Hanan al-Hroub, a Palestinian teacher scheduled to speak at a Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting dinner event on 20 September 2016, drew criticism from Republicans because her husband, Omar al-Hroub, is a Palestinian official who served 10 years in an Israeli prison for supplying chemicals used in a deadly bombing attack in Hebron that killed six Israelis in 1980 — especially given the close proximity (in both time and distance) of the speaking engagement to recent bomb attacks in New York and New Jersey.
For example, Raj Shah, deputy communications director of the Republican National Committee, stated that:
In the wake of this weekend’s attacks, granting a platform to the spouse of a terrorist bomb-maker just miles away from where explosives were detonated days ago is an insult to the victims and makes a mockery of the Clinton Foundation.
Donald Trump’s campaign similarly issued a press release titled “Statement on Clinton Foundation Honoring Wife of Palestinian Terrorist,” objecting to al-Hroub’s appearance at the Clinton Global Initiative dinner:
Today’s report that the Clinton Foundation is feting the wife of a Palestinian man convicted of helping bomb innocent Israeli citizens is deeply disturbing, especially in the wake of this weekend’s attacks. The decision to honor the wife of a terrorist by Hillary Clinton’s foundation shows a complete lack of judgment and a callousness that should disqualify her from holding the presidency.
Mrs. al-Hroub has become famous in her own right, independently of her husband, as described in a March 2016 Guardian profile of her achievements that delved into her experiences and her path to worldwide recognition:
Hroub only began working as a teacher in 2007. After leaving school, she was forced to abandon her plans for further education when Palestinian universities closed during the first intifada, or uprising, between 1987 and 1993. Instead she got married and had five children.
In 2000, when her youngest was established at school, Hroub resumed her education part-time at Al-Quds University. Within months, her husband, Omar, and two of her daughters were shot at by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint near Bethlehem. Omar was injured in the shoulder and the girls were traumatised.
“This incident changed my life. We were in shock. My children were suffering, and the teachers were not trained to deal with trauma. At that point I decided to commit my life to teaching.”
She vehemently rejects Israeli claims that Palestinian schools incite children against Israel. “My message to those who say that is that all children should be protected from violence. I had a very hard childhood, and I don’t want these children to experience the same. Once a cycle of violence is created, it’s very hard to break.”
Prior to the Clinton Foundation-related controversy, the Associated Press reported on a similar issue surrounding Mrs. al-Hroub’s March 2016 receipt of a global award for excellence in education:
The U.K.-based foundation that awarded a Palestinian schoolteacher a $1 million prize for preaching nonviolence is sticking by its choice following revelations that the woman’s husband participated in an attack that killed at least six Israelis three decades ago.
The Varkey Foundation awarded Hanan al-Hroub its Global Teacher Prize. In its selection, it cited her slogan “No to Violence” and her efforts in protecting Palestinian schoolchildren from the effects of living in a conflict zone. She had developed a book called “We Play and Learn” focusing on the importance of playing, trust, respect, honesty and literacy.
However, her husband, Omar, served time in Israeli prison, convicted as an accomplice in a bombing attack that killed six Israelis as they were walking home from sabbath prayers in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1980. According to an Associated Press account at the time, Omar al-Hroub was a chemist who provided chemicals needed for making the bombs … In a statement, the Varkey Foundation said it does not look into the conduct of candidates’ relatives and that the teacher was committed to nonviolence.
“As a point of principle, we only look at the qualities, achievements and conduct of the candidates themselves … As Hanan al-Hroub has said herself, she has spent her whole life dealing with the effects of violence on children at close hand and every day she works toward a world where children, wherever they come from, can grow up peacefully,” it added. “She has spent her entire career teaching the principle of nonviolence. She believes in nonviolence in all its forms and in all circumstances.”
Qadura Faris, the director of the Palestinian prisoners’ association, said that after serving a 10-year sentence, Omar al-Hroub accepted the 1993 Oslo interim peace accord with Israel, served as a deputy Cabinet minister in the Palestinian Authority and supports a two-state solution with Israel.
He said al-Hroub remains a senior Palestinian official who is close to President Mahmoud Abbas and “believes in his peaceful approach.”
Al-Hroub’s biography, as presented among those of the speakers at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)’s Annual Meeting from 19 to 21 September 2016, reads:
Winner of the 2016 Global Teacher Prize, an initiative of the Varkey Foundation, Hanan Al Hroub grew up in the Palestinian refugee camp, Bethlehem, where she was regularly exposed to acts of violence. She went into primary education after her children were left deeply traumatized by a shooting incident they witnessed on their way home from school. Her experiences in meetings and consultations to discuss her children’s behavior, development and academic performance in the years that followed led Al Hroub to try to help others who, having grown up in similar circumstances, require special handling at school. With so many troubled children in the region, Palestinian classrooms can be tense environments. Al Hroub embraces the slogan “No to Violence” and uses a specialized teaching approach she developed herself. Al Hroub has shared her perspective at conferences, meetings and teacher training seminars.
Hanan al-Hroub was one of several dozen people invited to speak during the Clinton Global Initiative’s Annual Meeting; she was not singled out to be “honored” or “feted” by that event.