Congressman Says Hollings Should Apologize To Sharon

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

Capitol Hill ( - Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) wants Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) to apologize for "outlandish" comments he made about Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Sen. Hollings is one of only two Senators who voted against a congressional resolution supporting Israel last week. While speaking out against the resolution, Hollings made two remarks that Wilson didn't like.

First, Hollings criticized Sharon for delaying a U.N. "fact-finding" team that planned to investigate an alleged "massacre" of Palestinian civilians in the Jenin refugee camp.

"The U.N. passed resolutions to send weapons inspectors into Iraq. We condemned Saddam for not letting them in," Hollings said. "Now the U.N. formed a team to investigate the incursion into Jenin. Sharon refuses to let the U.N. investigate, so in a way he's acting like Saddam Hussein."

Wilson says he's "very disappointed" in Hollings' "outlandish comments" about Sharon.

"He has actually identified Prime Minister Sharon, a democratically elected official, as equal to Saddam Hussein, who is a bloodthirsty dictator," Wilson said.

Hollings also repeated a previous accusation about Sharon.

"I made a comment in the earlier part of the year that I thought Ariel Sharon was the Bull Connor of Israel," Hollings said, adding that Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat "cannot be trusted."

Eugene "Bull" Conner was the chief of police in Birmingham, Alabama who ordered police dogs and fire hoses turned on civil rights marchers including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Both statements are "equally insulting" Wilson says, because of their very different ramifications.

But Andy Davis, communications director for Hollings, says the Senator was equating the actions of the Iraqi and Israeli leaders, not their character.

"What he was saying was, you've got behavior that is similar. He was not saying that Sharon is [like] Hussein," Davis explained. "Hussein is not allowing weapons inspectors into his country, Sharon seems to be doing similar things."

With regard to the comparison to Eugene "Bull" Conner, Davis says once again, Hollings was not referring to Sharon's character, but rather to his methods.

"By using the tactics he's using, he is almost guaranteeing, in effect, multiple generations of Palestinians who will use the most desperate means; suicide bombing, martyrdom," Davis added. "The tactics he's using do not serve his end cause well."

Wilson still says Hollings' statement is "an outrage."

"[That] would elevate Yasser Arafat to be the equivalent of Martin Luther King, and that's not at all the case. Suicide bombing was never a tactic of the civil rights movement," he explained. "That is giving dignity to Yasser Arafat that simply is not deserved or justified."

The South Carolina Republican says he hopes Hollings, a Democrat, will make a public apology while Sharon is in Washington to meet with U.S. officials. But he says his call for that apology is neither personal nor political.

"I don't want to make this personal at all. In fact, one of the first campaigns I ever worked on, in elementary school, was supporting Sen. Hollings," Wilson explained, adding that he still believes Hollings' comments were "simply out of line."

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