erratic" to do it this one time, the aide observed.
But Lantos, who is a survivor of the Holocaust, said the moment of silence was totally appropriate.
"A young, innocent Israeli mother of three died at the hands of Palestinian gunmen in a deplorable act of terrorism last week," said Lantos spokesman Matt Gobush.
"It is wholly appropriate for Members of Congress to honor her death and all victims of terrorist violence with a moment of silence. Those that attended the hearing appeared to agree, joining Congressman Lantos in standing to observe" the moment.